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    Nandini Valli Muthiah

    Map Academy

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    Characterised by its use of colour and elaborate stagings, Nandini Valli Muthiah’s photographic oeuvre revolves around notions of worship.

    Muthiah was born in Chennai. She studied English literature at Madras University and French translation and interpretation at Pondicherry University, before pursuing photography at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth (now Arts University Bournemouth), UK. Her first major series, The Definitive Reincarnate (2006), features portraits of the Hindu god Vishnu inspired by his depictions in Indian calendar art, but photographed in the form of a fashion shoot with the use of rich colours, props and modern sets. Her second major series, Remembering to Forget (2008), is inspired by Fancy Dress Competitions – a popular contest in many Indian schools which involves children roleplaying as national leaders, deities and celebrities. The series comprises portraits of children dressed as different public figures posing against brightly coloured, hand painted backdrops similar to those commonly found in Indian photo studios.

    A third series by Muthiah, The Visitor (2010), similar to The Definitive Reincarnate, features Hindu deities Vishnu and Krishna, but uses more elaborate outdoor sets. Other works by the photographer include The Devotee (2016), which documents different men and boys preparing to undertake a pilgrimage to the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala.

    Muthiah’s photographs have been featured at the Chennai Photo Biennale; the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi; the Seattle Museum of Art, Washington; and the Whitechapel Gallery, London, among others. She was granted the Tierney Foundation Fellowship Grant in 2008 for her series Remembering to Forget and was nominated for the Grange Prize in 2011.

    As of writing, Muthiah works and lives in Chennai.


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