L.N. Tallur’s “UKAI (Cormorant Fish Hunting)” at Nature Morte

L.N. Tallur’s “UKAI (Cormorant Fish Hunting)” at Nature Morte

  • Posted on: January 21, 2014
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Reviewed by Habiba Insaf

A walk through a Tallur show guarantees a surreal play off on museum artefact with objects that bespeak a language of absurdities and tell tales of agony and anxiety. Known for appropriating Indian mythology, ancient art and architecture into postmodern sculpture and installation to make a serrate commentary about the present, Tallur’s newest exhibition at Nature Morte, New Delhi does not disappoint. The title of the show “UKAI” (Japanese) refers to the sport of fishing by employing cormorant birds which is used as a “metaphor for the manipulations of human greed and more specifically, its popular manifestation in the guise of outsourcing labour through digital communications”.

Using mediums ranging from the organic like cow dung to industrial material like concrete to found objects like coins, Tallur orchestrates an uncomfortable encounter between the past and the present. In Live Stock, 2013, the artist plays a clever pun on the title using a ticker that gives out stock market quotation while the aluminium sculpture show two men interlocked in a yogic pose. The reference to the symbolic language of Indian temple architecture is obvious in the narrative panel in Cormorant Fishing, 2013, its burnt wooden surface resembling centuries old temple friezes. The dismembered bird head then becomes scathing symbol of human greed, control and exploitation-a theme, once again explored in Ukai, 2013, where the cormorant bird with two noose-like rings around its neck seems trapped in a sea of coins amidst craggy landscape.

L.N. Tallur, Live Stock [with detail],  2013, Aluminum, Wood, LED sign, 72 x 22 x 26 in (183 x 55 x 66 cm)

L.N. Tallur, ‘Live Stock’ (with detail), 2013, aluminum, wood, LED sign, 72 x 22 x 26″ (183 x 55 x 66 cm).

The human desire for capitalist accumulation and possession is mischievously mocked in Treasure Trove, 2013, where a vitrine enclosed bronze gana holding a pot of jewels looks crushed under the weight of an inverted clay pot. Re-interpretation and re-formation is central to Tallur’s art practice. In The Bell and the Cat, 2013, the yoke of the bell, shaped like an unformed, noosed figure and the clapper shaped like a human head renders a sense of macabre to an ordinary object like a temple bell. An intersection of ancient sculptural language with contemporary theme is repeated played out in his work.

L.N. Tallur, The Bell and the Cat [with detail], 2013, Bronze, Steel, Cow dong, 60 x 24 x 24 in (152 x 61 x 60 cm)

L.N. Tallur, ‘The Bell and the Cat’ (with detail), 2013, bronze, steel, cow dung, 60 x 24 x 24″ (152 x 61 x 60 cm).

Orbituary, 2013, shaped like a coffin-palanquin with coins stuck between its carved wood surface is an homage to a chromatophobic society. The burning incense stick invokes a ritualistic dimension to the work. Tallur delights in offering his viewers not only a visual and tactile sensory experience but an auditory and olfactory experience as well. In Path Finder, 2013, the artist displaces the potter’s wheel with a CEAT tyre inviting the audience to sully the artisan/man by the push of the pedestal that sets the tyre in a second of frenzy. In Do or Die, (Karma Yoga), 2013, the spectator is invited to walk the dowel of the structure without expecting the results of the action.

L.N. Tallur, Obiturary [with detail], 2013, Wood, Coin, Brace and burning fragrance, 30 x 84 x 36 in (76 x 213 x 91 cm)

L.N. Tallur, ‘Obiturary’ (with detail), 2013, wood, coin, brace and burning fragrance, 30 x 84 x 36″ (76 x 213 x 91 cm).

L.N. Tallur, Path Finder [with detail], 2013, FRP, Iron, half HP Motor, wet clay, 36 x 72 x 50 in (91 x 182 x 127 cm)

L.N. Tallur, ‘Path Finder’ (with detail), 2013, FRP, iron, half HP Motor, wet clay, 36 x 72 x 50″ (91 x 182 x 127 cm).

L.N. Tallur, Do or Die, (Karma Yoga) [with detail], 2013, Wood, steel, silicone, 77 x 144 x 53 in (195 x 366 x 40 cm)

L.N. Tallur, ‘Do or Die, (Karma Yoga)’ (with detail), 2013, wood, steel, silicone, 77 x 144 x 53″ (195 x 366 x 40 cm).

LN Tallur masters in the construction and deconstruction of art work at two level. Firstly, he deconstructs the visual iconography by violent disfigurement, and secondly, he deconstructs the spectator’s notion of reception of artwork by challenging their convention of handling objects from a distance by inviting their active participation. Tallur’s show is a must for its conceptual sophistication and for the play of dichotomies between decorative and figural, tradition vocabulary and contemporary concerns, conceptual and tangible.

Images courtesy Nature Morte.
The show runs through February 8, 2014 at Nature Morte.