The works narrate stories that push the boundaries of gender and power representations, and for that Chitra Ganesh uses mixed media that interestingly employs comic strips as well.
Popular Amar Chitra Katha drawings become source to draw and express her discerning views on race, feminism and queer rights. She draws inspiration from myriad sources - Hindu mythology to Buddhist icons - to explore stories seemingly hidden or nestled within contemporary narratives.
In her work at the main venue of the 108-day biennale, Chitra goes on to express matters that are a nuanced version of historical and mythical texts with focus on iconic female forms. Part-alternate realities and part-badass feminist interventions too form core to the ideas of Chitra (43) who is born to immigrant parents in America and lives in New York’s populous Brooklyn.
“I am interested in working across media. Such as installation, drawings, comics, digital collage and mostly animation. I also pursue how text and image illuminate one another in my wall drawings.”On the heavy leaning towards the comic-book style, Chitra says she is interested in graphic as a complex semiotic system. “It’s an assembly of signs and symbols that a wide audience is equipped to decipher. The form has its popularity growing, too,” she says. “For example, we all understand that a certain kind of bubble signifies speech, another represents thought and we know how to create a time-based story from building meanings out of individual images that are stitched together.”
Chitra is also inspired by the comic form’s “relation to more ancient forms such as cave paintings and mosaic murals”.A graduate from the Ivy-League Brown University, Chitra studied literature, semiotics and social theory. All of these find a steady reference in her works, says the artist, an MFA in visual arts from Colombia University.
At Aspinwall House in Fort Kochi, Chitra has a digital-animation video installation for the biennale that runs till March 29. Titled ‘The Scorpion Gesture’, the work was originally commissioned by the Rubin Museum of Art, New York, for a show curated by Beth Citron. It has five screens juxtaposed to be visible simultaneously. Together, they merge thousands of animated images to pull viewers into a surreal realm.
The theme follows a broad canvas: art history, politics, everyday life. The work is inspired by select paintings, sculptures and illuminated texts from the Rubin Museum’s collection of Himalayan art.
“I have tried to weave together scenes that explore concepts of transformation and circular patterns in time,” says Chitra. “Central to this work is the hand symbol, known as the ‘scorpion gesture’. It symbolises unlimited potential for transformation and renewal.”
The artist also delves into the representations of Maitreya, a future iteration of the Buddha whose arrival will mark a new beginning. It is believed to follow an era when the world becomes subject to human and ecological destruction.The Biennale work touches on topics like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and the Russian band Pussy Riot, in addition to ecological damage and the recent crises of forced migration. With this imagery of a dire world, she depicts the deity’s arrival in Metropolis, transforming the Himalayan statue into a female cyborg protagonist who ushers in a more equitable age. “I think the topics are very relevant to present-day India as well,” she adds.