Gods, Heroes and Clowns

Performance and Narrative in South and Southeast Asian Art

Free entry

Closed Tuesdays

NGV International

Level 1 Mezzanine

1 May 15 – 4 Oct 15

Gods, Heroes and Clowns: Performance and Narrative in South and Southeast Asian Art explores visual and performance art inspired by the many narratives that pervade South and Southeast Asia, including the great Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and ballads describing the exploits of local folk heroes. Works on display come from India, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia and Cambodia and include storyteller’s cloths, shrine and temple hangings, manuscripts and paintings, masks and puppets. Historical and contemporary works in this exhibition use narrative as a means of exploring emotions, morals, and responses to contemporary events. Presented in the Rio Tinto Gallery of Asian Art, the works were used in a wide range of contexts, including community processions and displays associated with religious festivals, as painted backdrops to storyteller’s performances and in lively puppet plays.

Contemporary works include a patachitra (painted narrative textile) from Orissa, India and a commissioned ‘soft sculpture’ by Cambodian artist Svay Sareth which critiques the message of the Buddhist Vessantara tale.

Exhibition labels

Download onto your device and adjust to suit your viewing needs.

Select Works


See all Learn