When artist Chitra Ganesh revisited the Amar Chitra Katha comic books as a young adult, she found that the style of storytelling still spoke to her. Born in Brooklyn, New York, US, Ganesh’s introduction to the popular series was at her cousins’ home during her three-month-long summer vacations in India.

Then, for many years, she lost touch with the stories that had made such a deep impact on her.

After her under graduation in comparative literature and art-semiotics at Brown University, US, Ganesh relooked at these childhood reads through a new “artistic lens". She had read Greek literature and mythology in college, and found that she could use the language of the Amar Chitra Katha comics “to tell new stories". Today, the work in the cult series forms a large part of her art lexicon.

Drawing (work in progess) by Chitra Ganesh

Ganesh, who received the 2012 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in the creative arts, is currently making a mural on site at the Capital’s Gallery Espace, where her solo show opens on 28 September.

In a phone conversation with Mint, Ganesh spoke about the relevance of mythology and the comic book genre to her art. Edited excerpt:

Tell us about the mural you are making at Gallery /.

Chitra Ganesh is making a mural on site at Gallery Espace, New Delhi

Why are these people in your images wearing gas masks?

There are images of people using gas masks in different contexts—war, conflicts, revolutions, toxic spills, reports of chemical weapons (being used).

Women are often at the centre of your works…

I am trying to portray a multiplicity of sides of the feminine. There is the beauty aspect that we see in adverts…the news media show the feminine a certain way. I am interested in portraying them as actors or agents in their own stories rather than the relational roles of mother, wife, daughter.

Why are myths important to you in your artistic endeavours?

Atlas, archival inkjet print by Chitra Ganesh
Atlas, archival inkjet print by Chitra Ganesh

There are often depictions of viscera and violence in your works, with one woman’s chest spliced open and another depicting a twisted mess of legs and arms…

Mythology has a lot of violence. I was fascinated by the cycle of creation and destruction in those epics.

Metaphorically, (I wanted to represent) the female body as a site where conflict gets played out, where social code gets played out. It is the potential site of transformation and transgression.

Chitra Ganesh’s solo exhibition will be at Gallery Espace, 16, Community Centre, New Friends Colony, New Delhi (26326267), at 11am-7pm (closed Sundays), from 28 September-31 October. Visitors can see the artist working on the mural and interact with her ahead of the opening. The artworks are on sale. Prices start from $1,500 (around 95,000).