Pushpamala N. — Avega, The Passion



Pushpamala N.
Avega, The Passion

Past: March 1 → April 20, 2013

The body of work called The Passion takes key incidents involving three women characters from the Indian epic Ramayana. The Ramayana 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. His 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 is based on the incident where the old hunch- backed wet nurse of the Queen Kaikeyi, stepmother to Rama, plays upon her insecurities as the youngest Queen to ask for Rama’s banishment to the forest before his coronation. Indrajaala, Seduction is based on the punishment of Surpanakha by cutting off her nose and ears, by the prince Lakshmana. Apaharana, Abduction is based on the abduction of princess Sita by the demon Ravana. Mrugayati, The Hunt is a brief stop motion video of the demon chasing the princess.

The Ramayana, is seen as the national epic and the rule of Rama — Ramarajya — is seen as the ideal governance, invoked by Gandhi during the nationalist struggle and now used by Hindu fundamentalists. The Passion takes a sideways look at the place of women in this ideal state.

The original Valmiki Ramayana is intense and tragic, with larger than life characters shaken by conflicting passions. The task was to create a fresh language to express that spectacular scale and rich sensual imagery, when so many historical and modern interpretations exist. There is a heroine, and two femme fatales, both warriors, playing out their destinies. I see them as archetypal characters and incidents occurring again and again in the world’s mythologies. The language is taken from early Indian theatre and cinema, with tableaux of painted sets with hybrid costumes and décor, which I see as the primitive of the modern age.

“I have used references from the late 19c India history painter Ravi Varma’s paintings, to Poussin’s Rape of the Sabine Women, Fuseli’s Nightmare, early ethnographic and animation films, cinema of India’s first film maker Dadasaheb Phalke, psycho-analysis and contemporary events. A dark mood with expressionist lighting is used for psychological drama. The Hunt video is like a fragment from a recurring dream or nightmare.”

Pushpamala N, April 2012.

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The artist

  • Pushpamala N.