A conceptual artist who lives and works between India and South Korea, Tallur’s work encompasses sculpture, site-specific installations and interactive media. The many migrations in Tallur’s life — from the village of Koteswara (where he was born) and Mysore (now Mysuru), Karnataka, to Baroda, then UK and finally Seoul (his wife’s home city) — and their colliding and opposing influences are reflected in his work and through his distinctive choice of materials and methods. In his treatment, bronze, wood, silver stone, oil, artefacts, coins, LED screens, machines and mechanical devices are synthesised in unfamiliar and unconventional juxtapositions of sacred and secular; urban and rural; purpose and futility; and the generative and destructive, among other binaries. His concerns with the anxieties, fears and desires that shape history, colonialism, globalisation and capitalism form the pith of his artistic work, while his material configurations often parody relationships between object and symbol and challenge the accumulation of meaning over time.
After earning a BFA in painting from Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts, Mysore, in 1996, Tallur pursued first an MFA in museology from the MS University, Baroda, in 1998 and then an MA in Fine Art from the Metropolitan University in Leeds, UK, in 2002. Much of Tallur’s early output is typified by the recurring theme of value — monetary and otherwise — as a historical gauge of interpersonal and intersocietal relationships. The works created during the period of this particular preoccupation include Unicode (2011), Obituary (2013) and Milled History (2014). In the former, a Chola-era bronze of Nataraja is seemingly obscured by a lump of concrete embedded with coins. Unicode, named after the universal coding protocol used across all computing devices, is a commentary on the homogenising potential of globalisation and the elevation of money to the status of God. Obituary consists of a palanquin that bears a wooden log with coins hammered into it and upon which more can be added by viewers. Lit by incense, the structure is evocative of both an altar and a funeral pyre, simultaneously parodying the shifting quantifications of value and the transience of wealth. Milled History consists of a sandstone copy of an artificially degraded replica statue and expands on these themes, making pointed references to the politically motivated imitation and displacement of material cultures.
The most monumental of his works produced from 2012–13, and first shown at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2012, Veni, Vidi, Vici is a play on the historical transactions of power through trade and colonialism. It consists of a life-scale roof of terracotta tiles upon which are interspersed clay figurines of Hatha yoga practitioners. In its allusions — to trade and colonial enterprise, to the Western gaze (through the ethnographic figures) and the appropriation (and subsequent revaluation) of Indian cultural practices — the work reveals the enduring value of power in historic and contemporary contexts. When it was shown at the Art Basel in Switzerland in 2013, it was viewed as a tongue-in-cheek response to the colonial hegemonies of India’s past.
Solo exhibitions of Tallur’s work have taken place in Germany, South Korea, the United States, India and China. The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT7), Queensland Art Gallery, Australia; The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today, Saatchi Gallery, UK; and Critical Mass: Contemporary Art from India, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel, are some of the most prominent shows that have featured his work.
In 1999, early in his career, Tallur won the prestigious Bose Pacia Emerging Artist Award in New York. In 2003, the Sanskriti Foundation, New Delhi, presented him with the Sanskriti Award for Art. His exhibition Quintessential, held in 2011 at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum drew much critical acclaim, leading to his winning the Skoda Prize for Art the next year.
As of writing, Tallur works between India and Korea.
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