Delhi-based Atul Bhalla is known for his sustained preoccupation with the eco-politics of water, which forms the basis for his diverse practice. Questioning the distribution, regulation, commodification and pollution of water, Bhalla has over the years explored its physical, historical, spiritual and political significance in relation to the population of New Delhi, his home city. Some describe Bhalla as an environmental activist, however his work may be considered not overtly political, instead socially concerned, engaging a poetic style of presentation. Bhalla describes his practice as an attempt to understand water, the way he perceives it, feels it, drinks it, swims in it and sinks in it. His personal negotiation of water provides a stage from which to address larger political issues concerning bodies of water and the urban environment.
The exhibition showcases a selection of works that Bhalla has done since 2009 – locations differ from Basel to Varnasi, Beijing to Patna and artistic strategies shift from performance, to the use of found objects, from videos to photographic series. For the piece ‘Basel Walk’ Bhalla undertook a three hour walk along the river Rhine, in Switzerland, photographing a number of valves embedded into the streets, used for controlling the flow of water. He offers the viewer a new perspective on commonplace objects, forcing us to engage with familiar bodies of water in new ways, at the same time developing ones relationship to the city. In another performance in Patna, Bhalla floated a bright yellow signage down the Ganga which read aaj bhi wahi sab hota raha (even today everything went on as usual). Shot from the impressive Mahatma Gandhi Setu bridge, one of the longest bridges in the world, the clearly legible signage is an ironic comment on the state of affairs in the state of Bihar and the country.
About the artist:
Born in 1964, Atul Bhalla lives and works in New Delhi, India. Having studied Fine Art at Delhi University, India and Northern Illinois University, USA, Bhalla is known for his photographic work, although his interdisciplinary practice also includes paintings, sculptures, installations, photo performances and videos. Bhalla has exhibited internationally, most recently in ‘Paris-Delhi-Bombay: India through the eyes of Indian and French artists’, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France and ‘Water’, Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, USA.
Other current exhibitions of Bhalla’s work include:
Water Works, solo exhibition at The Grossman Gallery, Lafayette College, Pennsylvania
August 30 – October 15, 2011
Artist talk October 5, 2011
Beyond the Self: Contemporary Portraiture from Asia
National Portrait Gallery, London
13 August - 6 November 2011