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Alwar Balasubramaniam

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1971, Tamil Nadu, India
Lives and works in Bangalore, India

Alwar Balasubramaniam creates sculpture using a range of materials like fiberglass, acrylic, wax and gold to challenge the perceptions and preconceptions of the physical environment by giving form to the ephemeral, invisible and the intangible.



Printmaking, Universitat fur Angewandte Kunste Wien, Austria


Printmaking, EPW Edinburgh, UK


Bachelor of Fine Arts, Government College of Arts, Chennai, India




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UNDERSTANDING Alwar Balasubramaniam

Experimentations with form, medium and scale

A Balasubramaniam uses a wide range of materials like fibreglass, wax, granite, gold, sand, silicon, acrylics to create forms that tease and confound the viewer’s sense of space and perception. The artist is noteworthy for using cast of his face, hands, full body to create stunning conceptual works while the clever play of light and shade transforms not only the relationship of the object with the space but the defined form of the object itself.
In his minimalist installation, Link, 2009, a simple black string is anchored to a wall on one side while the other end is attached to a sharp metal fishhook. Orifice, 2008, is composed of tiny crimson spots which are actually burnt marks on paper. He uses these simple visual motifs to address larger conceptual and philosophical questions.

Alwar Balasubramanium, Link, 2009, string, fishing hook, magnet.

Alwar Balasubramanium, Orifice, 2008, laser burnt mark on paper on the same place as body orifice and screen print, 24.5 x 18.5” each.

Collapsing the boundary between seen and unseen, material and immaterial

The artist’s signature white on white artworks emphasise the process of making the invisible visible and bring out the subjective nature of perception and our vulnerability to illusions. In Bala’s work seeing is never believing. In Shadow of a Shadow of a Shadow, 2007, the artist playfully sculpts the play of light on a cardboard box while in Nothing from My Hands, 2012, the artist materialises form that exist only when hands are clasped, and becomes nothing when they open.Bala remarks, “I am attempting here to show even nothing is something beautiful.
Similarly, in Hold Nothing, 2012, the sculpture which resembles a double sided horn embodies the physical immateriality of the air that surrounded the artist, thus underscoring his presence albeit negatively.

Alwar Balasubramanium, Nothing From My Hands, 2011-12, fibreglass, wood and synthetic polymer paint. Installation view.

Alwar Balasubramanium, Shadow of a Shadow of a Shadow, 2007, fiberglass, wood, acrylic, 150 x 49 x 17” (variable).

Alwar Balasubramanium, Hold Nothing, 2012, cast from artist’s body, fibreglass and acrylic.

Using the architecture of the space to a catalytic effect

In Balasubramaniam’s universe, the sculpture’s relationship with the space is very important and is often site-specific in nature. Most of Bala’s sculptures are mounted on the wall making it a part of the architecture both visually and materially. In Kaayam, 2008, the artist, using the self’s body as the cast, mounted a series of four fibreglass sculptures of deflated bodies devoid of volume that seem to float across the wall of the gallery. In an untitled work form 2002 the artist appropriates architectural space by playfully inserting into the wall two hands that pull at the strings of the adjoining wall creating a tiny fissure around it.

Alwar Balasubramanium, Kayaam, 2008, cast from artist’s body, fibreglass and acrylic.

Alwar Balasubramanium, Untitled, 2002, fibreglass, rope and acrylic, 120 x 40 x 28”.

Art lies in the intermediate realm of science and spirituality

Balasubramaniam invokes the fundamental tenets of Hinduism and Buddhism through his works. The artist’s work produced with materials that slowly disintegrates over time gives expression to a belief in the cyclical nature of birth and destruction. The immateriality of Bala’s work can be traced to his quest for meta-reality and spiritual transcendence. He believes that “Art lies in the realm between science, which demands proof and is based on material reality, and spirituality which is based on experience and not evidence.
In Self in Progress, 2002, a seated life size body passes through the walls of the gallery existing in a in-between space and cast in a waxy substance that disintegrates over time. Gravity, 2008, with the artist’s head wrapped in a skin-like encasement weighed down probably by the law of nature is an eulogy to Newton, the scientist Bala deeply admires.

Alwar Balasubramanium, Gravity, 2006, fibreglass and acrylic.

Alwar Balasubramanium, Self in progress, 2002, fibre, wood and acrylic, 46 x 34 x 26”.

His works are devoid of cultural or sociological references

Bala’s work seeks to explore the journey of the self and the relationship of the self with the spiritual cosmos. He is more interested in carving out space and materialising the intangible than in giving voice to historical legends and cultural practices. In the west, he is at times questioned over the lack of visible “Indian-ness” in this work and also adjudged as solely and heavily influenced by Indian philosophy.The artist defends, “They are looking for a superficial skin-level Indian-ness, which I am not about.

Alwar Balasubramaniam, Shadow of a Shadow of a Shadow, 2007, Installation view, Fiberglass, wood, and acrylic, 150" x 49" x 17"