Reversed Curses


Artist’s book: full colour: 48 pp: London, Juice Publishing: Edition of 50

Wall texts, framed LightJet photographs and duratran prints in light boxes: sizes variable: Edition of 5

14 reversed web 14 22 durga_lightbox detail

Using combinations of his poems and photographs, this project continues Coombes’s research into the capacities of photography and poetry to inhabit fictional voices.

In ‘Reversed Curses’, we see the world from the viewpoint of Aarav, a conductor on the Indian Railways. As he approaches retirement, Aarav muses on working life. His ‘curses’ are ‘reversed’ in that the pressures of working life can cause him at times, to hate the things he loves. Work, especially work one does not want to do, can be extremely draining, and yet for most people is of course essential to life itself. So Aarav’s voice is splenetic but also comic, fearful, melancholic and loving.


   Artist’s impression of Artist’s book: full colour: 48 pp: London, Juice Publishing: Edition of 50

The project undermines visual clichés of colourful, ‘incredible India’ and also touches on issues around empire and bilingualism, in particular English’s status as an ‘other’ to Hindi in North Indian culture. Coombes’s work has always tried to complicate photography and the artist does so in this case by constructing and taking pictures from moving trains. In Coombes’s words, all travel, but train travel in particular, ‘dramatizes through exaggeration how time and especially our lived experience of time, cannot be stopped’. The project’s title also plays on the repetition and reversals of train journeys and the paradox that, as Kierkegaard wrote,

                  ‘Life must be understood backwards. But it must be lived forwards’…

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Installation view of work in progress exhibition, the Other Art Fair, Victoria House, London, 2016

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Marrying her; settling here:

my life’s cardinal, cardiac error.

Only realising it now aged sixty-eight

through train-window and rear-view mirror.


Or marrying her; settling here:

This flood of love means your heart’s not alone.

Nursing it gently at that time in your life

when it bursts or it turns into stone.


12 reversed web 12 8 lakshmi_MG_1554 copy



I tick off the tasks that come faster and faster,

tick off th tska for an inकार्यvisible master;

Fstaer and fsater I tikc off the tskas ‘til I’m

bsuting my balls for old mबेवकूफोंen in thier masks.


I’ll tear off the spare tusk of my elephant master

Who ticks me off with his notes from Veda Vyāsa

Tear train tickets in two ‘til I’m kicलातking the bucket

I tkc uf लानत है I fukc it I fuck IT I FUCK IT.


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16 reversed web 16 24 Garib Rath...12 IMG_4725

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N.B. All images on this page, copyright Justin Coombes except 6th from top: copyright Townshend Photography, and 13th from top, copyright