Accessability: Text Size: Larger Smaller Layout: Reduced graphics

Impressions Gallery

exhibitions: past


George Chakravarthi

20th Mar - 21st Jun 2014

Evoking death, drama and identity, George Chakravarthi re-imagines the thirteen Shakespearean characters who met their ends through suicide. Marking the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, this is the first time Thirteen will be shown outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon, where the exhibition was originally shown.

Thirteen is a series of powerful self-portraits presented as light boxes. Delhi-born Chakravarthi is an artist who works with performance and photographic imagery to explore and challenge assumptions of gender, sexual and racial identity. In Thirteen, he assumes the roles of some of Shakespeare's doomed characters, including Mark Antony, Othello, Lady Macbeth, Ophelia, Cleopatra, and Romeo and Juliet. In doing so, Chakravarthi explores themes of ambiguity of gender and masking of identity, often central to Shakespeare’s plays.

Chakravarthi says “Changing perceptions of suicide seemed fertile and contemporary territory for exploration, especially in the context of our current political history and the direct connection to Shakespeare's representation of death as an act of courage, passion and honour.”

Using himself as a starting point, Chakravarthi worked behind the scenes with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s costume department to dramatically reconstruct his identity and take on the guise of each character. Each image is layered with multiple textures and surfaces drawn from diverse sources including cobwebs, mould and precious stones. The result of this painstaking process is a series of complex jewel-like images mounted in light boxes, which glow with colour and rich texture, recalling stained glass, monuments or tombs.

Showing as part of Art in Yorkshire supported by the Art Fund: a celebration of visual art in 22 public art galleries throughout Yorkshire during 2014.

George Chakravarthi (b.1969) was born in New Delhi, India and moved to the UK at the age of ten. Most of his work explores ideas of 'selfhood' and deconstructs socially accepted definitions of gender, sexual and racial identity within live, photographic and video performances. A multi-disciplinary artist, he draws inspiration from cinema, art history, public and private spaces, and from collective social histories. He has performed and exhibited nationally in venues including Site Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts, Tate Modern, Victoria and Albert Museum, and internationally, Mousonturm (Germany), Tilburg Dance Academy (The Netherlands), and The Queens Gallery (India). He has been commissioned by the BBC, Artangel, INIVA, Arts Council England, The Live Art Development Agency and The British Council. He trained at The University of Brighton, The Royal Academy of Arts and The Royal College of Art where he completed his MA in 2003. He was 'Thinker in Residence' at The Live Art Development Agency and lectures at The University of Brighton. Chakravarthi lives and works in London.

George Chakravarthi has been commissioned by the Live Art Development Agency (LADA) to create a Limited Edition artwork for LADA's 15th anniversary.  To read more about the commission and other artists involved click here.

exhibition resources

Click here to download an information sheet about Thirteen (PDF 168KB)
Click here
to download our Exhibition Guide accompanying Thirteen (PDF 1.2MB)
Click here
to download our Gallery Trail aimed at young people 5-12 yrs (PDF 2.1MB)
Click here to download our interview with George Chakravarthi (PDF 84KB)

what the papers say

The Indian Quarterly
The Guardian Guide
The Guardian Online
Aesthetica Blog
The Royal Photographic Society online
The Yorkshire Times
RPS Journal
Aesthetica Blog: Review

what new focus say

Adelaida Afilipoaie interviews George Chakravarthi listen again here on the New Focus Blog.

listen again



George Chakravarthi

Click on thumbnail below to enlarge

Cleopatra Goneril Mark Anthony Ophelia Eros Othello Othello (Detail) Cleopatra (Detail)


The photographs are mesmerizing, detailed and textured. In one photo there is a lot going on. Interesting and I am inspired by the work.

It is a very interesting and inspiring exhibition. You really have to stand still for a couple of minutes to realise that you’re in the dark room, alone, face-to-face with George’s work. I personally think that each of his photos need a separate dark room in order to avoid the destruction of other works. You really have to think about why and how George has used that medium in particular. Also, i think that the way of showing his work is very successful - a dark room, light boxes and photos that are placed on viewers eye level - it almost affects you personally.

Alina -

Very powerful images - it really helps to watch the short film first to have some background. This helped me to identify the characters and understand why the artist has portrayed them as he has.

Exhibition Visitor

Just beautiful!

Exhibition Visitor

Beautiful and haunting. Don’t know Shakespeare enough to recognise any of the characters but suicide as a theme is interesting in itself.

Haunting, creative and captivating. The eyes totally draw the viewer in and the juxtaposition of the artist with the backgrounds evokes a hypnotic sense.

Beautifully layered images evoking mysticism and wonder at the Shakespeare icons- thank you. (My favorite was Ophelia)

Such an incredible idea - so different. I knew little of Shakespeare’s plays but that did not stop me from absorbing the images.

Fabulous exhibition - thought provoking and haunting. It is bang up to date with contemporary technology but also made me think of crumbly byzantine frescos. A visually sumptuous and stunning display of a totally original but unpretentious theme. Thank you so much and congratulations.