The Fantastic Female World of Chitra Ganesh’s “Architects of the Future”

Anything is possible in “Architects of the Future,” a series of four woodblocks and screenprints by artist Chitra Ganesh, currently featured by Durham Press. Ganesh combines styles drawn from retro sci-fi books and Amar Chitra Katha—Indian comics established in the ’60s as a means to teach cultural heritage to younger Indian populations. Though much of Ganesh’s work draws on the Amar Chitra Katha style, she does not adopt its didacticism and moralism. Her take on the comics could be viewed as an attempt to flesh them out, to add complexity to simplified figures, specifically women. “I’d like to create a mythology that poses questions rather than gives clear answers,” she once said. In “Architects of the Future,” Ganesh creates an entirely new world, melding fantasy with elements of her corporeal life.

Each print in the series conveys metaphysical wonder and openness. In The Fortuneteller, a contemplative female figure is juxtaposed with a crustacean-like spacecraft and a set of huge, detached hands. The figures float against a speckled black sky and a nonspecific planet. City Inside Her shows a woman’s head in the foreground, dreaming an inverted city in the sky out of her eye sockets, curling through and around elements of her earthly life: wood grain, foliage, and palace structures.

Another print depicts a woman’s hand painting a set of crossed fingers detached from a body. A speech bubble in the corner reads “Intimacy of the Void,” in comic script. The text isn’t there to serve as an explanation; it can be interpreted in myriad ways. The text included in Away From the Watcher is abstract, a series of forlorn poetic lines echoing the image of a lone astronaut figure and disembodied head, alone in a vast landscape. Within this chimerical space created by Ganesh, all things are freed from their normative contexts. There’s no sense of real time or place in these prints, and human bodies exist as fluid and changeable entities.

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