“A tree without roots is just a piece of wood.” This quote by famous chef Marco Pierre has got us thinking, and we have to admit that there’s indeed a lot of truth to that. Especially at a time and space where creators/artists are trying to outdo each other with new ideas – often with borrowed inspirations that are aplenty. We love creativity of all sorts – no doubt. But the ones that are truly going to stand out and leave an impression are the original works of art – whose ideas come from a place that is pure and deep rooted in the creator’s own origins.
That being said, we are truly excited to meet with one such artist from Nagaland – Temsuyanger Longkumer, a multimedia artist based out of London, whose original works of art – mostly created with inspirations from his Naga roots are enchanting London art lovers. This year in April, he held a solo exhibition “QUINTETTE” at the Standpoint Gallery, London; and his work ‘Tattooed Memory’ was recently acquired by the Horniman Museum – which is being exhibited in their World Gallery.
Here’s a chat with Temsuyanger Longkumer as he enthralls us with his view of the art scene in London, his work philosophies that explore the socio-cultural traditions in ethnic societies, his Naga roots, and a peek into his latest projects.
Hi Temsu, so good to have you with us! Please introduce yourself.
My name is Temsuyanger Longkumer and I am a multimedia artist based in London, UK. My parents are from the village of Merangkong in Mokokchung district, Nagaland. I was born in Lapa, a small village in the Mon district, where I spent my early years. On finishing school in Dimapur, I moved to Assam then to Gujarat and Delhi to pursue an art education before moving to London in 2001 for further education.
Introduce us to your work.
I work on varied themes with a range of mediums including printmaking, sculpture, video and time-based art. Currently, my work explores issues relating to socio-cultural traditions in ethnic societies, and the correlation between communities in the microbial world and our own.
“My work explores issues relating to socio cultural traditions in ethnic societies, and the correlation between communities in the microbial world and our own.”
Video still image from Portrait of a dance II by Temsuyanger Longkumer
How did you end up in London as an artist?
I first came to London after winning a scholarship to study an MA in Printmaking at the Royal College of Art in 2001. After finishing my studies I returned to Nagaland with the idea to settle down in a hill town and create work. I spent over a year traveling in remote areas, absorbing and making art. It was during this period that I accepted an offer to participate in an exhibition in London and subsequently ended up working in the art industry there, whilst continuing with my artistic practice.
That’s really interesting! How’s the art scene in London?
London is one of the most exciting places for artists and art lovers. The history of the city itself goes back a long way and a fascinating one at that! It’s like a melting pot of artists of all sorts and from every corner of the planet, which makes the art scene vibrant but extremely competitive. It is a living museum of art and artists.
The opening of The New World Gallery at the Horniman celebrating the wonder and complexity of what it means to be human.
Do people in London know about Nagaland? Would you like to share any interesting insight with regards to that?
More people know of Nagaland nowadays than when I first arrived, at least in my friendship circle I’d say. Kohima during the Second World War is a usual reference point for most, followed by Assam tea from our neighboring state. For some reason, a lot of people tend to relate it to Neverland, or a mystical place, probably a bit to do with my overzealous portrayal of my homeland!
How have your Naga roots influenced your art and your work philosophy?
My Naga roots have influenced me hugely. I am very attached to the land, the people, and the culture. I was born in a place where water was carried in bamboo stalks from the forest to the home, cultivated rice, and vegetables, and hunted animals for meat.
“There were no schools, hospitals, roads, or transport; people lived with nature…bare.There was magic everywhere: The witches, the elves, the hairy forest monster and the friendly ghosts, all lived around us.Those experiences are always in the back of my mind. The further I move away from the place, the more perspectives I gain to view things from. The contrasts further my curiosity, stimulate me and feed into my work.”
Living in London, an environment which cannot be any further apart, those days seem like a dream, a dream that seeps into my mind ever so often and takes over the canvas. I feel fortunate to be an artist, with the luxury of having two worlds as my muses.
What’s your creative/work philosophy – where do you take inspiration from?
Everything. I especially find interactions, of all kinds, central to my creative practice. I try and keep my mind open to possibilities: I like it when the smallest conversation on a seemingly random issue sparks a brilliant idea.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of being an artist?
Freedom and the opportunity to nurture a friendship with an invisible, but ever-present companion with the special ability to interpret visually what your soul feels.
What do you want people to take away from your art?
It is great when a viewer connects with the thought process involved in the making of the art – titles tend to act as a gentle nudge towards this – but it is most satisfying when people respond to prompts with their own viewpoint. I am happy when a work has the ability to provoke an experience, be it visual or mental, and follows the viewer out of the gallery.
A multimedia installation from his exhibition ‘Quintette’ at Standpoint Gallery, London
What would be your advice to young aspiring artists?
Be original. Find your way to love it. There are plenty of rewards to being an artist, but also be ready to accept the bad parcels that get posted your way. Expect an epic journey in every sense.
Tell us about your latest work. What is keeping you busy?
My latest solo exhibition QUINTETTE was held at the Standpoint Gallery, London in April 2018. It brought together five projects exploring themes central to my practice, including socio-cultural traditions in ethnic societies and the correlation between communities in the microbial world and our own. The show featured printmaking, sculpture, painting, installation and time-based art.
‘Refugium’ [Medium: Site-specific installation] from his exhibition at Standpoint Gallery, London
“One of my central works ‘Tattooed memory’ was recently acquired by the Horniman Museum and is currently being exhibited in their World Gallery, which opened in June 2018. This pioneering exhibition highlights human creativity, imagination and adaptability, and celebrates the wonder and complexity of what it means to be human.”
Tattooed Memory [Medium: Sculpture] by Temsuyanger Longkumer
Installation of ‘Tattooed Memory’ in progress at the Horniman museum. The pioneering World Gallery, which opened in June 2018 will celebrate and explore the many different ways of being human.
I am currently working on a series of work involving paintings, prints, and Claymation that explore over-arching ideas relating to the human body as a microcosm of events in the universe and vice versa.
“I am particularly interested in the microbial world and their interactions, including in the flora and fauna around us. Exploring the relationship between the microscopic world – the politics and diplomacy between neighboring cells, the battles waged, fought, spread, and repelled – to that of the external world outside of the skin.”
Bilateral Highway by Temsuyanger Longkumer
Gods summit by Temsuyanger Longkumer
Follow Temsuyanger Longkumer on Facebook and Instagram to get a glimpse of his life as an artist in London, and his unique works of art.
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