Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart following the recent exhibition at Gallery Espace in New Delhi, examines the intricate art of Chitra Ganesh
London: Colourful yet dark are perhaps some of the adjectives which best describe Chitra Ganesh’s art which is characterized by dichotomies. As such, her comic-like characters, often embedded with dark and disruptive connotations, are the main subjects of her works. In few words we are always quite unsettled and surprised in front of a Chitra Ganesh’s work. In a good way.
In a recent interview with Neelam Raaj of the Times of India, Ganesh discusses and explains her art.
Born in New York from Indian parents, Ganesh through her multi-media works, plays with her “dual-identity” to express her self, and to better understand and communicate to her audience. However, despite her upbringing she is still considered “exotic” in America while the Indian audience finds her themes and characters quite familiar and easily recognisable.
Her vivid artist vocabulary draws on Indian and American comics, Indian myths, religious iconography and much more, however a special attention is given to the “Amar Chitra Katha” comic book. After reading it again as a grown up woman, Ganesh paid attention to so many details she didn’t notice when she was younger. For example the female characters were depicted as pious figures yet scantily clad, and the rakshasis were depicted dark and the devis fair. So the artist realised that children books have more power than we think and through fairy tales they let us unconsciously accept stereotypes and set ideas. However not all of them are “bad”, in fact some children stories hold subversive meanings.
Ganesh hence decided to give power and prime role to those heroines who have been waiting all of this time at the side of powerful men. So, at least in her work she changed the history and went against the general expectations and replaced the Greek god Atlas and Hanuman with female characters!
NEW YORK: Brooklyn based artist of Indian origin, Chitra Ganesh is the current artist- in residence at Bose Pacia in New York City as part of their Transparent Studio initiative, showing her works from June 18th to July 16th, 2013.
The Transparent Studio is an artist studio program founded by Bose Pacia where the selected artists are provided with a studio space in the main gallery. The intention of turning the transitional gallery space into a temporary artist studio is to enable an atmosphere of engagement and conversation around the creative process, allowing an opportunity to engage with the artist is the given set up.
Chitra Ganesh received her BA in Comparative Literature and Art Semiotics in 1996 and her MFA from Columbia University in 2002. Ganesh’s work has been exhibited widely at venues including PS 1/MOMA, Brooklyn Museum, the Asia Society, and the Andy Warhol Museum, Fondazione Sandretto in Italy, Nature Morte Berlin, ZKM in Germany, and the Gothenburg Kunsthalle.
Ganesh’s art and practice draws equally from her Indian roots as from her engagement with contemporary discourses regarding identity, the feminine, history and such. An adept multimedia artist, her works range from text based canvases, illustrations, prints, installations and collaborative projects. Her visual oeuvre serves a concoction of mythology, folklore, sci-fi, Indian bollywood, graffiti- drawn from her international experiences- a heady mix nonetheless a stimulating portion for a discerning connoisseurs’ palette .
The female protagonist is central to Ganesh’s work, reminiscent of the male super heroes of the comic book traditions. The ‘heroine’ often takes on the garb of the superhero- challenging and questioning societal norms and beliefs. The artist’s narrative is fuelled by her efforts to challenge the established canons- of history, literature, art, culture. The super ‘heroine’ of Ganesh’s works gives voice to the excluded narratives which are often relegated to the periphery of the ‘popular’ and ‘accepted’.
A consistent element of Ganesh’s visuality is her adaptation of the comic book layout in her works. An important point of reference is the Indian Amar Chitra Katha comic series that the artist encountered early in her life. They present religious and cultural narratives based on Hindu mythology and Indian history. She combines these with her interest in Greek mythology, western fairy tales and fantasy literature. She skillfully adapts the popular comic book format to her large scale works. Her use of the comic script as a trope to infuse the otherwise playful visual with an intent and relevant narrative is one of the many high points of her practice.
