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Alwar Balasubramaniam ("Bala") (born 1971) is a sculptor, painter, printmaker, and installation artist, currently based in Bangalore, India. His work, which focuses on the body and its material relationship to the world, has been the subject of international acclaim, and has been featured in museums and exhibitions worldwide.
Life and career
Born in 1971 in Tamil Nadu, India, Balasubramaniam earned a BFA from the Government College of Arts, Chennai, in 1995. Trained as a printmaker, he took special courses at the Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop (EPW) and Universität fär angewandte Kunst Wien, Vienna, during the 1990s, and his early work focused on prints and paintings. Attracted to multi-dimensionality, Balasubramaniam began working increasingly in sculpture and installation beginning in the early 2000s – but he prefers, even with the recognition he has gained as a sculptor, to be known as "a person who creates art." Bala’s works have been exhibited in museums, art festivals, and galleries worldwide, including at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Mori Art Museum, Japan; Essl Museum, Austria; 1st Singapore Biennale; École des Beaux Arts, Paris, France; National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia; and The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.
Bala's work, unlike that of many of his contemporaries, largely eschews references to contemporary social or geographic realities – a fact that many critics cite as the reason for his belated international acclaim, especially in comparison with artists whose "Indianness" appears more overtly in their work. Bala's work, by contrast, is centred on the body and its relationship to the material world, focusing especially on the intangible elements – light, air, shadow – that structure physical experience. In a similar way, many of Bala's works deal with Energy – that invisible yet absolutely fundamental animating force of life. While his earlier works often referred to energy in a visually symbolic manner, eventually energy became more of a latent presence in Bala's work – a force connoted rather than denoted, known only by its effects. The dynamic installations of Energy Field (2009) or Link (2009), for example, physically manifest the presence of forms of energy, even while masking their origin – confusing and teasing the viewer and underscoring the myriad non-visible forces at work in the physical world.
Often using his own body as a basis for his sculptures, Bala engages in a profound, but not humourless, investigation into the metaphysics of selfhood. Many of his sculptural series that have included casts from himself, focusing especially on the skin as the literal and metaphorical boundary that separates the inside from the outside, the seen from the hidden, the self from the exterior world. In an early work, Self in progress (2002), for example, a life-sized seated figure cast from his own body, appears rooted within a wall. The figure is caught midway at this transitional threshold, entering from one side of the wall and emerging from another, with a non-visible head apparently stuck inside the wall. The sculpture seems an audacious pronouncement of the will of man, which grants the ability to saturate matter and makes nothing beyond reach or inert. For a passing moment, there seems to exist a connectedness between all things animate and inanimate; the art and the space it inhabits become one. As the artist once remarked, "We usually seek clarity in details while the entire picture may be blurred. To me life is not about clear moments but seeking clarity in life as a whole.”
Alwar Balasubramaniam, New York City
Nothing From My Hands, New Delhi, India
The Phillips Collection, Sk(in), Washington DC, US
Talwar Gallery, (In)between, New Delhi, India
Talwar Gallery, New York, NY, US
Talwar Gallery, (In)visible, New Delhi, India
Unfixed Being, Van Every/Smith Galleries, Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina, US
Talwar Gallery, Into Thin Air, New York, NY, US
Traces, Fundacio pilar i Joan Miro, Majoca, Spain
Talwar Gallery, New York, NY, US
The British Council, Chennai, India
Selected Group Exhibitions
Columbia College of Art and Design, WALL, Columbus, OH, US
Montclair Art Museum, Look Now, Montclair, New Jersey, US
National Portrait Gallery, Beyond the Self, Canberra, Australia, and travel to
- McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park, Australia
- Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, University of South Australia
Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Time Unfolded, New Delhi, India
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), On Line, New York City, US
Guggenheim Museum, Contemplating the Void, New York, NY, US
Devi Art Foundation, Poddar Collection, Where in the World, New Delhi, India
Mori Art Museum, Chalo! India: A New Era of Indian Art, Tokyo, Japan and travel to
- Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg / Wien, Austria
Singapore Biennale, Belief, Director Fumio Nanjo, Singapore
Fine Arts Center, University of Massachusetts,Transition and Transformation, Amherst, MA, US
École des Beaux-Arts, Indian Summer, Paris, France
Talwar Gallery, (desi)re, New York, NY, US
8th International Cairo Biennale, Cairo, Egypt
Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), Finding the Center at the Margins, New Delhi, India
Junge Kunstler sind westfalen, Munster, Germany
Gallery Espace, In Conversation, New Delhi, India
India Habitat Center, Pallet 2001, New Delhi, India
6th International Biennial of Drawing and Graphic Arts, Gyor, Hungary
International Print Triennial, Cracow, Poland
Intergrafia, Katowice, Poland
3rd International Triennial of Graphic Art, Bitola, Macedonia
6th International Biennial of Miniature Art, Yugoslavia
1st Cheju International Prints Art Festival, Korea
5th Triennial Mondiale D'Estampes Petit Format, Chamalieres, France
Concours 3rd Millenaire, Chamalieres, France
4th Muestra Latino Americana International Miniprint, Argentina
12th Norwegian International Print Triennial, Norway
Edge of the Century, New Delhi, India.
