A Walk into A. Bala’s Liquid Lake Mountain
Taking up the brush for the first time in over two decades, Alwar Balasubramaniam’s Liquid Lake Mountain expands the classic definition of “fine art”
“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.” It’s a quote from a favourite book of essays A Field Guide To Getting Lost by the brilliant Rebecca Solnit. It is a quote which resonated with me as I pondered over Alwar Balasubramaniam’s masterful creations. The artist has picked up the brush after many years (over two decades) and A. Bala (as he is popularly referred to) does, what he does best – astound!
IMAGE CREDITS : Talwar Art Gallery
IMAGE COURTESY : Mukund Venkatraman
Wood | 8.5″ x 75″ x 32″ and 16″ x 101″ x 39″ | 2017
Liquid Lake Mountain is a collection of installations, paintings and sculptures, presenting a unique, hallucinatory vision of waterbodies and the imprints that soak and lick its boundaries, be it the skies or the lands. It has a serene potency and a naturalism that marks a new level of explorations for the acclaimed artist. There are just a few works that I breezed past, but that was perhaps more so because of the still power the others commanded.
Pigment, soil & fiberglass | 36.5″ x 89.5″ x 3″ and 70″ x 58.5″ x 3″ | 2016
He has often said in the past, “Meaning does not exist. It is created by the mind.” Here, he creates a water world, floating across seaboards. Logic eludes you as you watch a lonely, azure lagoon defying gravity or the layered wooden, tongue-like rafts lying on the floor, its patina as smooth as silk and yet weathered as the wrinkles on an old rock. Then there are the dark sandy shores, still wet, from what one imagines to be the path of a thousand receding waves. Like two virgin shores, together but not connected. Perhaps it’s the water that washed over it that offers it, its inter-connectedness. Like Poseidon, the artist makes the rules here.
Up in the air
Traces of evaporation, pigments & binder on canvas | 48″ x 48″ | 2017
A. Bala’s art is the kind that you can go back to again and again to find new nuances to ruminate or meditate over, much like a favourite piece of writing. You can feel the leisure of its making, the languid lightness of its journey, the audacious exploration of water as something you can seize in artful ways. And then you sense the soul-satisfying pleasure he might have gotten as layer after layer settled into time. It’s a simple yet deep vocabulary. The meaning amplifies all the more as you navigate through the tremors that shape the Liquid Lake Mountain. He has often spoken about traces and moving away from it, but I found this art tracing the shape of water’s memory, its being, its heart. Even with all its infused realism, there is an abstraction that embalms each work, bringing to mind his works created with casts. These works are intellectual digressions of the finest kind.
The artist’s home in Tirunelveli, by the river, under the gaze of the mountains is said to have birthed this beatific rendition of water. In his untitled work, in the depths of its turquoise, as one takes in the sedimentation, the rings of age and evaporation, you sink into the realm of philosophies. The artist’s favourite playground. There is a map laid out for you to chart and with each step you get more lost. I circle back to Solnit when she wrote about, “the strange sidelong paths of change in a world without end.” Liquid Lake Mountain is infinitesimal. Perplexing in its architecture, endearing in its spatial simplicity. There is a euphoric discovery at play – with wood grains desirous of perhaps unravelling the world, obscure clouds that seem to retreat into its shadows, here, everything combines to intensify the artist’s philosophies. He draws these lines that cut across land, sky, water, looking for darkness among stars to further his investigations. At once surreal and cosmically detailed. I imagine this to be the artist’s world where he knows every drop he created by name.