Evoking death, drama and identity, George Chakravarthi re-imagines thirteen characters in Shakespeare’s plays 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.
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.