The Fuschia Tree
Editor's Note.
There is a variety of laughter: chuckles, sniggers, grins, smirks, giggles, smiles, hysterical roaring, screaming, chortling, sneering, guffawing, tittering, crying.
What makes something funny? Paradoxically, the thing that makes us laugh is most likely lonely, dark, ironic, abnormal, absurd, causing the human body to loop and curl in ways that shift its centre of gravity, and the human mind to twist and turn in ways that ostracize it from society and law.
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By Lara Sinha
A giant plastic head, a dog for an agent, hidden identities, time travel between the 17th century and the present day – throw Christian Bale in there in spandex tights and you get a sci-fi version of the next Batman film. Now as much as I’d love to continue imagining Christian Bale in figure hugging attire, this story is about a masked woman fighting crime in a different capacity. The seemingly bizarre assortment of objects and fantasies mentioned above actually make up the very real world of contemporary Indian artist Princess Pea.

The woman with the alter ego Princess Pea, has grown up, like the rest of us, in a world where the face of beauty is applied to perfect proportions, fair skin and shiny, glossy packaging; where one is taught to conform and where perfection is a static ideal. She, however, has no interest in conforming and through her artistic self has developed an alternate universe where a woman with a giant, plastic head and a skinny body is the centre of attention.  Through her art, Princess Pea, tongue firmly in cheek, erases—cotton wool et al—the long-held ideas of conventional beauty and the obsessive celebrity culture that we are trapped in today.

While the underlying message is a (skin) deep critique of a superficial world, the artist’s body of work is at first entertaining and humorous. Take the Vague series for example – a series of typical fashion magazine covers, with Princess Pea, and her giant head, taking pride of place as the star cover girl. One cover proudly announces the arrival of Princess Pea as ‘The New Style Sensation’ while another talks about her dating Brad Pitt. You cannot help but smile at the artist’s clever yet surprisingly simple way of running her nails against the fashion industry.

Princess Pea doesn’t restrict herself to the present day and attempts to challenge the beauty ideal across time. In her miniature series, the artist paints, intricately and sensitively, Mughal palace scenes that were commonly depicted in 17th century Indian miniature art. Instead of the traditional fair, buxom Indian princess surrounded by her ladies in waiting, the artist has transplanted her pea-like avatar into the 17th century context. She knows no bounds: unrestricted by Indian art, she depicts herself as 19th century European royalty as well, claiming at once, that to be completely free is to also transcend national and cultural stereotypes.

The use of distortion is Princess Pea’s latest plaything. Her newer works show her avatar in traditional contexts but the once perfectly round head is now stretched and contorted in different directions, shapes are now amoebic, unidentifiable and nothing is as it seems. The distortion challenges our conventional ideas of proportion and how things should look: “The conceived images are result of a playful act to challenge perceived notions of identity, proportion and perfection.”

While the genesis of her name has little to do with Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale, The Princess and the Pea, the central theme that inspires Princess Pea’s art is identical to the issue Anderson’s Princess has to grapple with in the story – that of identity. Her giant plastic head with large, tear-shaped eyes and no mouth (voice) reveals, beneath the humor, a grim outlook on a world where it is difficult to be oneself. Her work Precious Tiny Tears portrays this sentiment most aptly – pretty, pink tears hang on the wall as if someone’s sorrow has been solidified and suspended in time and space.

Oh and in case you’re still wondering about Princess Pea’s dog agent, well his name is Bob and he answers her emails and takes care of all her needs. And Princess credits him for making her the artist she is today. Could it be that he too is her? It doesn’t matter. We are multiple people, she seems to say, and there are a constant amount of tears in this world, so go ahead and put on (or take off) that mask.  

Lara Sinha is a freelance media professional and budding environmentalist based in New Delhi.

Princess Pea was born in 1980 in Ferozpur, Punjab and is based in New Delhi.

Also in this issue

  • Watching you watching me.
    To be alone is generally to have the finger of ridicule pointed at you. To be floating adrift like an island without anchor often means the eyes of conquistadors are upon you.
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  • The Uncle Phone.
    the thickness of the objects, he says, and the thinness of writing, the don't touch signs proclaiming the desire to touch in galleries, I said, and the drops of dal on writing, the don't touch signs proclaiming the desire to
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  • Girls, Goats And Birkin Bags.
    We are cautious and self-aware, and our risks are safe ones: no one has slammed the proverbial (or actual) dead parrot against a shop desk, insisting it’s still alive, for a few decades now.
    Read More

Illusion: Seeing Beyond Seeing
Meaning: In Search of Significance.
Melody: A Different Tune
Rhythm: Ordering Time

Dhrupadi Ghosh is an old friend of mine. We have often had long sessions of adda late at night, discussing her dream projects since her college days at Santiniketan, where she majored in Sculpture.