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Artist Profile2
A spotlight on this year’s Skoda Prize winner
LN Tallur has been awarded the Skoda Prize 2012, comprising prize money of Rs 1 million and a special Skoda trophy. He beat other three contenders, namely Shilpa Gupta, Srinivasa Prasad and artist group CAMP. Incidentally, he was shortlisted last year as well. However, Navin Thomas had then won it. Art historian Geeta Kapur, artist Sheela Gowda, Swiss curator Mirjam Viradinis and gallerist Anupam Poddar, had announced from top 20 names the final shortlist for the 3rd edition of this prestigious prize that recognizes groundbreaking solo shows of mid-career artists from India below age of 45, and backed by galleries.

Tallur’s award-winning show ‘Quintessential’ narrates the artist's theory of '5th dimension'. Known for his kinetic works that comment on society and politics, he combines a sharp wit and prodigious usage of materials. Tallur’s work may appear ‘Indian’ at the first sight, but it participates in an advanced dialogue that surrounds sculpture today and reveals itself to be cosmopolitan as well as historically astute. They contain subtle references to traditional Indian symbols. A hallmark of his practice has been to translate this symbolic order into a contemporary language, to denote the diversity of traditional Indian life.

He invariably draws on a vivacious vocabulary of traditional signifiers, which have decayed, to reinvent and integrate them all into a language of the new realm of development and illusory pursuits. His unorthodox methodology to different modes of visual representation often leads to a fabulous fantasy of the absurd, at times unsettling the viewer even whilst provoking an engagement with certain ideas, which mirror distortions and obsessions of our society. The artist tends to set up a string of hypotheses so as to substantiate his pointed observations, using a scientific approach.

His critically acclaimed series at Mumbai’s Bhau Daji Lad Museum was a curious continuation of the ‘Engaging Traditions’, looking to foreground practitioners who allude to traditions, albeit contemporizing their meaning and context and also to typically capture the original intentions with which the museum was established way back in the 19th century to exhibit both tangible and intangible heritage of humanity as well as its environ - something still topical today. An accompanying note elaborated: “His work was explored through a scientific approach and typically captured the original intentions with which the museum was established that is,. He believes, when an art object is ‘museumized’, that creates a fifth dimension; which is a further addition to Einstein’s 4 dimensions (time-space). The show narrated his theory of 5th dimension.”

Born in 1971 in Karnataka, he received his BFA degree (painting) from the Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts, Mysore, followed by an MFA degree (museology) from the MS University, Baroda, in 1998, and an MA (Fine Art) from the Metropolitan University in Leeds, UK. His select solos have been held at Arario, Beijing (2010); Chemould Prescott, Mumbai (2009); Arario, New York (2008); Arario, Seoul (2007); Bose Pacia, NY (2000); and Chemould, Mumbai (1999). His large-scale installation ‘Souvenir Maker’ was recently shown at the Devi Foundation, Gurgaon and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Singapore. His work also formed part of the recent Asia Pacific Triennale at Brisbane’s Queensland Art Gallery.

In apt reflection of his art processes and philosophy, his sculpture series courtesy Nature Morte in New Delhi more than a year ago employed India’s classical sculpture as their starting points. The ‘found objects’ were combined and manipulated, in order to confound the established categorizations we employ for interpreting art: figuration and abstraction, decorative and functional, traditional and contemporary, religious and secular, creative and destructive etc. Mention must also be made of ‘Montessori: Lessons in Economics’, his first solo in Europe. It brings together a number of recent sculptures, which exemplify Tallur’s wit and deft manipulation of materials while commenting on politics and society. Having studied both art and museology, he draws from a wide spectrum of cultural references, ranging from art history, Hindu iconography, a globalized economy and popular culture.

As the title of his just concluded solo at Narture Morte’s Berlin venue implies, he tries to assume the role of a cheeky educator, setting up participatory experiments carefully alongside sculptural propositions that provide so-called solutions for the lingering economic crisis. Tallur’s highly orchestrated presentations look to control and manipulate the expectations of viewers and echo the ‘packaging’ of solutions that are known from the realms of education and politics. An accompanying note elaborated: “A series of personal migrations from his original hometown of Koteswara (a village in the southern Indian state Karnataka), to the likes of Leeds in the U.K. and his current home Daegu City in South Korea have sharpened L.N.Tallur’s eye for the complexities of trading in cultural goods. He often uses reproductions of classical Asian sculptures as a starting point for his work, which he then manipulates, injures or even decapitates to accentuate the absurdities of cultural, monetary and symbolic exchange values.”