Alwar Balasubramaniam

Born in 1971 in Tamil Nadu (IN)
Lives and works in Bangalore (IN)


Fiberglass, wood, magnet.
Dimensions variables
Year of Purchase: 2009

Balasubramanian was trained as a painter and an engraver, but as a sculptor he is self-taught. From the beginning, the artist hasn’t ceased blending artistic categories in order to make them collapse under the yoke of his inventiveness. He strives to breathe into matter (fiberglass, wood, iron, brass) a life fragrance of such vertiginous sweetness that one is dumbstruck by its beauty. He explains: “My relation to life is not defined by a search for purified moments but by a quest for clarity as a global entity.”
Balasubramaniam works on perception, never hesitating to play with (or on) our gullibility to “really” see the surrounding world. Confronting us with an experience of space, he frustrates our obsession with capturing reality and piques our desire to touch the ineffable. The majestic character of the work is conveyed in particular through the use of the color white, and specifically through the imposed invisibility of the materials, or through their surprising physical properties. For example, Emerging Angels (2004) consists in the emergence of sleeping cherubs as a block of evanescent matter evaporates; Untitled (2006) is made up of a wall that turns out to be as soft as rubber when struck by a steel rod.

As soon as he has marked his presence on the walls (of the exhibition), Balasubramaniam tells us of his presence in the world. Some of his “abstract” works can be therefore seen as a transformed expression of the artist’s being. The installation Link seems to defy gravity: a piece of string extending from one wall and culminating in a silver fishing hook. The object presents an intriguing and thought-provoking vision: held in suspension by a magnet hidden inside the adjoining wall, the taut string, seemingly floating in the air, functions as an agent of connection, while its shadow traces a fine line across the immaculate surface of the wall. Depending on the viewing angle, the space thus delimited is a square, a rectangle, or a triangle.

The concept of linkage, significantly present in Balasubramaniam’s work, can be found in his earlier pieces, including Outreach (2008): two hands growing out of a single arm touch adjoining walls; in Rest in Resistance (2007): two walls joined by a diagonal string which lifts up the surface with hooks at the touch points like skin; and in Untitled (2002): an arm emerging from the wall and holding in its hand the end of a string attached to the adjoining wall.

This esthetic of tense flux seems to accurately convey the pivotal concepts Balasubramaniam employs to express his Indian cultural heritage and the foundations of Hindu philosophy and beliefs. Joining, connecting, combining, stacking, mixing are the principles that define all life, all progress, and all energy¬ considered as polarized manifestation of all unity. Works such as Shell as Body (2007) and Kaayam (2008) articulate the artist’s obsession with the contrast between the full and the empty, reminding us that the body is but a temporary material envelope, a stage in the cycle of reincarnations: at his death, man, having disintegrated (body returns to the earth, breath to the wind, sight to the sun, and the intellect to the moon), will be reincarnated as a new being in order to continue its evolution.

Cécilia Bezzan