At a time of globalisation and urgent calls to think and live in a more environmentally conscious way, Temsüyanger Longkumer asks the crucial question as to how we can, as a vast and disparate people, genuinely and productively find common ground, listen to one another, and actually communicate. Longkumer is part of a generation of artists aware - although not subscribed to any particular strand of political thinking – that intense engagement with social and environmental issues is necessary. His work, like that of fellow artists including Ai Weiwei and Mona Hatoum, serves to inform the public that art continues to play a crucial role in society, and that messages gleaned from art works have the power to develop skills needed to resolve conflict and thus move humanity forward. Today in particular, as people seem dangerously distracted, it is time to look literally to the neglected parts of us, and to return to earth.
Longkumer’s recent work, a series of exquisite terracotta sculptures do well to expose complex contemporary problems using meditative and long enduring craft techniques. Beneath all of us, there is clay, upon whichever land we tread we walk with earth beneath our feet. Longkumer has taken this universal supportive material and sculpted it into a series of enigmatic objects collectively called ‘Parallel communes’. Of the three works shown - Bilateral Highway, Refuge II, and Unrest in the Commune – Refuge II appears most like a terrain that could be lived within, whilst the other two pieces seem more ‘alive’. Refuge II looks like a perforated seed pod, a section taken from a beehive, a broken pinecone, or even part of the armoured scales of an armadillo. In all of these scenarios, the object is protective and encasing. Displayed on a mirrored base, the possibility of secret caves and the gifts given by nature in times when people need to hide, are further highlighted. This use of the mirror and interest in continuum and abundance of organic pattern aligns Longkumer’s work with that of Yayoi Kusuma. The two artists share an understanding that the whole is made of infinite facets and that anything (especially the self) is only ever a small piece of a bigger picture.