Online Magazine
Artist Profile2
Alok Bal’s socially sensitive works
The world that Alok Bal depicts is materialistic to the core - illicit and harlequin - wherein the central characters are effigies of voyeurism and egotism.

This vicious world, often overlooked by most of us, is portrayed in-depth by this sensitive and observant artist. Primarily a figurative artist, he depicts complexities of relationships; between people and their immediate surroundings. Metaphorical usage of flying dainty figures, serene colors, the scratches and the realistically done attributes are all skillfully stitched together in his painterly realm that exudes lyrical sophistication, hiding beneath it insecurities of self-existence. He raises a question mark the place and space of the individual lost in a city. Ironically, while on the one hand, individualism is on the rise, one’s identity is under threat, as the artist brings to our notice.

His landscapes refer to the self-inflicted problems arising from unplanned development. They comment in a lighter vein on our tendency to manipulate the surroundings, regardless of the ill effects. Urban growth, resulting from blatant manipulation of natural resources and the resultant changes in ecology is inextricably linked to the very roots of human existence. He prompts the viewer to contemplate over issues that bear immediate significance and future consequences.

Born in Orissa in 1969, his childhood was spent in the midst of nature, surrounded by lovely hills, dense forests vast cultivated lands and beautiful riverbeds quite in contrast to the present realities. After securing a formal degree in Commerce, he decided to study art. The artist completed his B.F.A. (1998), followed by a Post-Diploma in Painting from M.S. University, Baroda (2001). He was the recipient of the National Scholarship, (Human Resource Ministry) in 1998. Initially influenced by British pop art and that in the US, he gradually found his own idiom and artistic vision. Experimentation plays an important role in his practice. Keen to experiment, he has also painted on metal. According to the artist, there is more physical involvement in handling 3 dimensional media.

Interestingly, Alok Bal was keen to become a football player but could not pursue his dream because of injuries. Instead he chose to show his skills on canvas. He opted to capture the beautiful game and its two feet poetry on canvas, treating it as just another playing field in a 2006 series, ‘Football Fever’. Priyasri Patodia mentioned in an introductory note: “I feel it’s a basic instinct of a man to compete and being a civilized society where it’s no more survival of the fittest or fighting to expand your territory, games are a perfect vent out to kindle that competitive spirit within each other and there countries.”

Another series by him, entitled ‘Black Landscape’ at Anant Art, New Delhi and Priyasri, Mumbai (2007), was equally appreciated. Providing an insight into it, a curatorial note by Latika Gupta mentioned: “Barren landscapes pervaded by a strange silence. Endless vistas of grey-black save for a solitary structure, its walls stained with years of use. Alok Bal's landscapes are the terrains of dreams…nightmares…reality. A surreal silence pervades these landscapes. A sense of detachment and lack of emotion lead to a suffocating ‘blankness’…

“The bitter reality of life in a cramped and crowded cityscape has affected the artist deeply. His paintings underline the stark differences between his early life filled with pure joy and the ‘corrupted’ environment that he now finds hard to come to terms with. In essence, the artist expresses his disillusionment with faceless city life through his works that bring out a personal sense of loss, as he feels suffocated in a rapidly and randomly growing metropolis, gobbling up lands and natural resources. The overcrowding of cities has led to the blurring of boundaries between public and private spaces. The gritty blocks of identical buildings replicate the sooty monotony of urban life with all its shades of grey.”

His work was prominently featured in several group shows last year, such as 'Freedom to Marchi' courtesy Ojas Art at LKA, Delhi; 'Purva', L & P Hutheesing Centre, Ahmedabad; 'Irreverent Gene', Crimson, Bangalore; 'Symbols and Metaphors', CIMA, Kolkata; 'India Rising' courtesy Ati Art Gallery at Varya, Delhi; ‘Untitled-2010, Art Konsult, and 'Art Celebrates 2010' at LKA, coinciding with the Commonwealth Games.

Elaborating on his creative processes, he quips: “I observe and absorb things around, unconsciously or intentionally, and build my work around an ‘idea’ that serves as the starting point of my creative process. It comes from within and gradually becomes an integral part of me. I sketch and draw quite a bit before I actually begin a painting. One thought leads to another, and so does my painting.

“There’s a definite connection and a progression. As ideas reinventing and replacing themselves, my style and painterly technique may accordingly change. However, the underlying philosophy remains the same. Apart from a touch of playfulness, there is a conscious effort to retain the spontaneity in my work, which prevents it from getting stereotyped,” he states to sum up his artistic inclinations.