Pushpamala N. is an innovative artist who frequently incorporates popular culture into her intriguing body of photographic works. In the process, she adopts different personas, plays ironic roles and employs historic f...展开igures as vehicles to examine critical issues of location, history and gender. The cryptic and comic aspect of her oeuvre tends to carry a sharp edge, and this is especially evident in her photo-based installations and projections.
In her explorations of the terrain of contemporary urban life, the artist exposes cultural and gender stereotyping. A new experimental film-based project by her is currently showcased as a cinematic installation at Mumbai’s Chemould Prescott Road gallery. ‘Paris Autumn’ is a work of fiction involving a short film, and black and white still photographs from it, in the style of a gothic thriller, which tells the story of Pushpamala’s stay in Paris in the autumn of 2005.
Explaining how the project has come about, an accompanying note elaborates: “While she rents a room in one of the oldest streets in the Marais, strange happenings begin to occur. It was then she realizes she is living in the outhouses of the mansion that had once belonged to Gabrielle d'Estrées, King Henri IV's favorite, who died, poisoned no doubt, at the age of 26 just as she was about to marry the king. From that moment on, she had to find out about this woman who had come to such a tragic end.”
The artist's quest in ‘Paris Autumn’ starts at the Louvre, just opposite ‘The Fortune Teller’ by Caravaggio. It continues through the Chapelle des Petits-Augustine’s kitsch atmosphere, and carries on at various points through Paris. Not a moving picture in the traditional sense, this is rather a rapid-fire succession of still photos carefully arranged into a sequential narrative. Everything in the film is uncertain. The plot wanders, though it is not necessarily pure fantasy, very much in keeping with her art practice that never quite resolves the mysteries posed.
Blending autobiographical notes with surreal aesthetics and dramatics, her works superimpose layers of femininity, humor, and guise. Even while transgressing the limitations of mimetic figural representation, Pushpamala N. has faithfully stuck to the narration of the female form. Her work essentially engages theories of postcolonial identity coupled with a feminist historical gaze. Applauding it, New York Times art critic Holland Cotter noted, “If the results are a little disheveled, they also mark another promising step in an extremely interesting career.”
‘Paris Autumn’ premiered at Galerie Zurcher in Paris as installation along with film and photographs in 2006, and received rave reviews in Le Monde and other leading French newspapers and magazines. It was later developed as a cinematic installation in the form of a movie theatre environment for Bose Pacia, New York, and Gallery Nature Morte, New Delhi. The film has also been shown in the Video et Apres Programme of the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the 4th Sguardi International Women's Film Festival, Milan, the Bangalore International Film Festival, and in numerous other screenings in India and abroad.
The curatorial essay sums up in stating that “Pushpamala seems to read the world like a ‘complex and stratified, open and enigmatic’ literary work that she makes up as she weaves her way through a mysterious urban territory where, right down to the flow of the images, we find the ‘halting’ nature of the City of Paris according to Benjamin, like a succession of paintings put together with deft brushstrokes.”