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Artist Profile1
An artist greatly concerned by social and environmental degradation
The artistic realm that Alok Bal depicts is materialistic to the core wherein the central characters are often effigies of voyeurism and egotism. This vicious world, often overlooked by most of us, is portrayed in-depth by this sensitive and observant artist who peeps into 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 compositions that exude 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.

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. He completed his B.F.A. (1998) followed by a Post-Diploma in Painting from M.S. University, Baroda (2001). Recipient of the National Scholarship, (Human Resource Ministry) in 1998, the figurative artist was initially influenced by British pop art and that in the US, but he gradually found his own idiom, artistic vision and voice. Experimentation plays an important role in his practice.

Interestingly, Alok Bal dreamt of becoming a football player but failed to pursue his passion owing to unavoidable turn of events. Not disheartened, he opted to reflect his love for the game on canvas that captured its beauty and the human skills involved. Apart from painting ‘two feet poetry’, he started a football academy in 2007 in Baroda (XYZ Football Club) to encourage aspiring footballers. He has been playing football since his childhood. Terming this ‘beautiful game’ a way of life, he feels it’s more than just a sport – rather a philosophy and every sportsman a philosopher.

After his fascinating football series (‘Football Fever’; Priyasri Art Gallery, Mumbai), he produced ‘Black Landscape’ in 2007 that touched upon another facet of his artistic quest. Ironically, while on the one hand, individualism is on the rise, one’s identity is under threat, as the artist wants to bring 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.
His recent selected group shows include 'Angkor Wat: An Indian Perspective', Gallery Art and Soul, Mumbai (2012); 'Freedom to March: Rediscovering Gandhi through Dandi' courtesy Ojas Art at Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi; 'Irreverent Gene', Crimson- The Art Resource, Bangalore; 'Symbols and Metaphors', CIMA, Kolkata; and 'India Rising: Tradition Meets Modernity' courtesy Ati Art Gallery (all in 2010). Among his recent participations are 'Art for Humanity', Coomaraswamy Hall, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai (2012), and 'Art Celebrates 2010: Sports and the City' courtesy Anant Art at LKA, Delhi to coincide with the hosting of the Commonwealth Games.

The new Delhi-based Galley, Latitude 28, currently hosts a solo show by Alok Bal that includes over 40 works –done in wood, glass, found human waste (used cloth, plastic, medicine wrappers, pipes etc) apart from canvases and paper works that according to him is about ‘the theme of human suffering caused by the prevailing socio-political system and also the one that we happen to create within ourselves, to add o the pain’. The outcome is an extreme imbalance in our outer and inner selves, leading to destruction, ultimately. He adds: “The main inspiration is my surroundings, people, life, nature and, of course, my inner self. Like my previous body of work, this show too is about cityscapes, but with a difference. Previously I would focus on the exterior, but this time, I have tried to get into the interior, the more psychological aspects of life of urban human beings.”

The gallery director, Bhavna Kakar, states that his current body of work is dynamic in its diversity. While his paintings are serene and metaphorical, his works in found human waste, wooden box and glass show his versatility in handling various mediums. Also a nature lover who loves trekking in the forests of Gujarat, it’s no wonder that he paints an unsettling picture of natural habitats being replaced by concrete jungles and the human tendency to tame nature in all its forms. He extends the environment versus development debate to reveal his concerns for the changing behavior and lifestyle of the human race as well as the effects on birds and animals.

Summing up his artistic inclinations and creative processes, Alok Bal states: “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.”