Image of The Week: Pushpamala N
Travelling around France this week, I came across the work of artist Pushpamala N. at an exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou titled Paris-Delhi-Bombay. Although I cannot share with you the pieces she exhibited there, I thought the rest of her work is curiously interesting. The artist is known for her photo and video-performance based work and her series titled Native Women of South India: Manners and Customs is an investigation into enthographic image making and visual stereotyping. In some works from this series, she explores the methods of early anthropological photography by placing herself in front of measuring apparatus and in others she takes re-interprets familiar works of art, opening them up for imaginative re-contextualisation. What I really enjoy about her work, is that in looking at one of her photographs (I have never seen a performance), one is taken through a discourse on the history of art, the constructs of image-making, the history of media and technology – even a response to the Natyashastra and the aesthetics of performance, in which a performer doesn’t just enact a character, he or she becomes the character, through and through.
The image above is inspired from Raja Ravi Verma’s olegraph of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. This photograph, also titled Lakshmi, refers back to this historical print but in it, the artist is in role as the subject of the photograph and also its maker. It is a performance frozen in time and seeing as it is included in her Enthographic Series, one wonders if it isn’t in fact, the portrait of a South Indian woman striving to acheive the perfect impression of Raja Ravi Verma’s ideal, her hands askew and face far from serene. I think this image is a commentary on your everyday woman versus the divine goddess and simultaneously, a look at the perfect imagery of Hindu deities as presented, preserved and memorized from Raja Ravi Verma’s legendary prints.
More at the artist’s website.