MUMBAI.- The Passion explores the characters of three women from the Ramayana as archetypal figures. Set in fantasy environments, fateful incidents from the epic are played out on a spectacular stage in both still photographs and videos, with elaborate costuming and lighting to create powerful atmospheres. Pushpamala refers to various genres of image-making in her works, resulting in richly layered hybrids with multiple references. Many of the works in the exhibition refer to theatre stills from the early 20th century, while others use early cinema as their models. The artist is always the central protagonist in these dramas and the works function as documents of performances, as critiques of representational constructions, and as oblique self-portraits.
The Ramayana, seen as the national epic, is the story of the good warrior king/ hero/ god Rama who is banished from his kingdom to the deep forest due to the machinations of his stepmother Kaikeyi, who wants her own son to be king. Ramas wife Sita and brother Lakshmana follow him into exile. Towards the end of the fourteen years, the form- changing demoness Surpanakha, the guardian of the forest, is attracted to the two young princes and tries to seduce them by taking human form. The brothers mock her, and as she plunges to attack Sita she is punished by Lakshmana who cuts off her nose and ears. The wounded Surpanakha then goes to her brother, the powerful demon king Ravana and incites him to abduct the princess Sita in revenge. This leads to a Great War where Rama kills Ravana and defeats the demon army, fulfilling his destiny as the god-king.
Chala / Intrigue (Set of 6 sepia coloured photographs) is based on the incident where the old hunch-backed wet nurse of the Warrior Queen Kaikeyi, stepmother to Rama, plays upon her insecurities to ask for Ramas banishment to the forest before his coronation in order to crown her own son the king. The palace intrigues are portrayed by creating elaborate tableaux reminiscent of early 20th century Company theatre.
Indrajaala / Seduction (B&W Video installation) is based on the punishment of Surpanakha by cutting off her nose and ears by the prince Lakshmana, referring to early ethnographic cinema and animation, which the artist sees as the primitive of the modern era.
Apaharana / Abduction: (Set of 9 colour photographs) is based on the abduction of princess Sita by the demon Ravana. The act of the abduction of a woman which is a central theme in many of the worlds mythologies, is stretched out in many frames using the Orientalist images of the odalisque.
Mrugayati / The Hunt (Stop motion colour video loop) is a video created from still images of the demon chasing the princess, like a fragment from a recurring dream or nightmare.
Pushpamala N. (born 1956 in Bangalore) lives and works in both Bangalore and New Delhi. She earned BA and MA degrees in Sculpture from the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda after studying Economics, English and Psychology at Bangalore University. She had her first solo show in 1983 in Bangalore and since then has had solo exhibitions in galleries in Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Paris, New York and Chicago. Her video works have been screened in film festivals all over the world and in 2010 she was awarded a residency to work in Paris and create a series of photographs at the legendary Studio Harcourt for the exhibition Paris, Mumbai, New Delhi at the Centre Pompidou (2011).