Reversed Curses


Artist’s book (‘Gurgaon Gita’), full colour, 120 pp; Artist’s film (‘A Psychosis of Reason’), 14 min HD; Wall texts, framed Lightjet photographs and duratran prints in light boxes (dimensions variable)

14 reversed web 14 22 durga_lightbox detail

Using combinations of a 400-line rhyming poem I have composed and photographs and film I shot in Northern India, this project is the second part of my Triple Enlightenment trilogy.

In ‘Reversed Curses’, we see the world from the viewpoint of Aarav, an Indian Railways clerk 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 Bhagavad Gita, Aarav runs over the text of the Gita in his head and takes issue with many of Krishna’s assertions. Krishna’s benign voice morphs into those of others characters who do not seem to have Aarav’s best interests at heart.

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 posed alongside a fast-changing backdrop of contemporary India. The project 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’.

‘Gurgaon Gita’, Artist’s book, full colour: 120 pp

‘A Psychosis of Reason’, Artist’s film: 14 min HD

Installation views of work in progress exhibition, Victoria House, London

2 reversed web 2 11_MG_0517 corrected v3tif

3 reversed web 3 15 _MG_0596

4 reversed web 4 12 _MG_0532 c corrected

6 reversed web 6 16 BengalNagpur_Railway_Construction_Photograph_No_09-1

7 reversed web 7 17 reaper_MG_0477

8 reversed web 8 18a _MG_0549

9b reversed web 9b18b bucket boy_detail_31 _MG_0605 w custom lens correction lightbox

10c reversed web 10 8 aarav_dilip_MG_0168

11 reversed web 11 18g_MG_0539-2 white layered

11b reversed web mathura_MG_0112_lightbox detail

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 turns into silver or stone…

12 reversed web 12 8 lakshmi_MG_1554 copy

13 reversed web 13 21_MG_0552-2

14 reversed web 14 22 durga_lightbox detail

15 reversed web 15 22b _MG_0592

15b reversed web lucktrain_bridge_4 _MG_0532 v2 lightbox

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

26 reversed web 26_MG_0607

27 reversed web 27 _MG_0605

All images copyright Justin Coombes except 7th from top: copyright Townshend Photography, and 14th from top, copyright