Aul Bhalla’s new show continues his conversation with ecology and his lifelong meditation on water
A chair marooned in a plain of grass that could be in any country; a cloud of fire sighing over the same serene grassland; a man (the originator of this image, it turns out) hugging the ground and, it would seem, consecrating the ground that approaches crushing expanses of still- looking water. Most striking, a boat suspended surreally, between the sky and a river. The artist won’t tell me how, but it doesn’t, of course, matter; we could be anywhere, or nowhere. Where we are, however, is close to home: the beleaguered Yamuna.
“If you put a boat in the Yamuna, it won’t flow; the water doesn’t flow after Wazirabad. It goes in circles. People who see the work understood why I had created a boat that only goes in circles; because the water itself can’t flow,” says artist Atul Bhalla. “The environment has been a concern in my work, though I don’t think of myself as an activist. I’m not a placard-holding, protest- in-the-street kind of guy. I like to consider how we as a culture perceive water from the point of view of art. On the riverbank, when we go to a restaurant, we ask, ‘Ek bottle pani de doh !’” He laughs at the necessary ironies.