His creations stand out among the hundred-odd artworks by contemporary Indian artists on display at the 'Chalo India!' exhibition organized by art collector couple Karlheinz and Agnes Essl at the Essl Museum on the outskirts of Vienna, Austria. Chennai-born A. Balasubramaniam started off as a painter but now finds creative expression in sculpture, exploring elusive areas that lie between light and dark, the finite and the infinite. He spoke with Narayani Ganesh.
How do you express the invisible and the infinite in sculpture?
I am intrigued by the "Invisible"; It inspires me. Take, for instance, light and shadow. Through sculpture, I try to trace the connection, the tension, between the two, the relationship between the object and its shadow. If you are walking in a park, and the sunlight filters through, you cannot really 'see' it until you place something like a paper or other medium in front of you, and the light shows up on the paper. You may not have noticed the light the same way, earlier. That's because there was no definitive medium to capture and express that light. So one has to try to see beyond our five senses allow us to see, to know appearance as well as reality.
Would you say spiritual insight is necessary to create meaningful art?
I wouldn't say that. I'm not what you might call a religious person. I would not like that to be categorised as this or that. U am more engaged with daily life but maybe I see it differently. For instance, earlier, I have worked on the concept of the 'Untraceable.' It's like having something but not being able to define it because there is constant transformation. So when you try to define it, it changes, so you can't really define it. If you put something in a container and close it, you think it is secure. But a material like camphor just evaporates. After a while, it goes without leaving a trace.
You mean like ice sculptures? One moment they're there, and the next, they're gone.
No, not like ice sculptures. Ice turns to water so it only changes form from solid to liquid. You can see it; it is not untraceable in that sense. A sculpture that changes is what expresses this concept; made of white fibreglass and covered with another white material that evaporates (both in white so they appear the same but the sculpture changes). I used air freshener material in powder form and compressed it on the mould. I called it Emerging Angel. An evaporating medium is like a clue. Art is something that is between scientific and spiritual aspects of life. It is material but not entirely material. I am now trying to work on something that is premised on the invisible - something that is important which is inspiring to me as a visual artist, even challenging. It's my personal journey.