Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember | David Zwirner
A detail of a painting by Mahesh Baliga titled Flowering self, dated 2022

Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember

“My paintings remind me why I remember something while looking at something else. My works contain the experience of looking. The curiosity of looking at a person, a person in a particular condition. Existences mingle; the animals, the trees, and objects in my paintings may tell human stories.”
—Mahesh Baliga

David Zwirner is pleased to present Drawn to remember, an exhibition of new paintings by Indian artist Mahesh Baliga, on view in The Upper Room at the gallery’s London location. This will be Baliga’s first solo exhibition outside of India. 

Baliga documents the intricacies of life in western India, instilling quotidian and often overlooked moments with emotional resonance. Fascinated by the relationship between a painting’s formal construction and its psychological effect, the artist slips seamlessly between the real and the imagined, developing surreal visual interventions that convey the poignant and strange nature of memories, personal loss, and the passage of time.

 

Read the artist’s full exhibition statement

Image: Mahesh Baliga, Flowering self, 2022 (detail)

Dates
April 12May 28, 2022
Artist
Mahesh Baliga

All must be remembered:
a turning wind, the threads
in the threadbare event must be gathered,
yard after yard of all we inhabited,
the train’s long trajectory,
and the trappings of sorrow.

 

—Pablo Neruda, excerpt from “Memory”

 

An Installation view of Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, dated 2022

Installation view, Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, 2022

Installation view, Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, 2022

A photograph of Baliga at work in his studio by Suguresh Sultanpur, dated 2022.

Baliga at work in his studio, 2022. Photo by Suguresh Sultanpur

Baliga at work in his studio, 2022. Photo by Suguresh Sultanpur

Fascinated by the relationship between a painting’s formal construction and its psychological effect, Mahesh Baliga slips seamlessly between the real and the imagined, developing surreal visual interventions that convey the poignant and strange nature of memories, personal loss, and the passage of time.

A casein on canvas artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Eye hospital, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Eye hospital, 2022
Casein on canvas
37 5/8 x 49 5/8 inches (95.7 x 126 cm)
$25,000

“Things, people, places exist in a stream of never forgetting; they arrive in the loneliness of my studio. One re-sees the things one saw. With the quickly vanishing images in rushes, one tries to collect and keep them safe, to go back to them and recall them. My paintings remind me why I remember something while looking at something else. My works contain the experience of looking. The curiosity of looking at a person, a person in a particular condition. Existences mingle; the animals, the trees, and objects in my paintings may tell human stories.”

—Mahesh Baliga

A casein on board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Male papaya tree, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Male papaya tree, 2022
Casein on board
25 x 17 inches (63.6 x 43.3 cm)
$12,000
A casein on board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Pagla gach, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Pagla gach, 2022
Casein on board
25 x 17 inches (63.6 x 43.3 cm)
$12,000

Mahesh Baliga

Safe place, 2022
Casein on canvas
37 5/8 x 49 3/4 inches (95.6 x 126.2 cm)
$25,000

The artist populates his canvases with a recurring reel of characters and settings: the verdant surroundings of his outdoor painting studio, the ink-stained shirt of a poet, the artist’s late mother with her hands pressed together in prayer.

A casein on board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Reception, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Reception, 2022
Casein on board
11 x 13 inches (28.1 x 33.1 cm)
$6,000
A casein on board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Prayer, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Prayer, 2022
Casein on board
13 x 11 inches (33.1 x 28.1 cm)
$6,000
A detail from a painting by Mahesh Baliga, titled Reception, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga, Reception, 2022 (detail)

Mahesh Baliga, Reception, 2022 (detail)

An Installation view of Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, dated 2022

Installation view, Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, 2022

Installation view, Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, 2022

An Installation view of Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, dated 2022

Installation view, Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, 2022

Installation view, Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, 2022

Born in the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka, Mahesh Baliga has cultivated a body of painted work that explores the range of human emotion and perception. Today, he lives and works in Vadodara, India, where he documents with emotional resonance quotidian and often overlooked moments.

A still from a video by Sashikanth Thavudoz of Baliga working on a painting on a ledge in his studio, dated 2021.

Baliga working on a painting on a ledge in his studio, 2021. A still from a video by Sashikanth Thavudoz

Baliga working on a painting on a ledge in his studio, 2021. A still from a video by Sashikanth Thavudoz

A photograph of a mortar and pestle Baliga uses to grind rough pigments and a measuring spoon in Baliga’s studio, dated 2022.

A mortar and pestle Baliga uses to grind rough pigments and a measuring spoon in Baliga’s studio, 2022. Photo by Mahesh Baliga

A mortar and pestle Baliga uses to grind rough pigments and a measuring spoon in Baliga’s studio, 2022. Photo by Mahesh Baliga

Over the years, Baliga has developed the use of casein tempera—a quick-drying paint derived from milk protein—in paintings of all sizes. Though the artist has described his chosen medium as unpredictable, Baliga deliberately incorporates this mutability into his painting practice. “Traditionally, the colour is made earlier and these things are arranged before the painting is begun,” explains Baliga. “But I don’t do that. I mix the colours as I am painting.... It’s as if I start with a premonition of how things will go, but the feeling world of the painting has its own language, which will not listen to my predictions. This means that you have to initiate a dialogue with the colour.”

A casein on board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Flowering self, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Flowering self, 2022
Casein on board
13 x 11 inches (33.1 x 28.1 cm)
$6,000

“Caring as an idea often comes as a mainstay—there is a fear of not being able to attend to the pain of others. Sometimes things happen and there is a regret of not acting right at that time and there is a desire to undo things; I reimagine situations like I wish them to be. I want to keep a close watch on my loved ones, there is a fear of losing them. But the condition of time only permits me to work on it mentally. The present time has made me forget how to greet and meet the people as earlier. An act which was right for one moment fails in another moment.”


—Mahesh Baliga

A casein on board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Aveek cutting nails, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Aveek cutting nails, 2022
Casein on board
11 1/8 x 13 inches (28.2 x 33.1 cm)
$6,000
A detail from a painting by Mahesh Baliga, titled Aveek cutting nails, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga, Aveek cutting nails, 2022 (detail)

Mahesh Baliga, Aveek cutting nails, 2022 (detail)

“[Looking at Mahesh’s paintings] was like learning to read auto-fiction—neither fully autobiography nor fully fiction—made by a generous but subtle and elusive writer for whom the reinvention of characters and situations, the retelling of dreams and myths, and allusion to other artists and their work were constitutive of the mystery, veracity and labour inherent in the actual making of images.”


—Aveek Sen, writer and curator

A casein on paper pasted board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Poet with ink on his pocket, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Poet with ink on his pocket, 2022
Casein on board
13 1/8 x 11 inches (33.2 x 28.1 cm)
$6,000
A casein on board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Banana Branch, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Banana Branch, 2022
Casein on board
24 7/8 x 17 1/8 inches (63.1 x 43.5 cm)
$12,000
A casein on board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Anniversary, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Anniversary, 2022
Casein on board
11 1/8 x 13 inches (28.2 x 33.1 cm)
$6,000

A number of “lap-sized” paintings, as the artist calls them, will be on view. Baliga arrived at the smaller format as a way to continue his practice as a painter while commuting back and forth from Surat, India, where for several years he held a teaching position at Veer Narmad South Gujarat University. Also on view will be a selection of larger paintings, which continue the artist’s characteristic and sustained observation of day-to-day life.

An Installation view of Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, dated 2022

Installation view, Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, 2022

 

Installation view, Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, 2022

 

A casein on board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Remembering Christo, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Remembering Christo, 2022
Casein on board
11 1/8 x 13 inches (28.2 x 33.1 cm)
$6,000

“There is always a negotiation between the act of making and what I feel. The small scale gives both the artist and the viewer a sense of intimacy, it creates a kind of nearness to the things that are distant. The experiences of a cold ice cream and an airy day, how to paint those sensations and translate them visually. The things one can’t have anymore have turned up as sensations. Something which you savoured physically is being tasted, ruminated through senses, and turned into a different plane of material: the paints.”


—Mahesh Baliga

A casein on board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Timepass, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Timepass, 2022
Casein on board
11 x 13 inches (28.1 x 33.1 cm)
$6,000
A casein on board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Diversion, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Diversion, 2022
Casein on board
11 1/8 x 13 inches (28.2 x 33 cm)
$6,000
A casein on canvas artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Coffin Maker, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Coffin Maker, 2022
Casein on canvas
49 3/4 x 73 5/8 inches (126.2 x 187 cm)
$35,000

“Painting enables Baliga to straddle serious subjects, banality, and deliberate humour while exploring the structures of visuality.… His works that are exhibited like a series do not construct a linear narrative, but instead portray various kinds of reversals, contradictions, references to time, and ideas of intertextuality.”


—Pooja Savansukha, The Hindu

A casein on board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Dream, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Dream, 2022
Casein on board
13 x 11 1/8 inches (33.1 x 28.2 cm)
$6,000
A casein on board artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Reader, dated 2020.

Mahesh Baliga

Reader, 2022
Casein on board
11 x 13 inches (28.1 x 33.1 cm)
$6,000
A casein on canvas artwork by Mahesh Baliga, titled Trees Whisper to each other whether we want roots, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga

Trees Whisper to each other whether we want roots, 2022
Casein on canvas
61 5/8 x 85 3/4 inches (156.6 x 217.7 cm)
$40,000
A detail from a painting by Mahesh Baliga, titled Trees Whisper to each other whether we want roots, dated 2022.

Mahesh Baliga, Trees Whisper to each other whether we want roots, 2022 (detail)

Mahesh Baliga, Trees Whisper to each other whether we want roots, 2022 (detail)

An Installation view of Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, dated 2022

Installation view, Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, 2022

Installation view, Mahesh Baliga: Drawn to remember, David Zwirner, London, 2022

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          Drawn to remember

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