In deciding to go to Odisha in north-east India and undertake an art residency, I couldn’t have anticipated how much I was going to enjoy the experience, not just as an artist but as a human being. India is astoundingly different from most places, teaming with friendly, humble people; rich and multicultural; a place where you feel far from everything I reference in my normal daily life in London. It was a time of reflection and an experience that filled me with new ideas, new inspirations and the potential for a new start in my work.
In many aspects, India reminded me of my hometown in the Amazon where globalisation is taking over the culture little by little, whilst gentrification is erasing traditional identities with each new generation. I had the opportunity of meeting local artists in India who became very emotional at hearing my presentation and seeing the many similarities between their homeland and the threat to the culture and the environment in my hometown in the Amazon.
At the conclusion of the residency an exhibition was held with contributions from the European artists that participated in the residency as well as local artists that joined us towards the end. It received a very good response from viewers. For my pieces in the exhibition, I used unusual local materials that I considered closely reflected the area’s identity and culture. I constructed an art installation using cow dung dried on wooden sticks, which I painted using local Indian powdered pigments and acrylics and hung in a corner space in the gallery. I wanted to use cow dung, because upon my arrival in India it was the first thing I saw with cows wandering everywhere, in the middle of the streets. It made an impression. There was a lot of cow dung on my way, but it was a kind of holy dung, cows being sacred animals. Thus I decided to use this material but also discovered that this plentiful dung also had many practical uses, as poor people used it as a fuel to cook, as a building material for their houses, as a fertilizer, as a shampoo, in craftwork and to make cakes. It was good shit.
Tomedes is an artist who spent his early years in the Colombian Amazon. Much of his current inspiration comes from the sharp contrast between the natural environment where he grew up and living in the large metropolis that is London. His work focuses on painting and the experimental extension of the boundaries and materials of the medium.