Beginning her career as a sculptor with an interest in narrative figuration, Pushpamala N. has transitioned, over the past twenty years, into casting her own body as various characters and personae in the medium of photo-performance. Enriching autobiography with elements of surreal aesthetics and dramatics, the artist's work superimposes polyvalent layers of humor, femininity, guise, and historicity onto the two-dimensional surface of photographic prints. Born in Bangalore, Pushpamala studied sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University, Baroda. Following Excavations, a solo exhibition of her sculpture at Gallery Chemould in 1994, the artist has transgressed the limitations of mimetic figural representation while remaining centrally concerned with the narration of the female form.
Pushpamala's "Phantom Lady or Kismet, a photo romance," presented as a solo exhibition at Gallery Chemould in 1998, dressed the artist physically in a black mask and conceptually in contemporary discourses of masquerade. As the first work for which she performed, this series seduced viewers through Pushpamala's gestures as a dichotomous good girl-bad girl and with the spectacular genre of action thriller.
Sunhere Sapne, a photoromance presented as a solo exhibition at Gallery Chemould in 2001, followed with a similarly wry mystery and good sister-bad sister thematic. Small scale, pastel-tinted prints suggested a narrative set in an elusive, untimed past and affirmed the artist's ongoing interest in memory. The photoromance Dard-e-dil of 2002 manipulated a common trope of the tragic love story, executed in a set of 10 handpainted photographs. For Bombay Photo Studioof 2002-3, Pushpamala created Triptych, dressing alternately as a Muslim, Hindu, and Christian woman; she posed also as each of the navarasas, producing a set of sepia-toned black and white photographs called The Navarasa Suite. Collectively, Pushpamala's work engages with theories of postcolonial identity and a feminist historical gaze, in dialogue with international performance artists like the New York-based Coco Fusco.
For the series Native Women of South India of 2005-6, Pushpamala collaborated with the British photographer Claire Arni. The artists recaptured existing colonialist, ethnographic, popular, and artistic images of Indian women, critically contesting stereotypes and the politics of representing the female body.
In 2006, Pushpamala conceived the experimental film Paris Autumn during a three-month residency in Paris. Comprised from still black and white photographs, the film chased an historical story of the tragic death of King Henri IV's soon to be bride through icons and landmarks of the city.
Pushpamala currently lives and works in Bangalore.