Mysore’s artist Mahesh Baliga is in the city for his first solo show titled Looking Sideways at Colaba’s Project 88. In the midst of setting up his artworks at the gallery, he exclaims, “Come, experience high art.”
For an artwork, placed on a high-stool, the 26-year-old artist has engraved tools on the wooden surface. “Sometimes words bring images to my mind and sometimes it’s the other way around,” Baliga exults.
Baliga’s modest world — deserted corners of his hometown in southern India with its rustic ambience, a drain, a garbage dump yard and a farmhouse backyard — are reflected in acrylics on canvas (Poison River and Poison Seller). “My works are mostly about looking sideways at the overlooked.. the trivialities of our day to day life, which bring out several incongruities,” explains the graduate of Baroda’s M S University.
Since he has been quite an itinerant, various stories, poems, memories, images and lifestyles, have inspired the artist.
The installation of a wooden sculptures in a single line wedged on the wall gives the impression of a standard annual school class picture It is a reference of Kamala Das’ poem Love Lives Longer: Punishment in Kindergarten. Likewise, the Aesop’s fable of the thirsty crow that threw stones into a pitcher to raise and drink water is interpreted as a sculpture made of pebble stones and fibre glass.
A king is portrayed with his back to the viewer. “The entire series break the norms of representation of the royal personalities,” he points out. On another note, he remarks, “At times the work process outgrows the result itself. It’s like being a chameleon which changes its colours.”
The artist has also touched upon issues, which may seem inconsequential at the first glance but have a degree of self-deprecating humour about them. Like the self-portrait which sees him in a studio — painting, undressing and then creating a wash painting inside the bathroom with colourful undergarments strewn on the floor.
After the show, Baliga will return to his Mysore studio to delve deeper into subjects, which amuse him.