Comic book images push gender boundaries for Biennale's Chitra Ganesh

Kochi: Her works narrate stories that push boundaries of gender and power representations, and for that Chitra Ganesh uses mixed media that interestingly employ comic strips as well.

India's popular Amar Chitra Katha drawings are a source of inspiration to express her discerning views on subjects as weighty as race, feminism, and queer rights. In fact, 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. Chitra was born to immigrant parents in America and lives in New York's populous Brooklyn.

"I am interested in working across media. Installations, drawings, comics, digital collage, and mostly animation," the 43-year-old artist says. "I also study how text and image illuminate one another in my wall drawings."

Quiz her why the heavy leaning towards the comic-book style, and 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."

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. "My background in literature has influenced my desire to go for experiments in integrating text and image," 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. "I have been continuing an exploration of the inextricable entanglements between deep past and far future. There is a dynamic connection between mythology and science fiction," she notes. "There are always untold stories trying to rise to the surface. I find these particularly inspiring."

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