HUMAN NATURE

Review by Amrita Varma
December 09, 2014

 

Ya Ki Kuchh Aaur!

Atul Bhalla
November 15-December 20, 2014
Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi
 
 
Atul Bhalla’s much looked out for solo happened in the capital with a thread of three series of works. As one entered the gallery one was enveloped in a video which covered 180 degrees with projections on three walls. Initially, the video delivered one to the sights and sounds of the river with a boat on it and one was able to associate with the subtle sights and sounds of the environment at which point the boat caught fire and flames showed a different rage, a rage unspoken in a serene environment with a depth of rage at being raped and pillaged over and over again by man bursting out in that flame engulfing the boat swaying to the rhythms of the river.
 
As one worked their way through the art works one felt the subtle impulses and expressions Atul has so cleverly defined through the visuals where as one gazes at each work one comes closer to the core expression of the work which on a casual look one may skip.
 
His work done at the Gold Coast discusses racial discrimination, pillaging of nature especially of water to make gold in mines. Leaving empty fields and dry lands in works like ‘ Gold ‘ and the ‘ Gold Pool’ deserted as if in time. The desertion feels like that of both man and nature in the placement of the white chair of authority in the series titled ‘Contestation ‘in a landscape devoid of people and   with other works where there is a solitary tree reflection in a water pool or arid grass fields or a half filled unkempt pool.
 
Moving further one experiences the Inundation series which are a set of works exploring the merging of waters pushing one to experience the process in the absence of any human entity or object, just a wave or a water trail. It is interesting to feel the water starting to have an internal association rather than an external, ‘of the other’ association.
 
Deliverance which is takes the exhibition to its crescendo is a photograph of the boat being finally being lowered to be part of the water forever from a separate object which was breathed life into by the Mallahs in their ecofriendly skilled craftsmanship, ceremonial rituals and life revolving around the making of this carrier on water and yet a part of it.
 
At Deliverance one wonders if this is a remnant of a fast disappearing past or the reluctance of our association with our value for the environment. The question lingers as does the moment with the boat frozen in its deliverance to the river.
 
All in all, this is a show that needs to be seeped into and involves the viewer wholesomely in its important dialogue on man and nature and is one you don't want to miss.

Contestation-II, Archival Pigment Print, 36"x54"