COVID 19: THE FALL OF VENUS
COVID 19: THE FALL OF VENUS
COVID 19: THE FALL OF VENUS
(HETEROTOPIA collection by British Indian POP Artist Ketna Patel)
Every age is punctuated with pivotal moments that change everything. For the 21st century, this has been the spring of 2020; a time when the world stopped spinning to protect itself from an invisible enemy.
In this artwork, I deliberately use the 'hooks' of grand narratives and references to renaissance paintings that are embedded in all our collective consciousness. I'm attempting to flatten time, blur geographical boundaries, and bring to the fore a certain ‘consumption’ of contemporary culture that seems to be at a major penultimate moment before it eats itself into oblivion. There is beauty and death in this moment, and underneath it all, a small seed of a new beginning.
Today, the world has slowed down, we are catching up with ourselves, and the game of cat and mouse has been halted indefinitely. Even though the overall context is rather surreal, I can hear the long pent up sigh of sheer relief too. Our driverless runaway train, on which we were all passengers, has pressed the brake pedal just inches away from a screeching crash. What many of us are experiencing today is that unique existential moment in our lives where reality is frame frozen into a sort of shocked, numbing slow motion somersault. Everything familiar that is sound and solid is being flipped into the air, and nobody really knows where and how it will land.
In this contemporary interpretation of Sandro Boticelli’s original work (The birth of Venus), Ketna Patel has literally turned inside out and back to front all its embedded metaphors....starting with the very title.
Venus has been replaced by the symbol of the modern free world; the statue of liberty.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 branding leaking into the ocean. In the background is a familiar silhouette of polluting industries, billowing out pink smoke that looks pretty, but is in fact very toxic! These noxious fumes have 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 / China as 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 this 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 was publicly disrobed at the behest of their cousin enemy Duryodhana’s orders ). However, this humiliation is never realized as her saree is being constantly replenished by the supreme 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 the increasing corporatisation and silo hoarding of wealth has harmed us greatly. ‘Wealth’ is not being percolated down through the system. Its not making its way to the majority, and gets whittled away into tax havens protected by legal loopholes. A large amount of it remains unused, forgotten and idle like a mistress in a locked apartment merely servicing the ego of the grotesque and absurdly rich. For the first time in recent history, the power of PEOPLE has gathered enough weight to deliver a new beginning. The question is....is there enough collective self awareness to usher in these changes? Are most of us squandering this valuable time by baking cakes and watching endless netflix, or are we using the quiet to enquire deeply? Can we all be more vociferous in what we want to see changed, be these in our zoom video call conversations, diary entries, quiet musings or as political discussion. This is not a time to shrug our shoulders and lament at the futility of possible change. This chance we have been given is a litmus test for our value systems. Will we rise, or will we fall?
This artwork has been painted in painstaking digital detail, as I 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 lure you in. However, upon closer inspection, the tale speaks of the darkness within.
The collection title Heterotopia refers to the essay ‘Of Other Spaces’, written by Michel Foucault in 1967. This is a concept of ‘spaces of otherness’, which are neither here nor there, that are simultaneously physical and mental, such as the moment you wake up after a dream, or the moment when you see yourself in the mirror. It could also be a moment of realization, which we individually observe; a moment of understanding that our beautiful and complex civilization is pregnant with death.
For many, Foucault’s essay has helped crystallize an ongoing polemic about our ‘re-mix’ society. A society where nothing is original, and we swim, even wallow in the fragmentary and chaotic currents of change, forever legitimizing our expressions by references to the past.
In the background of this painting, please observe the money and roses that fall from Heaven. When we all recover from COVID 19, it will be up to us what we choose as our symbols of human beauty...
Each Fine Art Print is titled, numbered and signed in Ketna’s handwriting. Depending on each composition’s ‘personality’, colour spectrum and destined geographical location, the Artwork is printed either as a C-Type print on Fuji gloss paper or as a Giclee print on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag paper. (For humid countries e.g Singapore, C-type Fuji paper is advised as it is does not let moisture and mould through). All Prints are made at the most accredited and reputable Printing studios using the best quality fine art archival paper available. The studio meticulously keeps account of each numbered print, including when and who it was sold to, so there is no chance of duplication. Each Fine Art Paper Print comes in an edition of 50, so for the three sizes, the total prints ever made will be 150. Each Metal Print comes in an edition of 25, so for the three sizes, the total prints ever made will be 75. Each Acrylic Print comes in an edition of 10, so for the three sizes, the total prints ever made will be 30. For each composition, there are up to 5 Artists Proofs for colour and production quality checks. The total edition for each artwork is therefore 260. Each Print is made to order. Please allow 10 working days for delivery. UK delivery is free; everywhere else £25 extra.