Pleasure Over Pain

Solo Exhibition
22 October - 26 November 2022

Exhibition Opening: Saturday 22 October 2022
Exhibition Closure: Saturday 26 November 2022

WHATIFTHEWORLD presents Pleasure Over Pain, a solo exhibition by Talia Ramkilawan.

Pleasure is essential.

Practices of pleasure are visually articulated across the seven works that come together to form Talia Ramkilawan’s solo show. Titled ‘Pleasure Over Pain’, these works are snapshots of moments in the artist’s life that contribute to an archive that inspires actively pursuing pleasure and how we are all deserving of it. This body of work is a celebration of leisure and luxury.

For this exhibition, Talia looks at the finer things in life. As seen in the work ‘I’d spend everyday with you/ if it’s enough to make you mine’, a picnic had with friends and lovers, enjoying a bottle of Moët on a sunny summers day on the lawns of Kirstenbosch, sharing a platter of samoosas and half moons from Cozy Corner.

The Cape Town-born artist invites us to navigate her cultivation of moments that express life’s charms. This happens through the images she brings to life by a very labour intensive tapestry technique. Each piece of wool and fabric is meticulously pulled through by hand and a crochet needle, leaving behind blisters. Her battle wounds are reflections of the work put in. Though materials are soft, the repetition is hard and allows a trance-like state of introspection.

Her work captures shameless acts of love. The artworks ‘Please don’t let this be the last’ and ‘My ancestors wildest dreams II’ articulate the artistic reflections of erotica and tenderness that is entrenched in the mandate that is to be brown, queer and radical and how we navigate pleasure. The playfulness of color and texture powerfully collaborate to provoke this even further.

Ramkilawan looks at how pleasure contributes to choosing moments of enjoyment in all aspects of her life, a practice she learned from her late father. In the work, ‘If you like her, buy her flowers’ embodies this idea through simple acts of buying flowers for yourself and others.

This tapestry-adjacent medium, work like ‘Double hotdog with whopper sauce and a falooda’ takes the viewer into a specific moment in Talia’s life. For those who are familiar with Cape Town, seeing the Athlone-located food joint Wembley Roadhouse’s in the background brings to life flashbacks of comfort and community. Throughout Talia’s work we experience how the artist immerses herself in this craft creating a visceral and honesty-filled experience.

Ramkilawan tells stories of intimacy, leisure and celebration, through a collaboration of still life, portraiture and moments through unique uses of material. Talia invites us to experience some of the ways she has accessed pleasure in her world, shamelessly and deserving.

Text by Talia Ramkilawan and Nickita Maesela


Artist Biography

Talia Ramkilawan (b. 1996 Cape Town, South Africa) is an artist and teacher living and working in Cape Town. Ramkilawan’s work aims to address her own lived experience with South African Indian identity, culture and trauma. She uses mixed media in order to visualise the complexity of one’s relationship to trauma using various mediums including tapestry, video, performance and installation.

Ramkilawan studied at Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town. Her decision to study art was not well-received by the majority of her family, however, her mother was a supporting force. The discovery of rug-hooking in her fourth year of university was a breakthrough moment. She immersed herself in this craft and through this medium, she was able to create an intimacy and honesty that felt refreshing. She says, “I originally wanted to make very traditional tapestries with a loom, while researching I came across a video on YouTube of someone making a carpet. The technique was called rug-hooking and done with a punch needle. I adapted the technique using a crochet needle, wool and by stretching hessian over a wooden frame. It really was something I had never done before and I am still learning every time I start a new piece – how big can I go, how detailed, what materials I can use. I start with some intention in mind but by the end they often become something entirely dierent.”

Ramkilawan describes the process of making these textiles as a process of healing. She says she wants the work to help the audience “feel empowered, to be held and that they can be felt simultaneously.” Her work is inspired by her own family dynamics and her own experience with South African Indian identity, culture and trauma. “My work is about forging a sense of community and healing particularly in relation to being from the current generation whilst trying to connect to those who have come before. My work deals with subverting the image of family trauma in relation to my own family and me 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 that helps disrupt the linear narrative, exposing how trauma of the past resonates in the present.”

Her work explores the intersections and binaries of her lived experience as a queer, Indian woman. Of this she says, “Indian, yet not Indian enough, a daughter, a friend, queer brown, tired yet so much more to give. Why I make the work is to think, to understand. I have to make things to fully comprehend them.” She also adds, “I’ve never felt the need to wear my queerness on my sleeve, if I know who I am it doesn’t matter if anyone else knows or not. I will forever be evolving and therefore so will my queerness and recently I have been using my work to channel that.”