Newtown-based artist Leon Fernandes’ newest exhibition of embroidered artworks is an ecstatic and visually stupefying exploration of Hindi gods running amuck in Australia.
In the titular artwork Fernandes portrays Krishna – the Hindu god of love, sex, and beauty – gleefully dancing out the front of Erskinville’s iconic queer venue The Imperial Hotel, smoking from an ice pipe.
“Krishna has a background of being a little bit flirty and a little bit naughty…there’s something in his version of insanity that I absolutely relate to,” Fernandes told the City Hub.
Fernandes explained that Krishna in Erskinville draws strongly on his own identity, his mixed Indian and white Australian heritage and “my relationship to my father, my relationship to drugs, my relationship with gayness and sexuality”.
The embroidery is quite literally embedded with personal history, incorporating some of his father’s ties from the 70’s. Fernandes’ sensibility and background as an oil painter echoes through subtle embellishments, such as the “gentle skin tones on Krishna” or the “glint of the ice pipe”.
While he admits that the drug of choice may be different, Fernandes is confident that his representation of Hindi gods isn’t a threat to how they are traditionally portrayed: “they can have the same attributes as humans, both positive and negative… including intoxication.”
Despite the potentially divisive subject matter, Fernandes insists that he has “never actually had such positive and strong reactions” to his artwork before.
He hopes that audiences will be “delighted and enjoy the beautiful aesthetics” and also “be challenged and have discussions worthy of discussion”. (AM)
Until Mar 20 (Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm). ESD Gallery, 102 Burton St, Darlinghurst. Info: www.mardigras.org.au