Art review

Art review

A work by A BalasubramaniamInspirations and directions

A Balasubramaniam, an artist from Tamil Nadu living in Bangalore, has already made a mark on the national and international scene. One is familiar with his probing of rudimentary phenomena and perception by means that are simultaneously precise and enigmatic, through juxtaposing, splitting and re-configuring or reuniting the tangibly concrete and the illusorily immaterial, the specific or personal and the universal, the positive and its negative or mirror image as well as its mere trace or impact devoid of physicality, all being formulated and evoked in an aesthetic  language that relies equally on poetic sensation and a conceptual, even philosophical approach.

It is a fortunate opportunity then to be able to recollect his beginnings, inspirations and pointers to the mature preoccupations and idiom elements from the exhibition currently held by Apparao Galleries (May 6 to 31). A variety of mixed media works including graphics and sculptural installation on view come from the late 1990s and early 2000s. Their character may seem quite different, and yet, seen from the present perspective they reveal the sources and directions that converge with consistency. The earliest pieces are the small prints, single and their arrangements, dense under linear grids that establish a firm architecture only to turn tremulous and uncertain, as they touch on a link between immediate urban surroundings and cosmic dimensions.

Sometimes they accommodate foci of misty radiance and shiny, circular motifs cut from metallic sheets that both appear to emit light and absorb-distort the spectator's and the air's reflection, thus letting one sense one's environment and oneself in immense occurrences. The series of such glowing-mirroring orbs may allude to moon cycles in a way that combines a quasi-scientific enquiry with its elusive outcome. If influence of Rm Palaniappan and especially of Anish Kapoor can be recognised here, the works which bridge minimalist abstraction and palpable qualities of raw materials used as forms and hues speak of Balasubramaniam's regard for Joseph Boeus.

The large sculptural installation with colourless-white, disembodied hands that emerge from the white wall gesture softly as though grasping at the intangible, the reductive look reminding of the artist's now dominant method. The enlarged finger print motif with a convex mirror and the tight compositions threading abstracted human figures into images of a dynamic globe and a horizontal landscape make one experience the immersion of the unique in the universal, the finite in the infinite. Such intuition of immeasurable vastness hidden in the concreteness of natural and man-made substances arises also from the white on white handing honeycomb pieced together of plastic straws and from the scattering of white relief letters on a white plane.

The mystery of apparently normal things and of our ability of understand them informs the milky, translucent boxes that indistinctly reveal and at the same time secrete organic objects inside. The images on paper from the beginning of this century display an important method of Balasubramaniam's probing which involves imprints of natural forces stimulated to act on their own but in tune with his sensitivity and questioning. Those works have areas burnt by the sun which the artist fills with pigment conjuring essential rhythms and primeval.

Modest improvement

When compared with the institution's not so remote past, it revealed some changes and an improvement that, however, may not be unequivocal.

True, the dated kind of academicism was absent, as were Modernism-based stylisations, Futuristic patterns and copies or allusions to traditional southern and miniature painting. What prevailed, nevertheless, was a rather easy, formalistic fusion between modernist-derived mannerisms and ones sourced from superficially appropriated contemporary idioms, which did not hold much potential.

One should not expect mastery, innovation and profound probing from the students who leave college, but some passion or naive experiments inclusive of direct realism which did occur during a few previous events, would have compensated for the dominant awkward pleasantness. This time, rarely one appreciated.

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