Balan Nambiar, born in 1937 in Kannapuram in Kerala, took a Diploma in Fine Arts (Sculpture-First class) from the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Madras, in 1971. He is a painter, sculptor, photographer, enamellist and researcher on the ritual arts of the west coast of south India.
He worked with clay, wood, bronze, mild steel, glass fibre 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 glassfibre 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 represented India at Venice Biennale (1982). He participated in Indian Triennale, Delhi, "Constructa-78" Hanover Industrial Fair, Germany(1978), Bronzetto di Padova, Italy (1981), Neo-Tantra Art by 16 Indian artists, Stuttgart and four other cities in Germany (1983); East-West encounter, Visual Arts, sponsored by Max Mueller Bhavan & NCPA, Bombay (1985).
He has held 35 solo exhibitions. The first was an exhibition of paintings in Thiruvanandapuram in 1966. In 1975 he held a solo exhibition of 24 garden sculptures in steel between 2 and 6 metres high in Bengaluru.
Several of his creative works are in the collection of NGMA of Delhi and Bengaluru; Govt. Museums in Jaipur, Bengaluru and Chennai; NCPA, Mumbai; Nehru planetarium Jawarlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Schientific Reaserch, Bengaluru; Ministry of Defence, Delhi, Salam Stainless Steel Factory, etc.
He conducted research on 27 different ritual arts of Kerala and Tulunadu and recorded over 10,000 photographs and about 150 hours of music. Around 1600 of his photographs have been acquired by the IGNCA, New Delhi.
Research papers by him were presented, since 1976, in seminars and conferences at four universities in Germany (Tubingen, Wurzburg, Heidelberg, Free University of Berlin); House of World Culture, Berlin, Rietberg Museum, Zurich and Venice University, Italy; IGNCA, India International Centre (four times), Indian Council for Philosophical Research, Delhi; National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai; MaxMueller Bhavan, (Madras, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad), National Institute of Advanced Studies and Mythic Society, Bengaluru, etc.
He received the Karnataka State LKA Award in 1980 and National Award of Lalit Kala Akademi in 1981 for his sculptures; Senior Fellowship of the Ministry of Culture in 1982-83 and Nehru Fellowship of Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund in 1983-85 for his academic research; Academy Fellowship of the Kerala LKA in 2005 for creative works and Kalaratna Fellowship of Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi in 2013 for painting and Raja Ravi Varma Puraskaram, the highest state award in the art category from the Government of Kerala in 2015.
He has been a member of the Central Advisory Board on Culture of the Ministry of Culture during 2008-2011, Executive Board of LKA, Apex Committee of the National Gallery of Modern Art and Central for Cultural Resources and Training of the MoC Delhi. He was the Acting Chairman of the LKA, Delhi, during 2012.
He has been conducting free art classes for children between the age of 6 and 12, once a week since 1971. