Shiny silver trinkets around its neck, the concrete sculpture of a cormorant stands in a large iron cauldron. Save for a few concrete islands arising from here and there in an ocean of glittering coins, the graceful bird stands alone in a piece called UKAI.
Caught frozen forever in time and concrete, the memory of this bird is what inspired LN Tallur’s new solo titled “UKAI (Cormorant Fish Hunting)” at Nature Morte.
“I was in a small town near Shanghai in China about five years ago, when I first saw it. A fisherman had tied a snare around the base of a cormorant’s neck. He would tug at the snare every time the bird caught a fish, allowing the bird to take in fish that were smaller than a certain size. It couldn’t swallow large fish, which the man would then take away, before sending the bird back to fish again,” says Tallur.
Known in Japanese as Ukai, this technique of fish hunting was developed in medieval China and Japan in the 16th century; it travelled to Europe in the 17th century and still exists as a popular sport in Japan. “It struck me that a very similar thing happens in our IT industry — it is a process of outsourcing labour in digital communications to satiate manifestations of human greed. Ukai can be a brand name in itself,” he says. Skoda Prize
Winner of the Skoda Prize in 2012, Karnataka-born Tallur divides his time between India and South Korea. In his new show, Tallur — known for kinetic sculptures which generally reflect society and politics — now experiments with several ideas at once. “If you have a lot of words in your vocabulary, you should make use of it. Visual art is my language, and the purpose is to add to my aesthetic dictionary,” he says.
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Axed, sculpted and polished, the wood of a jackfruit tree, for instance, takes on an industrial role in Tallur’s show. Shiny bolts peek out of this installation which towers over six feet. Titled Do or Die, (Karma Yoga), a steel rod juts out of its barrel-like body and, unlike most art pieces one isn’t permitted to touch, visitors are invited to move the sculpture around using the steel rod. “It goes to show that we may do a work incessantly without getting the desired result,” says Tallur. His note pinned up near this piece reads: “You may only perform the task at hand; you are not entitled to its results.”
Using material that naturally exists alongside man-made objects is another way Tallur highlights the coexistence of different worlds that aren’t always mutually beneficial. In Path Finder, a human structure made out fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) sits in a meditative pose while wet clay is flung on him by a motorised wheel that the audience can activate. Tallur’s Live Stock (aluminium on wood) shows two unclothed men standing head to toe in a world made up of Sensex results. Size is of no relevance to Tallur, as sculptures 20cm tall share the gallery space with man-sized ones. Both Democracy at Work, a wood-iron-copper and stone piece, and The Bell and the Cat (bronze, steel, cow dung), are about four feet. But it is the cormorants, seen in concrete and wood in the exhibition, that steal the show.
UKAI (Cormorant Fish Hunting) is on display at Nature Morte, A1 Neeti Bagh, till February 8.