Reversed Curses


Artist’s book: full colour: 100 pp: London, Juice Publishing: Green Prototype version, edition of 50

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

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Using combinations of his poems and photographs, this book project continues Coombes’s research into the capacities of photography and poetry to present fictional world views. The publication will be accompanied by parallel exhibitions in London and Delhi.

In ‘Reversed Curses’, we see the world from the viewpoint of Aarav, an employee of the Indian Railways who is approaching retirement. His interior conversations, with his god Krishna and other voices, are told as a long sequence of lentos: a form of eight-line, rhyming verse. The central theme of ‘Reversed Curses’ is religious faith, and how to lead a good life without it. Reflecting on those pertinent questions that Prince Arjuna fails to ask of Krishna in the Bhaggavad Gita, Aarav runs over the text of the Gita in his head and takes issue with many of Krishna’s assertions.

Artist’s impression of Artist’s book: full colour: 96 pp: London, Juice Publishing: Green Prototype version, edition of 50

If Aarav loses his faith, how will he create meaning in his world? And if faith has cursed his life, how can he reverse the curse? These, and other questions are addressed alongside a  fast-changing backdrop of contemporary Northern India. Train travel dramatises through exaggeration how our lived experience of time cannot be stopped. And 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 fifty-nine

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.


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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