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sepia EYE: Atul Bhalla

Atul Bhalla

Image

b. 1964, India

Atul Bhalla has explored the physical, historical, spiritual, and political significance of water to the urban environment and population of his city (New Delhi) through artworks that incorporate sculpture, painting, installation, video, photography, and performance.

In Immersion, Bhalla uses sand taken directly from the Yamuna River to make concrete casts of portable water containers. These casts are then placed in water-filled vitrines, drawing a connection between Delhi’s historical source for water and the spiritually absent disposable containers of today. Similarly, in his photographic works of “piaus” (water spigots)—a public source of drinking water—Bhalla examines water as both symbol and source of renewal and reexamination.

Bhalla is particularly concerned about the relationship between the Yamuna and urban communities. The Yamuna is one of the largest tributaries of the Ganges River and tens of millions of people depend on its water for irrigation, and municipal/domestic use. Venerated in Hindu mythology as the goddess of life, it is also one of the most polluted rivers in the world. With a focus on pollution and scarcity of water, Yamuna Walk traces the artist’s five-day walk around the portion of the river that encircles New Delhi. At times through this journey Bhalla was forced to climb fences and cross concrete overpasses to continue his quest. These modern obstacles weave their way into the fabric of rural life— connecting and hampering its development as well as continuation.

Atul Bhalla earned his BFA from Delhi University and his MFA from the School of Art of Northern Illinois University. His work has been in several museum exhibitions, most notably in The Newark Museum’s “INDIA: Public Places, Private Spaces” and the Fotographie Forum Frankfurt’s “Watching me – Watching India: New Photography from India,” and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum Triennial.

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