5th International Biennial of Drawing and Graphics, Gyor, Hungary
12th International Exhibition of Graphic Art, Frenchen, Germany
KHOJ International Workshop, Modinagar, India
University of Hawaii, Hilo, UH International Invitational exhibition, Hilo, Hawaii, US
2nd International Exlibris Exhibition, Council of Europe, Croatia
Premio International Biella, Italy
10th International Exhibition for Small Graphics, Lodz, Poland
4th British International Miniature Print Exhibition, UK
VI International Art Triennial, Majdanek, Poland
Ist International Print Triennial, Kanagawa, Japan
7th International Triennial of Prints and Drawings, Vaasa, Finland
11th Tallinn Print Triennial, Tallinn, Estonia
Labyrinth, 2nd International Triennial of Graphic Art, Prague, Czech Republic
5th International Biennial of Miniature Art, Yugoslavia
International Culture Exchange Exhibition, Tokyo, Japan
ARKS Gallery, London, UK
Agart World Print Festival, Ljubljana, Slovenia
4th Bharat Bhavan International Print Biennial, Bhopal, India
4th Sapporo International Print Biennial, Sapporo, Japan
International Print Triennial, Kraków, Poland
The 8th International Biennial of Print and Drawing Exhibit, Taipei, Taiwan
40th National Exhibition of Contemporary Art, India
Fifty Years of Art in Independent India, Madras, India
SSA Exhibition at Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, UK
2nd Malaysia International Contemporary Print Exhibition, Malaysia
Egypt International Print Triennial, Giza, Egypt
3rd Sapporo International Print Biennial, Sapporo, Japan
Tokyo International Mini Print Triennial, Tokyo, Japan
Group show 94, at Government Museum, Madras
Second Indian Drawing Biennial, Chandigarh, India
Egypt International Print Triennial, Giza, Egypt
1990–95 Bachelor of Fine Arts, Government College of Arts, Madras, India
1997–98 EPW Edinburgh (Printmaking), UK
1998–99 Universitat fur Angewandte Kunste (Printmaking) Wien, Austria
- Transition and Transformation. University Gallery, Fine Arts Center, University of Massachusetts. With essays by Loretta Yarlow and Deepak Talwar, 2005.
- (In)visible. With an essay by Sharmini Pereira, 2007.
- (IN)BETWEEN. With an essay by Deepak Talwar, 2009.
- Holland Cotter, "A. Balasubramaniam," The New York Times, 31 May 2002.
- Minhazz Majumdar, "Uncharted Territories: Alwar Balasubramaniam,” Sculpture, December 2008.
- Zehra Jumabhoy, "A. Balasubramaniam," Artforum, December 2009.
- Brienne Walsh, "Alwar Balasubramaniam," Modern Painters, November 2012.
- Ella Datta, "The Inner of the Outer," Art India, 2009.
- "A. Balasubramaniam Profile,Interview and Artworks"
- The Pioneer, "Space Beneath the Skin", March 2012
- The Sunday Guardian, "Sculpting the unseen", March 2012
- Harper's Bazaar, "'Do you know what you see?' The art of A. Balasubramaniam", January 2012
- TEDIndia, "Alwar Balasubramaniam: Art of substance and absence", September 2010
- MoMA, Behind the Scenes: On Line, A. Balasubramaniam
- New York Times Review, On Line, MoMA, December 2011
- A. Balasubramaniam is represented by Talwar Gallery,
- A. Balasubramaniam on artnet
- Time Out New Delhi
- New York Times – (Desi)re
- New York Times Review – May 2002