Collage Talks: Sundari Carmody

What: If the future is to be worth anything: 2020 South Australian Artist Survey

Where: ACE Open

When: 12 September – 12 December

Who: Ten local South Australia’s artists, check them all out here

Sundari Carmody in studio, 2020. Photo Sam Roberts

Sundari’s work seeks to explore what lies just beyond our perception, things invisible to us – things of the ‘dark’. Her sculptural installation for ACE Open’s latest exhibition is no exception, which explores the intangible nature of spiritual presence and reflection.

Photo by Sundari Carmody at ACE Open

Currently, a constellation of objects sits in the sunlit foyer of ACE Open which consists of four elements. Visually, there is a balance between the two heavy concrete sculptures anchored to the ground in tandem with the translucent organza sheet and solitary brass circle hanging from the ceiling alongside one another. Despite the medium and visual distinction, there is an overarching conceptual theme that connects them. 

Sundari spoke about recently residing in Berlin where she took up a studio residency for three months, as well as conducting her own independent research exploring various temples and cathedrals in Europe.

Drawn to these “majestic” European cathedrals for their cosmic architecture, Sundari explained the ability cathedrals have to make you gaze upwards, to frame the sky, and be a place for one to look inwards and reflect. 

This idea feeds directly into her work, the silk organza sheet with gold leaf circle, cascades from the ceiling and leads your eye upwards in the same way. The repeated imagery of circular shapes in this exhibition underlines the symbolic significance the circle has, commonly “featuring in astronomy, gravity and religion” and how they speak to the idea of cosmology, and cosmic spaces in Sundari’s mind. The components of her exhibition “can be thought of as satellites, and when the sun hits them just right, it can function as a sundial, which is also a form of cosmic tool.”  

Photo by Sundari Carmody at ACE Open

Also whilst doing research in Europe, Sundari wanted to make something that looked like a bath form inspired by cosmic architecture, when it dawned upon her that she had “grown up right next to a Hindu water spring temple” where she regularly swam for most of her childhood. She had “discounted how special that was, until looking at Europe, and realised what an “amazing and unique site” it is. 

She has recreated a model that maintains the essential elements of this Hindu bath, Stepwell  allows the viewer to imagine being in a similar space by walking down steps, and being in the confines of the bath walls where the only place to look is upwards. Highlighting the physical and spiritually symbolic form of elevating oneself, or descending into one’s self reflection with the underlying cosmic architecture that brings one to gaze upwards..

The second concrete sculpture, Lightwell, is a form mostly from her imagination but takes inspiration from the same concept of creating a space, the “kind of space you can enter to block out the outside world and look up, but also look in, through meditation or … an observatory of one’s consciousness”.   

It was a pleasure to walk through with Sundari and talk about the concepts behind her work. Her residency at ACE Open has been extended, and I’m excited to see what she gets up to next! You can check in on her activity through her instagram and website

Make sure to visit the exhibition and see the other nine remarkable South Australian artists work.

Rachel Wong

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