Chitra Ganesh's drawing-based practice revolves around surrealist, quirky, and often violent images of women. Spanning comics, paintings, animations, prints, and installations, Ganesh works to challenge canonical representations of femininity, sexuality, and power in art. Taking inspiration from a plethora of sources that range from popular Indian comics and old Bollywood movies to queer politics, Ganesh addresses the history of erasure.Read More
Hindu mythology and well-known iconography are among the common points of departure for Chitra Ganesh. Her early comic book Tales of Amnesia (2002—2007), for example, is based on Amar Chitra Katha: the popular Indian comic series centering on Indian history and culture that Ganesh read as a child. In her reinterpretations, Ganesh replaces the original male heroes with women who engage in equally violent and garish acts, offering new archetypes for portraying the feminine.
Ganesh's complex hybrid characters have appeared across various media. In the mural installation Eyes of Time (2014) for the Brooklyn Museum in New York, Ganesh reimagined Kali—the Hindu goddess of time, creation, and destruction—with a handless clock for a face. For New York's open-air exhibition Art on the Grid (2020), the artist similarly brought together symbols associated with rebirth—such as the phoenix, Mahishasura Mardini, and Birth of Venus—to create the digital illustration Urgency (2020).
The 27 linocuts of 'Sultana's Dream' (2018) derive from the eponymous early 20th-century feminist sci-fi novella written by Bengali writer Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. Ganesh's visualisation of the text draws parallels between the problems of Hossain's fictional world and Ganesh's own, such as gender and socio-economic inequality. 'Sultana's Dream' was first presented in Ganesh's solo exhibition Her garden, a mirror (2018) at The Kitchen in New York, then at the Dhaka Art Summit 2020 in Bangladesh.
Chitra Ganesh often collaborates with fellow artists, a practice that she described to Ocula Magazine in 2020 as 'a closer reading with someone else and integrating practices'. Since 2004, she has been working with Mariam Ghani on the Index of the Disappeared: an experimental archive and mobile platform that, through web projects and essays, expands public knowledge and discourse about post-9/11 disappearances in the United States.
In 2018, Ganesh collaborated with South Korea-born and New York-based artist Sung-Hwan Kim to publish the Between You and Me project online: a collection of the two artists' conversations on the dominant narratives of early migration and settlement in America that tend to overlook the historical presence of Native Americans and Asians.
In 2020, Ganesh's QUEERPOWER window commission A city will share her secrets if you know how to ask was unveiled across the facade of New York's Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art. The imagery was inspired by historical immigrant and indigenous settlements, New York's native flora and fauna, and ongoing state-sanctioned violence in the United States against marginalised communities, the latter of which the artist described to Ocula Magazine as 'just as much a pandemic if not more than Covid-19'.
Chitra Ganesh, Gallery Espace, New Delhi (2020); Her garden, a mirror, The Kitchen, New York (2018); The Scorpion Gesture, Rubin Museum of Art, New York (2018); Chitra Ganesh: On Moonless Nights, King School Museum of Contemporary Art, Oregon (2017); Mining Warm Data, Dhaka Art Summit, Shilpakala Academy, Kishoreganj, Bangladesh (2016); Protest Fantasies, Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco (2015).
New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, California (2020); Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery, London (2019); Possibilities for a Non Alienated Life, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India (2019); Beyond Transnationalism: Legacies of Post Independence South Asian Art, AIFACS Gallery and Raza Foundation, New Delhi (2018); Lucid Dreams and Distant Visions: South Asian Art in the Diaspora, Asia Society, New York (2017).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2020