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In this contemporray interpretation of Sandro Boticelli’s original work, Ketna Patel has turned inside out and upside down all the embedded metaphors. In Boticelli’s painting, Venus, the Goddess of love, stands demurely on the seashell, being blown to shore by Zephyr, god of the west wind. There, one of the Horae, goddesses of the seasons, is ready with a cape to clothe the newborn deity.

In Ketna Patel’s re-take on this painting, Venus has been replaced by the symbol of the modern free world; the statue of liberty. On closer inspection, one can see that she is in tatters, with the torch no longer an uplifting beacon to the world, but lying limp and unlit. The symbolism here is potent but obvious. Capitalistic driven Democracy is in trouble, and ‘Freedom’ is for sale! She stands on the same shell as the one Boticelli painted, except that this now represents the petroleum company ‘SHELL’, with its yellow and red paint leaking into the ocean. In the background is a familiar outline of polluting industry, billowing out pink smoke that looks pretty, but is in fact very toxic! The pollution has killed so much. There are now dead birds in the ocean, and the once fertile land is now barren.

On the left, Zephyr, God of the West wind, has been replaced by the icon of the rising East; Chairman Mao, who is in a Superman cape. Ketna believes that instead of rescuing the world, this embalmed hero and all that he represents may be more interested in taking over the world! So….how to show him greedy? Well, he has in his clutches two women, and as if that is not enough, he is attempting to nab a third! What do these women symbolize? The two japanese geishas show the latter’s subservience to ‘China’, now irrefutably a world power that nobody can ignore.

Mao was a well known womanizer, and in Ketna’s painting, China is attempting to strip India (represented by Draupadi, one of the most important female characters from the Hindu epic Mahabarata; the wife of the five Pandavas). She fails to be stripped naked, as her saree keeps being replenished by thesupreme hindu God Krishna, who is depicted by the blue hand. This suggests that although India is economically weaker than China, it is protected by its spiritual heritage.

The ‘Fall of Venus’ was digitally painted in a Singapore studio 526 years after Sandro Boticelli painted the ‘Birth of Venus’. In these five centuries, there has been tremendous advancement in science, health, etc. However, unregulated capitalism and short term political perspectives disguised as democracy have harmed us greatly. ‘Wealth’ is not being percolated down through the system, and large amounts of it remain hoarded like black holes in our foodchain. Ketna deliberately painted this artwork in painstaking digital detail, as she wanted it to look beautiful and perfect, a bit like our ‘plastic world’ full of plastic aspirations and plastic people. From far, the painting looks like an enticing dessert, with colours that beckon. However, the narrative embedded shows the darkness within.

From the heavens fall money and roses. It will be up to us what we choose as our symbols of human beauty.