The humor and lightness of the visual elements balance the weighty discourses she handles in her practice. The blown-up and larger than life scale of her works also references the multiple points of entry and focus. She uses the busy and sometimes overwhelming imagery to give material form to an abstract concept- which through this process becomes accessible to multiple viewers. The use of text in her works is an inviting point of reference which opens the eye to the fantastical landscape at view. The words interject her visual narrative, and the two elements together take the viewer on a journey that titillates multiple senses.
Bose Pacia will be hosting an open studio on 11th July 2013 where the artist will be present.
Sweden: The Goteborg Konsthall is currently hosting, for the first time in Sweden, a solo-exhibition by the internationally renowned artist Chitra Ganesh. The exhibition titled ‘She, The Question’ will be on display until September 30, 2012.
The exhibition presents a selection of works created by the artist over the last ten years in various media including video, photography, collage, and drawing. In several of the works on display, text and visual elements are also combined. In addition to these pieces, some of the works on display have been made especially for the Gotenborg exhibition, including a 6 x 9 meter billboard installed on the Konsthall’s façade.
Ganesh, born and raised in the United States but with deep Indian roots, finds her inspiration in Greek, Hindu and Buddhist myths and epic narratives as well as in the Bollywood industry, 1960s psychedelia, science fiction, feminine fanzines and comic books.
For this exhibition, she particularly explored the role of women in such narratives, and repositioned them as the main characters of the stories. In her work, the artist visualizes women as powerful rebels who confront their destinies and those of other people in erotic and creative narratives using some surrealist elements. Ganesh’s attention to women protagonists is also underscored by her participation in the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective, which aims to increase the visibility and development of South Asian women artists among other goals.
NEW YORK: On September 24th StoryLTD’s newest Absolute Auction of Folk and Tribal Art will go live with an eclectic collection of indigenous art works depicting a vast array of artistic traditions from different regions of India. These techniques represent longstanding regional narrative and customs with colourful hues, varying textures and elaborate compositions. Two techniques represented in this sale include the multi-dimensional storytelling tradition of Patachitra scroll paintings and the family rooted Jogi art.
Patachitra, originating in the Eastern Indian state of Odisha, is essentially an ornate cloth-based scroll painting. Although these colourful works have organic and humble roots they offer a wealth of narrative possibilities. “Patta” means “cloth” in Sanskrit while “chitra” means picture or painting. True to the name, layers of cotton cloth are adhered together with a natural glue product and formed into scrolls. Patachitras made of lighter paper materials are sometimes reinforced with saris to extend their life. It is essential that these scrolls remain intact as they are exhibited by traditional story tellers that travel distances and use these scrolls in their performances. The subject is often based on Ramayana or regional folklore and mythology. However, they also sometimes contain narratives from Muslim and Sufi traditions. Traditionally crafted by travelling bards, each scroll was accompanied by a song. Thus each Patachitra was experienced as a multidimensional piece, with a narrative conveyed in both visuals and music. The tradition of Patachitras continues and contemporary scrolls often convey current events or pivotal moments in recent history.
A fitting example of these Bengal scrolls can be seen in Lot 85 and 86 in the Absolute Auction of Folk and Tribal Art by Jabbar Chitrakar and Yamuna Chitrakar. These colourful works are made from natural pigments and shows two narratives simultaneously. The title Chitrakar, literally meaning painter, is taken on by the performers. Not formally trained in the art of painting, these chitrakars learn the traditional skills in a local setting, becoming travelling showmen who are adept in more ways in one, donning multiple roles- painters, singers, performers, storytellers.
Much like the scroll paintings of Bengal, Jogi Art has an interesting history. Ganesh Jogi, the namesake of this artistic form, performed as a musician in Rajasthan. Following the traditional professional associated with the Jogi caste, the family would wander the streets in the early hours of the morning, singing devotional songs and receiving grains, clothes and occasionally money from people. Due to changing times they had to move to the neighbouring state of Gujrat to seek a livelihood. A chance encounter with the eminent artist and anthropologist in the 1980s laid roots for the blossoming of this visual art form. Shah encouraged Ganesh and his wife Teju to draw from their hearts and imagination images that inhabit their world. Over time these illustrations became detailed and complex, a true visual delight. The current lots showcasing Jogi Art present the evolutionary and transformative potential of traditional artistic practices. They present varied themes that include village life, current events and contemporary discourses like environmentalism.
