Kumkum Fernando

The Lost Mystics

ArtPrize 2023
Grand Rapids, Michigan

September 14 - October 1, 2023
Open daily from 12:00 pm - 8:00 pm

ArtPrize Clubhouse
2 Fulton Street West

Jonathan LeVine Projects, in conjunction with ArtPrize, proudly presents, The Lost Mystics by Kumkum Fernando.

In this new body of work, Fernando has summoned the Lost Mystics, merging futuristic and tribal aesthetics to create one of a kind sculptures. These figures – some hulking, some diminutive – represent the amalgam of a staggering array of global influences, including Ethiopian and Sri Lankan masks, 20th century American board games and puzzles as well as Buddhist and Hindu folktales.

The melancholy characters of the Lost Mystics are searching for meaning, crisscrossing time and space, unmoored and chasing illusions. They are filled with longing and unrequited desire. Some weep, others dream, and struggle to cope with the swirling uncertainty of their existence. Everyone is a lost mystic, trying to find their way.

The Lost Mystics series is part of Kumkum’s ongoing exploration of the nexus between traditional and modern culture. These strange figures come to life in tribal patterns and complex geometry, bridging styles from across his polyglot influences. Narrative is central to Kumkum’s work, and stories he’s heard and the tales he’s been told weave their way into the ever expanding universe of his characters.

The sculptures mark a departure from some of the more glossy and refined figures Kumkum has created in the past. Instead, many of the surfaces are rough, as if they had been weathered by eons of use and exposure. Kumkum celebrates the beauty of imperfect upcycled wood, hand hammered rusty nails and old wooden puzzle pieces, leaving pockmarks, scratches and dents intact. He eschews the look of mass production and embraces the artisanal, assembling hundreds of individual pieces to create intricate and detailed figures.

The result is a juxtaposition of textured and smooth, crude and polished. The sculptures present a riot of color and an imposing presence. Kumkum has brought together two inspirations – the futuristic and the tribal – to produce hand crafted sculptures that evoke a unique spiritualism, mythology, and philosophy.