New Delhi

Atul Bhalla, Still Life with Fictitious Object, 2017, ink-jet print, 20 × 30".

Atul Bhalla

Vadehra Art Gallery | D-53

Was the chunk of meat in Atul Bhalla’s photograph Still Life with Fictitious Object, 2017, as innocuous as it appeared? As the saying goes, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. And all the more so in India, where the cow is considered sacred by Hindus and pork is proscribed among Muslims. While invoking the art-historical tradition of still-life painting, the image also alludes to the rising tide of intolerance in the country, which led to the 2015 lynching of a Muslim man by a mob on the mere suspicion that he had slaughtered a calf and stored the beef at home.

Meat was a recurrent motif in several of the lens-based works on display. In Anhedonic Still Life I, 2018, it was artfully juxtaposed with a pile of well-thumbed books from the artist’s own collection. How then, Bhalla appeared to ask, could he possibly use the insights within these tomes—ranging from the Russian poet Anna

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