StoryLTD’s upcoming auction of folk and tribal art presents an opportunity to partake in India’s traditional visual practices, the range of artworks included in the sale are sure to peak one’s curiosity about the indigenous art genres existing in the different regions of the subcontinent.
The Saffronart team on events you shouldn’t be missing this month in Mumbai, Delhi, London and New York, beginning with…
Chitra Ganesh’s “Reclining Figure”, rendered on the walls of Lakeeren Gallery as part of Drawing from the Present, a site-based project Source: Lakeeren Art Gallery
Esther Brinkmann: “Renewable Pleasures: The India Chapter” Where: Gallery Chemould, Fort, Mumbai On View Till: August 23, 2014
Esther Brinkmann is an acclaimed Swiss jewellery designer who has been living in India for the past four years. Inspired by her residency in the nation, this exhibition will feature unique, handmade neckpieces, brooches and rings that pay particular attention to techniques of engraving and enameling that developed in ancient India.
Lalu Prasad Shaw: “Solitary Spaces” Where: Art Musings, Colaba, Mumbai On View Until: August 31, 2014
Bengali artist and printmaker Lalu Prasad Shaw is notable for work influenced by the pre-independence Company School of art, Ajanta cave and traditional Kalighat Pat paintings. His talent lies in translating these influences along with scenes from his own life onto canvases. This solo exhibition at Art Musings features works that explore ways to create quiet and solitary meditations on paintings.
Chitra Ganesh: “Drawing from the Present” Where: Lakeeren Art Gallery, Mumbai
On View Till: September 30, 2014
Artist Chitra Ganesh has transformed the interiors of Lakeeren Gallery in Colaba with her illustrations and paintings, pulsating with stories. Known for her comic-inspired illustrations infused with mythological references, Ganesh’s works are layered with questions. In this exhibition, she continues to explore sci-fi, mythology and time travel. If you missed watching the artist at work, drop by Lakeeren to decode her paintings.
And if you’re hoping for a glimpse into her wide-ranging inspirations, here’s an interview by Art Radar.
Gipin Varghese, “Lifetimes”, Watercolour on paper 81″ x 16″ (Each), 2013 from the exhibition Lifetimes at Vadehra Art Gallery. Source: Vadehra Art Gallery
Aditya Pande: “H&M” Where: Nature Morte, Delhi On View Till: September 6, 2014
Known for his signature style that involves the use of vector-based software to create lines, Delhi based artist Aditya Pande will be showcasing a solo exhibition that continues his style of exploring boundaries through vector lines and other mediums and subjects. The title of the show, ‘H & M,’ an abbreviation for Harappa and Mohenjodaro, is indicative of Pande’s fascination with artifacts found at these sites. The exhibition will be unique in its steering away from a white box gallery atmosphere, making the space more interactive.
Nayanaa Kanodia: “The Great Outdoors” Where: Art Alive Gallery, Delhi On View Till: August 20, 2014
Self-taught artist Nayanaa Kanodia has achieved international acclaim since her first solo exhibition in 1986. Her recent works, featuring in this show, draw inspiration from nature. She carefully examines man’s relationship with the natural outdoor environment depicting themes such as innocence and peacefulness. Kanodia explains, “My paintings are varying angles of a single prism. At first glance, you see a humored portrayal of a quaint scene; upon further examination, an integrated, multi-layered expression reveals itself.”
Gipin Varghese: “Lifetimes” Where: Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi On View Till: September 6, 2014
Having successfully participated in several group shows, this is artist Gipin Varghese’s first solo exhibition that will present the work he has made over the last two years. Varghese re-examines contemporary issues, media, violence, and struggles faced in rural India. Through his socially conscious works he uses art to pay tribute to victims, and ordinary people who face struggles, by immortalising their stories. His works focus on figures, expressions and postures that we may otherwise shy away from, to also provoke viewers to consider social realities. Not only should this exhibition give you a new perspective to look at issues faced in India, but also gives you the chance to get acquainted with an emerging artist.
