RITHIKA MERCHANT- Mosaics of Myths



Rithika Merchant (1986) deals with creating mosaics of myths that question received histories that are available to us throughout culture. An inherent feminism exists in her decoration undermining the minimalism of modernity that views a woman just as a muse.

In 2008 she graduated with a Bachelors in Fine Arts from Parsons the New School for Design in New York. She has studied painting and conceptual practice at the Hellenic International Studies In The Arts in Paros, Greece. In 2008 she was a resident at the Convento Sao Francisco Mertola in Mertola, Portugal.


Her recent projects include an international residency where she researched the folk culture of the native German speaking Swabians in Garana a village in a Banaat region of Romania as a part of Arthouse Wolfberg/Garana where she was commissioned for a triptych for the regional art museum.

She was a participant at the Swab Art Far in Barcelona and The Metro Show in New York. She has had two solo showings at Gallery Art and Soul, Bombay “Origin of Species” in 2011 followed by “Mythography” in 2013.

In 2014 she had a solo show “Encyclopaedia of the Strange” in Nuremberg, Germany . Her work was also included in multiple group shows at Stephen Romano Gallery in New York. She is currently preparing for her debut solo show in New York at Stephen Romano Gallery.

Born in Bombay she now divides her time between Bombay and Barcelona.


Visha Kanya, 2014 | 47 x 60 cms | Gouache and Ink on Paper The Vish Kanya were young women reportedly used as assassins, often against powerful enemies, during the Mauryan Empire (321–185 BCE). Vish Kanya were used by kings to destroy enemies. The myth states that girls were made poisonous by exposing them to low-intensity poison from a very young age, a practice referred to as mithridatism. Although many of them would die, those that did not developed an immunity and their body fluids would be “poisoned”, and poisonous; sexual contact would thus be lethal to other humans. – Radhey Shyam Chaurasia, History of ancient India: earliest times to 1000 A.D.


The Intruder, 2014 | 42 x 51 cms | Gouache and Ink on Paper The phenomenon of sleep paralysis can be found in across different cultures and throughout history. The ‘mare’ of the word ‘nightmare’ is derived from the Norse word ‘mara’. This refers to a supernatural – usually female – being that lies on people’s chests at night suffocating them. Whilst examples of this depiction of the nightmare can be found across Europe, by the early modern era (1500-1800) this explanation of sleep paralysis experiences had been largely forgotten, and in many parts of Europe including Britain and France, sleep paralysis was frequently interpreted as witch attacks. In the history of Western medicine, sleep paralysis has been documented for at least 300 years.


Sister Banshee, 2013 | 34 x 50 cms | Gouache and Ink on Paper There are Irish families who are believed to have banshees attached to them, and whose cries herald the death of a member of that family. The song and dance of death with a banshee, who hand in hand with her sister, wails as death transforms her.


Exquisite Corpse II (Apparitional Experience), 2014 | 52 x 35 cms | Gouache and Ink on Paper An personal exercise in cognitive disassociation. It is the results of playing exquisite corpse with myself. A dancing demon with many faces reminiscent of Ravana (The demon king from the Hindu epic Ramayana)


Danse Macabre, 2014 | 46 x 130 cms | Gouache and Ink on Paper The dance with death unites us all.



Dance of the Djinns, 2014 | 65 x 45 cms | Gouache and Ink on Paper Djinns are unseen creatures in Islamic belief, Islamic mythology as well as pre- Islamic Arabian mythology. They are mentioned frequently in the Quran and other Islamic texts. They inhabit an unseen world called Djinnestan, another universe beyond the known universe. The Quran says that the jinn are made of a smokeless and “scorching fire”, but are also physical in nature, being able to interfere physically with people and objects and likewise be acted upon. Like human beings, the jinn can be good, evil, or neutrally benevolent and hence have free will.


Dame Blanche, 2014 | 58 x 38 cms | Gouache and Ink on Paper The White Lady is a type of female ghost reportedly seen in rural areas and associated with some local legend of tragedy. White Lady legends are found around the world. Common to many of them is the theme of losing or being betrayed by a husband, boyfriend or fiancé. They are often associated with an individual family line or said to be a harbinger of death similar to a banshee Ghost stories are often protofeminist tales of women who, if only in death, subvert the assumptions and traditions of women as dutiful wives and mothers, worshipful girlfriends, or obedient children by unleashing a lifetime’s worth of rage and retribution. In the feminist horror zine Ax Wound, Collen Wanglund theorizes that the Asian female ghost is an inherently feminist figure whose very presence is a symbol of how deeply men fear female power. Their vengeance isn’t necessarily aimed at the person who wronged them,


HOWL | 2015 In Norse mythology, the descendants of Loki (the trickster god of Thor fame) were wolves prophesied to eventually devour the moon and sun. Hecate, Greek goddess of the moon, kept the company of dogs. Same thing goes for Diana, Roman goddess of the moon and the hunt. Norse mythology tells of a pair of wolves that chase the moon and sun to summon night and day. The Native American Seneca tribes believe that a wolf sung the moon into existence.”


THE COUNCIL OF CHOICE | 2015 With the rise of Muhammed and the spread of Islamic Domination, the lands of the Djinn were increasingly lost. The Djinn tribes could not hold back even the early incursions of the Prophet and his followers. Fearing either destruction or the flight of all Djinn from the land of the mortals, the tribes held a great meeting in the Sacred Mountains of Asir, south of Makkah (Mecca). Here Al-Yazid, a great Jinn sheikh, set forth the great Choice. He had had a vision in the desert, in which a great scythe in the shape of a crescent moon had split a great Djinni in half. In order to survive, Al-Yazid told the Djinn tribes they must side with the Prophet and God, or against them. Only then would the tribes avoid the flight or destruction that they feared. There was much debate over the vision, and the mountains were rocked by skirmishes between groups of the Ifriti tribe and those of the Jinn tribe under Al-Yazid. Finally, the leaders of the tribes agreed to decide, but only on a tribe by tribe basis. The Jinn and their allies, the Jann, sided with Muhammed and Islam. The Shaitan and Ghul tribes sided against the Prophet, for they had been corrupted by demons hiding within the Ifriti, whose choice for evil was never in doubt. The sheikh of the small Marid tribe allowed the Djinni of his tribe to decide as individuals, for the Marid are very proud and the strongest of the Djinni. As the last choice was made, an angel appeared before the council. By your words and your deeds, the angel said, you have entered into the realm of good and evil, of God, and his enemy Satan. With your choice you will carry a new responsibility, the responsibility of a soul. From now on, all the Djinn alive now and yet to be must decide upon their own salvation or damnation.S With a great rending of the sky, the angel disappeared, and each Djinn felt as if a door opened, and another had closed. Soon after, Al-Yazid and his followers bowed before the Prophet, while The Ifriti and the others made ready their resistance. (Story adapted from the Quran)


SELENOGRAPHY | 2015 The symbiotic relationship between earth and moon.