Alok Bal wanted to be a football player, but injuries got the better of him. So he began capturing the game, which he calls “two-feet poetry”, on canvas. That was in 2006. An exhibition of those works, Football Fever, tried to establish the intrinsic link between the artist and his life, reflecting his aspirations and failures, and the reconciliation with reality.
Bal’s life continues to influence his art just as vividly, as is evident in his latest exhibition Ember, which opened in New Delhi on 10 April. Nearly 45 works are on display—canvases, works on paper and wood, using glass and waste like used cloth, plastic, medicine wrappers, pipes, et al—evoking images of suffering caused by a corrupt socio-political system and the imbalance between a human being’s inner and outer self.
Born in Rourkela in Orissa, 45-year-old Bal spent his childhood in the midst of nature, surrounded by hills, dense forests, vast cultivated lands and fertile riverbeds, very different from the harsh realities of a big city. When he moved to the bustling city of Vadodara to study art at MS University, the contrast baffled him. From his studio on the 10th floor of an apartment complex, he witnessed the changing Vadodara skyline, an endless sea of tenements against a polluted sky.
While Bal’s art represents man’s instinct to dominate nature, he uses both irony and skill to express his fascination and disillusionment with life in a metropolis. One of Bal’s earlier series in graphite on paper even paid a tribute to birds such as sparrows that are now difficult to spot in cities. “I feel lucky if I see a bird outside my window these days,” he rues.