Critics’ Picks

New Delhi

Alwar Balasubramaniam

Talwar Gallery | New Delhi
C-84 Neeti Bagh
February 8–May 12, 2018

Though described in the show’s catalogue essay as a “departure” from his practice, the works on display in Alwar Balasubramaniam’s exhibition are fairly representative of his long-standing interest in exploring surfaces and negative space. He uses an eclectic range of media––fiberglass, cotton, terra-cotta, enamel, soil, wood, cement, acrylic, iron, oil, resin, graphite, aluminum, marble, and sandstone––to interpret the effects of the environment on human artistry.

The tension between the intentional and the organic is apparent in an untitled work from 2017, a large multicolored blot made using pigment and binder––the phrase “traces of evaporation” is part of its caption in the checklist. The brown pigment, the first of a series of concentric layers applied to a marble surface, peeps out from a peeling hole in the center, a blemish made by the natural process of evaporation (and the artist’s own intervention) that imparts the complexity and texture of a living thing. Repeating a simple combination of materials, this time on canvas, the striking Up in the air, 2017, is a dark ovoid work featuring a series of cracks, suggesting an ominous hatching.

The highlights of the exhibition are the monumental sculptures: the volcanic red Study for a liquid mountain, 2017–18, made from fiberglass and iron, and Nothing to fall, 2016–17, made of fiberglass and cement. Inspired by stalactites, the latter is installed on the gallery’s ceiling and hangs down to the ground floor, staid and unmoving like a mythical chain of justice. Instead of the usual decrying of the human domination of nature, Balasubramanian flips the civilizational narrative about art being a result of human intervention. Drawing on a legacy of Land art, his sculptures echo what Rosalind Krauss recognized as an expansion of the field.