Over the decades Alwar Balasubramaniam has had a sustained and ever-deepening relationship with the natural world—not only its landscapes or physical elements, but the forces that surround us.
The works in Mirror on the ground represent bourgeoning in Bala’s already-fertile career. Since returning to live in the countryside near Tirunelveli in Southern India, his work has grown in an ever deepening and evolving conversation with the environment around him. Nurtured by this relationship and his indefatigable curiosity that has sustained several decades of inquiry, this blooming appears across the varied works of Mirror on the ground, which include painting, sculpture, drawing, in addition to works that blur the distinctions between media. Like the spokes of a wheel, each reaching in its own direction but joined at their center, Bala’s recent works move outward in many directions, even as they testify to a common origin-point.
Resuming an inquiry of fire’s aesthetic potentialities from decades earlier in his career, here Bala draws on its association with life’s rituals and fragility.
Painted with pigments derived from the elements of the landscape that they depict, these works move beyond illustrating the environment as conventional landscape paintings do—making it, rather, a substantial actor in their making.
Preparing his canvases, like the surface of earth, Bala employs the forces / processes of nature to shape the surface of his works.
Bala’s works challenge viewers to expand their ways of seeing and refocus their habits of attention.
Across the three decades of his career, Bala has become known for his continuous investigation of the material and natural world, along with our capacity to explore, identify and comprehend it.
Bala’s works have been featured in exhibitions and collections worldwide, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), New York; The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), New Delhi, India; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington; École des Beaux Arts, Paris, France; Lalbhai Museum, Ahmedabad, India; Essl Museum, Austria; National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia, 1st Singapore Biennale; and 18th Sydney Biennale. In 2001 he was given the Joan Miro foundation award accompanied by a solo exhibition. Bala has been a guest lecturer at the Art Department of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and a featured speaker at TED.
Alwar Balasubramaniam (Bala) was born in 1971 in Tamil Nadu, India. He received a BFA from the Government College of Arts, Chennai, India, in 1995 after which he continued his studies in Edinburgh and Vienna. In 1998 he was artist in residence at The MacDowell Colony in NH after which he returned to Bangalore, where he lived and practiced till 2015. Subsequently Bala moved to the countryside near Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu where he created his home and studio and continues to live and work.