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Balan Nambiar’s engagement with materiality



Balan Nambiar is a contemporary artist and scholar who works in a variety of media, including painting, enamelling, photography, research and sculpture. He is renowned for his large-scale sculptures, which are typically composed of materials like bronze, mild steel, stainless steel, and fiber-reinforced concrete. He also uses machine technology and commercial procedures like water-jet cutting, laser cutting, and TIG welding. His non-figurative works are characterised by minimalism, simplicity, and geometric abstraction, and his Modernism combines a futurist lexicon with indigenous visual influence. His research concentrated on the ritual and folk living customs and arts, primarily of northern Kerala and the Karnataka district of Tulu Nadu, which influenced his artwork.


Balan Nambiar was born on November 12, 1937 at Kannapuram in Kerala. He studied sculpture at the Madras College of Arts and Crafts, Chennai. In 1971 he moved to Bangalore and has been working in the city as an independent artist. Balan Nambiar has intensively researched and documented the ritual art forms of Kerala and Tulunadu in Karnataka, for which he received the Nehru Fellowship. Adept at painting and enamel work besides photography, he has also done several large outdoor metal sculptures including some that adorn the Indian Oil building in Delhi.


He works and shapes metal, primarily stainless steel, into abstract forms to produce sculptures with strong visual impact. His Mirror Idol series is rooted in rural India and resonates with rituals and performance arts of the South is inspired by kannati-bimbam, an auspicious object used in Kerala rituals that represents mother goddess Bhagavati to practitioners of Kalaripayattu and Theyyam. His sculptures, which are known for their technical precision and geometric foundation, resonated with philosophical and religious ideas. First, countless sketches are created. The designs are then created by computers and transformed into the desired shapes in a laser-machining facility. Finally, the artists in his studio polish, weld, and assemble the cut pieces with assistance as needed from structural engineers and welders.


He worked with clay, wood, bronze, mild steel, glass fiber reinforced concrete and stainless steel. Many of his works are monumental, involving computer-generated designs and laser-cutting technology. Since 1987 he has been doing enamel paintings on silver and copper. His creative works are greatly influenced by childhood memories and symbols associated with the ritual arts.

He has executed six outdoor sculptures in glass-fiber reinforced cement at the R&D Centre of Portland Cement Factory, Heidelberg (1978), a granite sculptural composition for Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru (1995); a series of large stainless steel sculptures: \”Valampiri Shankha\” for Texas Instruments, now at IISc, Bengaluru (2000); \”Sculpture for Timken\” at the electronic city, Bengaluru (2004); \”The Sky is the Limit\” for the Indian Oil Corporation, Delhi (2010); a hanging sculpture \”Nest\” for Ganjam Jewellers, Bengaluru (2015); \”Reach for the Sky\”, a 7 meters high sculpture for the Bank Note Paper Mill, Mysuru etc.


He has been chairman of the Lalit Kala Academi, New Delhi, a member of the General Council of Lalit Kala Academy, and a member of the Central Advisory Board on Culture, India. Balan’s works have been displayed at Kala Kendra, Jaipur; Museum of Sacred Art, Durbuy, Belgium; NCPA, Mumbai; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Venice Biennale, Italy; and Hanover Industrial Fair, Germany.



  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balan_Nambiar
  2. https://peoplepill.com/people/balan-nambiar
  3. https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/balan-nambiar-and-his-six-decades-of-engagement-with-materiality/article22773286.ece

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