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Student news: Dhama Thanigasapapathy

OCA painting student Dhama Thanigasapapathy has been announced as one of the winners of the 2023 Freelands Painting Prize

I am delighted to announce that OCA painting student Dhama Thanigasapapathy has been announced as one of the winners of the 2023 Freelands Painting Prize. The Freelands Painting Prize celebrates outstanding painting practice at undergraduate level, culminating in an exhibition at the Freelands Foundation gallery. The Foundation invites every higher education institution in the UK to nominate a final year student to submit a work for the prize; either a painting or a work exploring painting in the expanded field. All submissions were reviewed anonymously by a judging panel (Harminder Judge, Sid Motion and Jenni Lomax) selected winners to take part in an exhibition at the Foundation’s Chalk Farm Gallery space in the Autumn. The exhibition is also accompanied by a publication.

I caught up with Dhama just prior to the official announcement to ask her about the works she submitted and what the Freelands win means for her.

ED: Congratulations Dhama! I am so pleased for you and also for me! I know how marvellous OCA painting is but it is great to see someone from our fabulous learning community publicly noticed and rewarded as being one of the best from the UK art colleges of today. Can you share with the rest of OCA which paintings you submitted and a snapshot of your practice?

DT: Thanks Emma, I am very excited to hear about the win and looking forward to taking my practice further. I submitted paintings that I felt show where my practice is currently situated: semi-figurative landscapes of future possibilities based on a complex layering of reality, imagination, multiple overlapping memories, cultural stories and emotional drivers including unease and nostalgia. The ghostly remnants of the past linger as storms and seas encroach, time elapses, erosion occurs, human artefacts break down, natural objects are displaced, matter grows over the ruins of civilisations. Sentinel (2022) shows a menacing spiky shape in an unnatural landscape. Exothermic (2022) pushes the boundaries of colour, light and mark-making, marrying the vivid awe-inspiring with the dark dystopian. 

ED: You have really explored representations of the dystopic so thoroughly and your own background in future technologies has also given weight and depth to your understanding of the anthropocene. I’ve enjoyed watching your relationship with paint as a material mature and gain in confidence too throughout. What would you say have been the main insights you’ve gained about your practice in relation to paint as a material during level3?

DT: Yes, my prior career also led me to become very interested in futurism and how things might play out for humanity as our civilisation advances. During Level 3, I studied in depth how painters exploited the material qualities of paint to create the outcomes they wanted and experimented extensively using these techniques. This research was fundamental to my development and enabled my own innovations using paint’s material qualities to create movement, luminosity and complexity; Using multiple thin layers of fluid paint, glazing and mark-making to echo natural processes via chemical reactions with mediums and other materials and physical flows, drips and splashes – rather than trying to deliberately paint them.

Another important part of my practice is to contrast oil paints with other media, pushing me to approach the medium more ambitiously and in more sophisticated ways. I often apply the alternative aesthetic and behaviours of digital art, inks, charcoal, pastel and watercolour to oil painting.

ED: Yes, using digital techniques and then reinterpreting them or abutting them with ancient pigments was a lovely element of your degree show work. This prize will open doors for you academically and professionally, and I hope that it leads to friendships and collaborations. We have a fantastically supportive level 3 group of students, and I know your peers have been enormously supportive of you – as you have of them. Can you tell us a little about your future plans and how your OCA experience and your peers in particular have helped realise your ambition?

DT: Thanks Emma, you are right that this prize will be hugely important for me. As well as doing more painting, I hope to show my work more widely in the art community and do further written and practical research into the themes on which my practice is based. As you mention, the level 3 peer group has been enormously helpful as a supportive community. Regular critical reviews of each other’s paintings helped me to see where my paintings needed more work and provided encouragement while studying online. We continue to support each other on social media, at talks, exhibitions and events. Alumni contacts will also share useful information about open calls, gallery space, sketching days and opportunities for future collaborations. In fact, I have just completed a collaborative online exhibition, Menacing Beauty, with another BA Painting student, Sonia Boening.

ED: thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me and I, and the rest of the painting department, wish you the best of luck with your future career.

DT: Thank you Emma, I would like to thank you for nominating me and thank everyone at the OCA, including tutors, fellow students and alumni for their support.

You can read more about Dhama’s online collaborative exhibition on WeAreOCA here.

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Posted by author: Emma Drye
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9 thoughts on “Student news: Dhama Thanigasapapathy

  • Wow – congratulations Dhama on winning the prize, very well deserved indeed. I’m very glad I was able to watch your Zoom with Emma about your final OCA degree works and show. I have to say, I don’t know how you have produced so much work of such quality, and am wondering if you ever sleep?! All the very best with your next steps, and hoping to hear more about and see more of your work in the coming years.

    • Thanks for your lovely comment Penny,

      I love working with the many different material qualities of paints and trying out new ideas, so I ended up creating a lot of paintings 🙂

  • Very well done Dhama it was wonderful to meet up with you on the crit meetings and see your work develop. I am sure you have a great future as an Artist.

  • Well done and well deserved. You are inspirational. It has been great to meet iup with you and fellow Level Three students on zoom over the last couple of years,. Wil miss it hope to stay in touch.

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