Alwar Balasubramaniam

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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[edit]

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.[1] 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."[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.”

Selected Exhibitions[edit]

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
McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park, Australia
Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, University of South Australia
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Australia

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
National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea
Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg / Wien, Austria
2006 Singapore Biennale, Belief, Director Fumio Nanjo, Singapore
  • 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
  • Aar Paar, Exchange exhibition between India and Pakistan
  • 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
  • 1st 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
1996 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
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

Publications Available[edit]

  • 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.


  1. ^ Holland Cotter, "A. Balasubramaniam," The New York Times, 31 May 2002.
  2. ^ Minhazz Majumdar, "Uncharted Territories: Alwar Balasubramaniam,” Sculpture, December 2008.
  3. ^ Zehra Jumabhoy, "A. Balasubramaniam," Artforum, December 2009.
  4. ^ Brienne Walsh, "Alwar Balasubramaniam," Modern Painters, November 2012.
  5. ^ Ella Datta, "The Inner of the Outer," Art India, 2009.

External links[edit]