At once totemic and automaton-like, the deities built in Studio REBORN in Saigon are bound by mystique. The characters are scions of the Vietnamese city, emerging from doors, windows, tabletops, and abandoned architecture that Kumkum Fernando collects, cleans, and repurposes as figurative sculptures. While the found materials may have lost their original paint or patterns, the artist faithfully honors this history, often recreating motifs and color palettes reflected on the final forms.
Born in Sri Lanka to an antique collector, Fernando incorporates this background into his pieces, both through the act of scouring construction sites, resale shops, and streetside trash bins for wood and other items used in his practice and through adornment. Many of his sculptures include elements of folkloric tales and temple paintings that infuse the pieces with a spiritual, mythical quality and reference Sri Lankan culture.
Fernando’s latest body of work abandons the sleek, boldly vibrant forms of recent years to instead focus on a gritty, post-apocalyptic narrative. “I started out by making notebooks and toy cars using old Vietnamese building parts before transitioning to glossy figurative pieces,” he tells Colossal of his evolution. “I began to miss the textures and colors I used to work with. That’s when I decided to go back and incorporate aspects I loved from the beginning into this series.”
On view now at Jonathan Levine Projects, the characters of Post Colonial Rainbow Punks “are intergalactic swashbucklers—part gangsters, part mythical beings.” Like his earlier works, they invoke East Asian history and mythology through the lens of structural debris like French shutters and window frames, although their geometric bodies are embellished with mottled, worn paint and what appears like rusted metals. Hailing from a distant future while constructed with materials of the past, these figures recontextualize time and space and are said to have reached Earth in search of Princess Izzah 281, their most difficult mission yet.
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