Oh, I’m definitely a dessert person
24 April - 28 May 2021
WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present Talia Ramkilawan’s first presentation with the gallery, Oh, I’m definitely a dessert person.
The iPhone Notes App has become synonymous with many things, such as performative apologies on social media and shopping lists in our daily lives. For Talia Ramkilawan, her iPhone Notes App works hand-in-hand with her Camera Roll to create a visual and textual archive of poignant moments with loved ones. She takes sentences, phrases, and messages from her close circle and archives them to work into offerings made of wool, fabric, and hessian. The texts saved in her Notes App become witty titles or text-based artworks and the pictures in her Camera Roll inform the subject matter in her image based-work.
Talia first found the process of rug-hooking with hessian and wool through a YouTube tutorial as a student and continues to push and mould the medium to fit her own hands. She uses a crochet needle instead of a punch needle and shreds different fabrics to pull through the hessian instead of exclusively using wool. This is what makes Talia’s use of the material unique. She creates tactile surfaces of soft wool against loose threads and offcuts of fabric that come together, as pixels would on a screen, to display and preserve a moment in her life. She plays with the bare hessian and the threaded surfaces, like in the work Summertime is meant to fall in love / I don’t have to lean into the kiss and I don’t want to share my dessert where she leaves the hessian untouched in the background.
The works made for Oh, I’m definitely a dessert person, hint at moments in Talia’s life that she wants to exist beyond her memory and Instagram feed.
“You know what I deserve? Dessert!” exclaims K-Pop star, Hyo, in her 2020 single titled DESSERT. Being a dessert person or having a “sweet tooth” describes one’s affinity for sweet things, and usually denotes an urge to indulge, and lap up pleasure without consequence. K-Pop rapper, Soyeon, confirms this in the same song, spitting her lyrics that list several sweet treats: “chocolate, candy, fruit, honey, butter, waffle and marshmallow, mango juice. I eat them up easily.”
The presentation’s titular work Oh, I’m definitely a dessert person is a rug-hooked image of a person suggestively pulling up their dress to reveal a pair of white panties, complete with bows and a lace trim. The panties, the sharp red nails, and the pink stilettos are framed beneath a table and are engulfed on all sides by a soft pink background flecked with gold.
Tender and Sloppy presents a hot pink iced cake with maraschino cherries and speckled with red and pink sprinkles exposing a fluffy looking textured vanilla cake and buttercream icing being picked at with two forks on a gingham serviette. The cake floats in a background that resembles either a linoleum floor or the green-screened backdrop of a Christina Aguilera music video from the early 2000s. This work hints at a picnic scene (something that has become a popular activity during the current corona-climate) where maybe the only cutlery that was available were two forks.
Moments and conversations with friends and family, whether physical or virtual, inform works like Stay with me in heaven every day / It’s enough to make me happy, depicting an image taken while seeing a close friend to share over Instagram and Take me anywhere I come to you with love, a text-based piece using a glittery, sequinned purple fabric on pink hessian. Which is a breakaway from the brown, coarseness of un-dyed hessian seen previously in Talia’s practice. During the COVID-19 Pandemic that has been with us for over a year now, an immense strain has been placed on our ability to meet one another face-to-face without several bottles of hand sanitisers in our bags and our masks plastered to our faces. Therefore words of encouragement and love have started to take the place of hugs and kisses.
Making tactile and intimate works in a time where the human touch is a “touchy” subject, Talia pushes this tapestry-adjacent medium with the message of intimacy, humour, love and closeness. Perhaps this body of work is a way of bringing us back to a time when we could touch and feel without fear.
Text by Akshar Maganbeharie
Central to Talia Ramkilawan’s practice is rug hooking, a slow, accumulative process with which she creates her “tapestry adjacent” wall pieces. Her more recent preoccupations include platonic intimacy as expressed in text (the words of friends spoken or sent). “My work is about forging a sense of community and healing particular to the post-apartheid generation,” she offers. “It deals with subverting the image of family trauma by healing through making and by creating a presence. I have placed an emphasis on community and the ‘Indian experience’ – which is so important in cultural and art production – disrupting the linear narrative, exposing how traumas of the past resonate in the present. My inspiration comes from my own family dynamics and my own specific experience with South Asian identity, culture, and trauma.” Talia is an artist and teacher living and working in Cape Town.