Sunday, May 5, 2013

Atul Bhalla at PM Gallery & House in London

A group exhibition just concluded at the PM Gallery & House in London collated a diverse group of international artists - all inspired by their sojourns on foot – resulting in works done in a wide array of media such as photography, installation works, and film.

Underlining its core aim and thought, an accompanying note to the exhibition elaborated, “From land art and conceptual art to street photography and the essay film, across the last four decades many artists have acted as explorers whether making their mark on the rural wilderness, documenting small journeys, or undertaking close examination of the urban environment around them.”

The artist tries to explore the physical, political, historical, spiritual significance of water bodies to the urban environ and burgeoning population of his home city (Delhi) through works, incorporating sculpture, painting, video, photography, installation, and performance. His ‘Yamuna Walk’ featured in the international group show. The photographic account of his purposeful journey along the river points to different facets of life along Yamuna and underlines the recurrent paradoxes prevailing within India - breathtakingly beautiful areas leading to many others languishing in poverty. The highly polluted river, considered extremely sacred by the Hindus, suggests another such social schism, which is polluting Delhi both aesthetically and spiritually.

A project on similar lines, entitled ‘The Yamuna-Elbe’ (2011), had made the two rivers part of the public artworks. It aimed at making people rethink their sacred and need based relationship with the river and the fragile ecology it supports by making the river part of the art. Most of the works done by several Indian and German artists were to be lined up along the two riverbanks. Atul Bhalla had conceived a 12- part series of a photoperformance on Elbe. Gigi Scaria’s 25-foot-high, fascinating fountain had kept pumping water from the river and purify it as it’s pushed up.

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