Hymn to the Muses

Aayushi Gupta’s Hymn to the Muses exhibition presents photographic depictions of the nine muses of Greek mythology, said to be the source of artistic inspiration and the bearers of the knowledge represented in poetry, song, and myth. The exhibition consists of nine photographs, each focusing on a different model representing a particular muse.

With this exhibition, Gupta set herself a demanding task: attempting to produce photographs devoid of imbued meaning, to pay homage to those influential muses and nothing more. With a particular interest in philosophy and literature, Gupta in this exhibition, pits herself against the artistic trends of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with importance placed on meaning and interpretation in art, instead striving to produce something beautiful, naïve, and pure. Gupta moved away from the modern artistic method of injecting meaning into works, preferring to trust her artistic instinct with what to include within the image; colours, objects, and poses come together without reasoned thought, creating a wonderfully unaffected work.

The pieces themselves are striking, containing rich colours and bold imagery. Each model is seated on a stool draped with luxurious fabrics, surrounded by an entourage of seemingly random objects – skulls, candles, wine bottles – creating an effect that manages to combine the two distinct auras of messiness and unity. The portraits make beautiful use of light and dark, with each assortment set before a black background, working to highlight the intricate play of colours and shadows organised by Gupta. The models look away from the camera lens, their gaze (so important in Greek mythology) landing on something inconsequential or out-of-view, reinforcing the mysterious aura that surrounds these figures; the images simultaneously call for analysis and purposefully provide no room for interpretation.

Whitespace, situated inconspicuously just off Nicholson Street, provides a great location for the exhibition. The small room is lit with dazzling white lights that illuminate these dark photographs excellently, preventing the possibility of a viewer missing any nuance that hides in the shadows. In the middle of the room stand two pillars, a few feet tall, topped with the timeless candle-in-a-wine-bottle decoration which, paired with the gentle classical music coming from the overhead speakers, works well to induce an idyllic aura in the face of the bright lights. The atmosphere in that small room is simultaneously tranquil and charged, and one can almost feel the centuries of artistic inspiration flow from these stunning images.

Image: Aayushi Gupta

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