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Chitra Ganesh

Indian-American Contemporary Artist
Born 1975, Brooklyn, New York
Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York

Chitra Ganesh's wall drawings, comics, text based works and collaborations aim to challenge conventional representations of women, in part through a bold and innovative approach to epic myth and comics. She works with these icons of mythology, literature, and popular culture to bring feminist and queer narratives to light. Taking inspiration from a broad range of visual material, including the Amar Chitra Katha Chitra comic series, Ganesh's heroines become empowered protagonists at the center of their own stories, rather than remaining at the peripheries of history or myth.

Education

2002

Masters of Visual Arts, Columbia University, New York

2001

Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, New York

1996

Bachelor of Art, Semiotics and Comparative Literature, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA

 

VIEW     Selected exhibitions     Text      Videos      Selected images      View all

LIFE AND WORK

MAPPING THE ARTIST

18

Gallery Show Solo

22

Countries exhibited in

5

Museum Show Solo

22

International / national residencies

16

Years in Practice

62

Auctions

4

Special Projects

3

Biennales

14

Museum/public collections

39

Museum Show Group

17

Publications

2

Awards

58

Gallery Show Group

5

Art Fairs

UNDERSTANDING Chitra Ganesh

She explores South Asian visual culture through a re-interpretation of Amar Chitra Katha comics

Amar Chitra Katha comic series were an important source of Indian stories for immigrants in the 1960-70s. Having read these stories as a child, Chitra Ganesh took this source and modified stereotypes to present fresh stories. The mythic tales of the devil and the devis are transformed, through digital changes in imagery and text, combined with the artist’s own drawings. Chitra Ganesh considers conflicts and desires that are underlying in myths, and brings these to the surface of the image, featuring bodies and blood, disjointed body parts, and a rebellious attitude. The well-known comic series places its readers on a bridge between the familiar and the distant, and leaves a powerful impression on many who read these as young children. This is one reason why the artist chose to manipulate Amar Chitra Katha to depict her narratives. Her unusual approach to the roots of this popularly read book gave her the freedom to invert and manipulate it in unexpected ways.

Chitra Ganesh, Secrets, 2007, digital print, 48 x 45”

In Chitra Ganesh's works, women take on the role of protagonist rather than remaining at the periphery

In classical myths and comics across many cultures, the role played by female characters overwhelmingly positions them in a peripheral space, with the figure of the male at the centre of the action. In all of her works, across different media, Chitra Ganesh breaks away from these typecasts, of women as passive, playing lesser roles, or weak. Stories of the figures that are more often than not ignored become the focus. Her female heroes are given new dimensions of existence, letting them mutate and morph. Not only this, but the normally perceived definition of ‘junglee’ or wild in women is also challenged through this portrayal. The often submissive female is changed to become the aggressive, rebellious in the scenes depicted in Ganesh’s art.

Chitra Ganesh, Girls With Skulls, 1999, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 66”.

Sexuality as a central theme in her works

Chitra Ganesh has perpetually visited themes of sexuality showcasing them with glory rather than, as she believes, the hush-hush manner in which it is talked about in modern times. Sexuality, in her art, becomes the bearer of beauty of her protagonists. She has not only worked with nude figures but has time and again included queer themes in her art as well. As she said in an interview the purpose of involving such themes is not to increase the shock value but they are simply a part of her identity leading to the surfacing of these themes as one of the several layers there is to her art. Apart from this, the artist also juxtaposes sexuality with ferocity displaying beauty and strength at the same time. She playfully mixes these often seemingly disparate themes to unite them in her paintings and installations.  

In her installation, Inside Pandora, 2008, the artist successfully sticks to exploring sexuality and nudity in art while using the third eye that artfully covers the woman’s forehead to showcase the beauty within.

Chitra Ganesh, Inside Pandora (detail), 2008, 14 x 13.5”.

An equal influence of science and myth, natural and the supernatural

On one hand there is a robot-headed woman, while on the other there is a lenticular print of a zombie. It becomes hard to evaluate if these two art works are from the same artist because of the dissimilarities in the beliefs of the themes themselves. Chitra Ganesh delivers both the themes with utter exquisiteness. While she continually overturns myths, she also develops a futuristic approach. The reason being that whether it is science or mythology, they both ponder on the similar questions of our origin and the ultimate destiny. Only the approach is reversed. Both these approaches give her the liberty to rethink the idea of the human and its form of existence.

Through her exhibition “Ghost Effect in Real Time” she explored the relationship that exists between science and myth. She looked into the intangible narrations that lead to the equal dispersion of technology and fables around the world.

Chitra Ganesh, Lanka Burning, 2012, charcoal on paper, part of the exhibition “Ghost In Real Time”, 22 x30”.

Creating art that is visually striking

Chitra Ganesh’s art is as striking visually as it is conceptually. Right from her textual art works to installations and paintings, her art is rich in colour and the material it uses. A number of materials she uses are collected over a period of time. Sometimes, as in her installation Hair Poem, they are as diverse as hair, wire and glass. Not only has she aptly used technology in her work but also the traditional mediums of acrylic and oil on paper have been used in a superlative manner. The amalgamation of such varied items has led her to create art that captures the viewer through the visual luxury it provides. The artist believes that the use of materials, ranging from household items like glass coasters to ones found at cheap stalls like a ponytail holder and marbles, allows a way for audiences to enter her work through their familiarity with these materials, which also makes the work visually appealing in a different way. 

Chitra Ganesh, Hair Poem, 2007, installation view approx. 4 x 14 x 3 feet with mixed media including hair, wire, oil and glass.

Bibliography