Art of the matter

Art of the matter


It resembles an art gallery, with a studio, a workshop, a mini library and a creative space. Additionally, there is enough place for a large family and guests to live, cook, dine and relax. Further, it has an attractive kitchen garden. This is the abode of Balan Nambiar, a painter, enamellist, sculptor, photographer, art teacher and research scholar based in Bangalore. Incidentally, this unassuming and energetic gentleman was designated as the acting chairperson of the National Lalit Kala Akademi, recently.

The history

HOME TO ART The staircase area with a lot of knick. Photo by Pushpa Achanta

“Less than a decade ago, I bought a 16-year-old duplex-type edifice that had small rooms at different levels. I spent around a year redesigning it. So, my house is only around seven years old,” Nambiar remarked with a smile. The main reason for Nambiar redoing the original building was to allow a good amount of light and air to come into it. Also, he wanted sufficient space to display his works of art. According to him, his knowledge of geometry and engineering and familiarity with metal cutting and welding was handy in refurbishing his house. Nambiar revealed, “I knew what I needed exactly.

In fact, I co-ordinated with the workers directly and they did a great job. And a young architect friend also assisted me with the design of my home.” The library which Nambiar refers to as his “paradise” is the sole room that is unchanged from the initial edifice.  
Situated on an elevated rocky piece of land that spreads over 2,720 square feet in Jayamahal Extension, the building is supposedly located on the second highest point in this leafy and relatively quiet neighbourhood.

With a total built-in area of 4,800 square feet, the house has eight rooms on two floors. These consist of a spacious salon, a dining area which has natural light seeping in from slits in the spectacular roof above it, a convenient kitchen, three comfortable bedrooms and six bathrooms.

A spacious terrace that is 1,000 square feet in size opens to the sky. “The number of bathrooms that I have at home amuses overseas visitors. Indians who have travelled abroad know that in many countries, most houses have only one or two restrooms even with a large number of rooms,” Nambiar said.

The artist’s studio, measuring about 1,200 square feet, is located in the basement of the building. Beside it is a workshop equipped with machines that can cut and weld stainless steel. 

At various places, the walls of the house contain terracotta bricks while some part of the roof which is inclined, is made from Mangalore tiles. Also, there is a solar heater for water in the kitchen and three of the bathrooms. These aspects have of course contributed to the eco friendliness of the building, ‘eco’ here is short for both ecological and economical! Nambiar added, “I have only the required amount of teak furniture and shades that I designed.”

Art is everywhere

One look at his house confirms Nambiar’s artistic passion. The gate at the entrance, the windows and ventilators in the rooms, all have metallic artwork grilled into them, literally. The walls below and beside the stairs (inside the house) leading to the next floor are a striking chrome yellow which is Nambiar’s favourite colour although the artist in him admitted that he likes all hues. This forms a lovely backdrop for his enamel paintings hanging on the walls. The reddish Mangalore tiles and terracotta bricks enhance the aesthetics of the dwelling.  

Metal sculptures that Nambiar created on varied themes that inspired him through the years are visible in throughout his lair. These include pieces such as the Valampiri Shankha (conch) and Kanati Bimbam (bronze mirror) used in folk rituals in Kerala and are subjects of his research.

There are other objects in a range of shapes (spiral, cubical, cylindrical, et al) and sizes (from a few inches to over 15 feet high) adorning his study table, the terrace, his studio, the living area and just beyond the gate at the entrance that one can see from the path to the edifice. Also, a beautifully crafted cement bench that can seat a couple of people is available on the terrace.  

A green patch

Nambiar’s home is incomplete without his garden which extends to about 500 square feet to a side of the building. Apart from a few ornamental plants and climbers like the money plant, there is a sweet lime tree (mausambi) and a guava tree and the multi-purpose basil (tulsi) and lemon grass. The culinary aids include Bishop’s weed (omam or ajwain), ginger, curry leaf, and vegetables such as cucumber, tomato, and and Indian or Ceylon spinach.

A lovely little lotus pond is the hallmark of this space.  
All in all, it is fitting to state that Balan Nambiar lives with and for art.