Beneath the Coal-Tar

Published: 03rd September 2015 10:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd September 2015 10:24 AM   |  A+A-

As one walks into the Visual Arts Gallery in the heart of New Delhi, the first reaction is of intrigue. Splashed across the four walls are some of the most imposing works one has seen in recent times. But, it is not just the size of the canvas which holds you spellbound, it is the medium that artist Simran K S Lamba uses in his works that truly catapults the young filmmaker-turned-artist into spotlight.

Ben.jpgUsing the dark, viscous coal tar as his main medium, Lamba’s current body of work titled ‘Nouveau’ entails a collection of mixed media artwork on canvas, metal, wood and allied media.

Beneath.jpgAs one moves around breathing in the luminosity of one canvas after another, one realises that coal tar, as opposed to its innate organic dense format, has been given form, shape, structure and dimension on canvas, metal, wood and allied bases using a variety of ingenious methods. Sketches in tar resin, tar shaping into forms, figures and spaces and tar creating a multitude of surfaces and 3-D compositions through numerous distinct layers of treatment create a story in each canvas of art. Molten metal, metal sheets, copper dust, copper wires and plates, wax, wire and wire mesh, leather, ink, metal rivets and nails, ropes, metal discs, polishing agents, crayons and oil paint add to the narrative.

Art.jpgThe inspiration is as diverse as the techniques, styles and material used. An assorted range of subjects, from the non-representational to the figurative, from portraits to abstractions of landscape and animals, are some of the focal points explored in the body of work. The series on flamingos along with the series on divergent windows created with wood, copper wire and metal sheets lend the body of work a diverse expression. Renditions of divine imagery, scenes of valour and firecrackers juxtaposed with images that represent tranquil calm play muse to the artist’s varied style of amalgamating various media, forms and techniques. There are sculptural installations of coal tar filled iron works, inspired from the concept of Shunya or nothingness.

Bent.jpgLamba’s work includes an installation titled Unison that captures the architecture of the city through the depiction of an intricately adorned building metamorphosing into a tree, with its branches stretching out into the night sky. Two circular metal discs are used for depicting this unison, by being representative of the whole and unifying the two ideas into a singular form. The installation seeks to recreate the contemporary tree of life that hinges on both the natural and the man-made to carry evolution forward. Devi is another installation, where coal tar and mixed media are juxtaposed and come alive in the manifestation of the supreme, the female echo of the lord and the quintessential core of Devi.

As curator Uma Nair rightly points out, “Coal tar over canvas is a fascinating medium. This is show of larger perspectives and perceptions. It has propensities that are unimaginable and a surreal substratum that you want to get beneath.”

(Poonam Goel is a freelance journalist who contributes visual arts articles for

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