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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.”
- Solo Exhibitions
|2016||Talwar Gallery, Rain in the midnight, New York, NY, US|
|2015||Talwar Gallery, layers of wind, lines of time, New York, NY, US|
|2011–12||The Phillips Collection, Sk(in), Washington DC, US|
|2009||Talwar Gallery, (In)between, New Delhi, India|
|2005||Van Every/Smith Galleries, Unfixed Being, Davidson, North Carolina, US|
|2004||Talwar Gallery, Into Thin Air, New York, NY, US|
- Selected Group Exhibitions
|2015||The Phillips Collection, Intersections, works from the collection, Washington, DC, US|
|2014||Seattle Art Museum, City Dwellers, Seattle, Washington, US|
|2013||Columbia College of Art and Design, WALL, Columbus, OH, US|
|2012||18th Biennale of Sydney, all our relations, Sydney, Australia|
Montclair Art Museum, Look Now, Montclair, New Jersey, US
|2011||National Portrait Gallery, Beyond the Self, Canberra, Australia, and travel to
Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Time Unfolded, New Delhi, India
|2009||Devi Art Foundation, Poddar Collection, Where in the World, New Delhi, India|
|2008||Mori Art Museum, Chalo! India: A New Era of Indian Art, Tokyo, Japan and travel to
|2006||Singapore Biennale, Belief, Director Fumio Nanjo, Singapore|
|1996||Egypt International Print Triennial, Giza, Egypt|
|1993||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.
- Artforum, "Alwar Balasubramaniam," April 2015
- Artforum, "Critics Pick: Alwar Balasubramaniam," May 2016
- The New Yorker, "Alwar Balasubramaniam," June 2016
- "A. Balasubramaniam Profile,Interview and Artworks"
- The Pioneer, "Space Beneath the Skin", March 2012[permanent dead link]
- The Sunday Guardian, "Sculpting the unseen", March 2012[permanent dead link]
- Harper's Bazaar, "'Do you know what you see?' The art of A. Balasubramaniam", January 2012[permanent dead link]
- 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