Ocula: In the Studio With Mahesh Baliga

Posted On: Friday, May 20th, 2022 | by project88pressadmin

In the Studio With Mahesh Baliga

By Cleo Roberts-Komireddi

Mahesh Baliga’s small-scale paintings in casein tempera are like pages from a story book. In vivid colour, Baliga renders scenes from his surroundings in Vadodara, India, transforming otherwise overlooked details into visual poetry. On the occasion of his first solo exhibition outside of India, Drawn to remember at David Zwirner in London, the artist—whose work was also recently presented by Project 88 at India Art Fair—shares how he arrived at his unique style.

CRK: I saw your work first at India Art Fair and was intrigued by the intimacy and power achieved on such a small scale. In your show at David Zwirner, you’ve created a long stretch of similar images that you call ‘lap-sized’. What entices you about these proportions?

MB: All this small-sized work started because I was teaching at Veer Narmad South Gujarat University art school for five or six years.

Initially, I didn’t think of doing any work because I had to go there teach and spend time with the students. And I was also getting old—old in the sense there is an age when art teachers retire around 35 because all the scholarships are cut after that.

Mahesh Baliga Eye hospital (2022). Casein on canvas. © Mahesh Baliga. Courtesy the artist, Project 88, and David Zwirner.Mahesh Baliga Eye hospital (2022). Casein on canvas. © Mahesh Baliga. Courtesy the artist, Project 88, and David Zwirner.

There was a point when I was working with a batch of unfocused students. I got angry and frustrated. I thought, I am giving you time, you’re getting all the infrastructure to do everything, but you don’t have any interest. So I started working.

Initially the boards didn’t have any support on the back so I could carry them very easily. And I had very small bottles made to hold small quantities of pigments. It was a limited setup.

I had a bed in a local guesthouse. So I would unfold the bed and sit there and do the work.


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