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Pushpamala N

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1956, Bangalore, India
Lives and works between Bangalore and New Delhi, India

Pushpamala N has carved a niche for herself in the international art circles. Beginning her career as a sculptor, she has transitioned to the medium of photo-performance. Her work also extends to experimental short films, live performance and sculptural tableau, bringing in movement, text and sound to her structured compositions.



Master of Fine Arts (Sculpture), Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India


Bachelor of Fine Arts (Sculpture), Faculty of Fine Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India


Bachelor of Arts in Economics, English and Psychology, Bangalore University, Bangalore, India

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Her work echoes subtle as well as overt political nuances

Her work has references to feminist politics, but always situating in the subtlety of history and power politics. Most of her re-worked photomontages possess a quality of political subterfuge, questioning the inherent power politics that shaped the popular ideologies.

In doing so she steers clear of a very formidable political message or implication, but manages to create an imbalance within power normative. Certain works by her, also question central political figures and structures

In the piece Paris Autumn film and Lobby Card 9, 2006, archival black and white digital ink jet prints, edition of 10, 10 x 12 inches, is set in the year 2005; she uses French Colonial history of blood and warfare along with the current African and Arab youth violence in Paris. Her references to religious and class wars and the dichotomies and familiarities within history are a crucial marker of her political discourses within her work.

Pushpamala N., Paris Autumn film and Lobby Card 9, 2006, archival black and white digital ink jet prints, edition of 10, 10 x 12”.

The body of the artist is an important aspect of her work

Working with various media, she presents all her concerns and pieces of negotiations through herself. She stands as the most pivotal display. Her own self is represented, worked and played at. It is not a direct representation, or an extension of the personal, but her canvas is her own body. Her body presents the duality of the subject negotiating history from within the work and as the creator questioning the history as an artist.

CIRCUS from Native Women of South India, 2000-2004, presents a popular image of women in circuses. Her discomfort is effective as her position at the centre of the picture. The viewer’s position and dialogue will engage first through the circus girl, the artiste in the image, and will then help to imagine authorship and the artist’s claims in reworking this kind of history.

Pushpamala N., Circus, 2000-2004, Type C print on metallic paper, 20 x 24". From the series Native Women of South India.

Reworking of acclaimed pieces of painting or cinematic stills

Pushpamala transitioned from a sculptor to working on photo and video performance art. Her work is based largely on a re-imagination of popular images of art and of images from the silent cinema era. She works with fictional imagery, rather than documental works, which surface more in the archives of Indian photography.

In the photo performance series of Phantom Lady or Kismet, 1996-98,the artist recreates pivotal scenes of the stunt woman Fearless Nadia from Hindi Cinema in the 30s. She uses public memory as an important tool to recreate performance and use its popular affect in photographic imagery. Using popular culture, particularly Hindi cinema she revaluates, gestures, acts and costumes from another era lost in popular fiction.

Pushpamala N., Phantom Lady or Kismet, 1996-98, Black and white photographs, Selenium toned silver gelatine, 16 x 20”. From the series Phantom Lady or Kismet, 1996-98.

Elements of theatrical impulses incorporated in her photography and sculptures

Pushpamala was initially trained as a sculptor and began her career likewise. Much later when she began focussing on performance photography and videography, the performative gesture and the idea of the gesture remained constant in all her works.

Her pieces, like untitled figurative female is moulded with a long arching neck with breasts and buttock on the same side. Her longish face, the decorative eyes and the gaze, exhibit an inherent narrative of portraiture of feminine form in popular cultures. The figure form is not static or idolised, but has a humorous stupor.

Puspamala’s performances are static imagery embodying a range of theatrical gestures. The Abduction / The Mist series, 2012,carries a photomontage of the abduction of Sita by Ravana from the Ramayana. These pictures like all her photographs carry an elaborate background, with smoked screen, and the lustrous print of an epic performance.

Pushpamala N., Untitled, pigment on plaster, 1980-1989.

Pushpamala N., Abduction / The Mist, 2012, Giclee print, 32 × 48”.

Her work comes as a feminist Intervention dealing with gaze and portraiture

Her work constantly revolves around pivotal narratives played by, or based on women from history. She uses archival material from Indian silent films, art history and other fictional narratives of popular imagination. The use of femininity is not only in the narratives, but also in her portraiture, the gaze and the construction of the archetype.

The series Native Women of South India is modelled on images of ‘South Indian women’ throughout the cultural and popular history of images and are recreated in the studio. She uses herself as the primary model for all the performances, to “deconstruct the ethnographic as well as the colonial gaze.”

Pushpamala N., "Toda" Native Women of South India, 2000-2003, photograph, sepia-toned gelatine- silver print on fiber paper, 20 x 24".