‘Stalwarts from the East’: A French lady pins a flower on the Sikh saviours of France, Paris, 1916. From the Toor Collection. Part of the exhibition Empire, Faith and War: The Sikhs and World War One Source: https://www.soas.ac.uk/gallery/efw/
Kalpana Shah, Ravi Mandlik, Anwar, Brinda Miller, Nupur Kundu, Aisha Caan, JayShree Kapoor, Christina Pierce: “Indian Summer” Where: Albemarle Gallery, London On View Till: August 23, 2014
This exhibition features prominent contemporary artists who have achieved acclaim in India and abroad. The exhibit is presented by Arts for India; a charity that supports the Delhi based International Institute of Fine Arts (IIFA), which is one of the few private sector providers of an art education in India. Attending this exhibition is likely to expose you to works by artists from India, as well as those who have been influenced by Indian art and culture. Simultaneously, you can also show your support for the development of art education in India, by attending this show.
Pradeep Puthoor: “The Art of Pradeep Puthoor” Where: Everyman Cinema, Belsize Park On View Till: September 2, 2014
Pradeep Puthoor is a Kerala-based contemporary artist who is beginning to achieve world-wide acclaim for the fantastical worlds he creates in his works through his creative and illustrative skills. This exhibition of his paper works is organized by the Noble Sage Gallery, at the Everyman Cinema in Belsize Park. This is a show that is guaranteed to satisfy art enthusiasts and collectors. Visiting this exhibit can easily be combined with watching a film at the Everyman Cinema, or paying a visit to the permanent collection at the Noble Sage Gallery, next door.
Empire, Faith and War: The Sikhs and World War One Where: The Brunei Gallery, SOAS On View Till: September 28, 2014
This exhibition features a carefully curated selection of unique and rare photographs, drawings, newspaper articles, comics, postcards, uniforms, gallantry medals, art works, as well as folk songs that commemorate the contribution of Sikh soldiers in the Great War. The exhibition, organized by the UK Punjab Heritage foundation, also features an album of X-Rays of injuries of wounded Indian soldiers lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection. This exhibition is definitely worth a visit, to gain a sense of Sikh history and culture, particularly with respect to colonial and war periods.
City as subject/matter: Belfast, Hong Kong, New Delhi, New York, Tel Aviv, Tirana and beyond Where: New York (Click here for multiple venues) On View Till: August 26, 2014
Curated by Marco Antonini in collaboration with Catalyst Arts, Hila Cohen-Schneiderman, Khoj International Artists’ Association, Eriola Pira and Magdalen Wong, this group exhibition features artists Seher Shah, Vibha Galhotra and Gigi Scaria among others. It is presented as a series of four consecutive exhibitions hosted by NURTUREart, Mixed Greens, Invisible Exports and Unions Docs. Multiplicity is an international survey of artworks sharing an interest in the politics and poetic potential of contemporary urban environments. The works address the myriad public and private rituals of the city, mining its institutional and vernacular histories while re-imagining its formal and functional aspects.
Readymade | Contemporary Art from Bangladesh Where: Aicon Gallery, New York On View Till: September 6, 2014
Aicon gallery presents the first ever extensive survey exhibition of contemporary Bangladeshi art held in New York. The exhibition features nine artists collectively exploring the complex and interlocking cultural, political, economic and environmental issues currently facing the often paradoxical and rapidly changing society and state of Bangladesh. The featured artists include Kazi Salahuddin Ahmed, Masum Chisty, Khaled Hasan, Imran Hossain Piplu, Promotesh Das Pulak, Dhali Al Mamoon, Yasmin Jahan Nupur, Mohammad Wahiduzzaman and Wakilur Rahman. The work in this exhibition unpacks these issues through the concept of the readymade, both in its art historical context, and as a term referring to Bangladesh’s massive and unwieldy ready-to-wear garment industry.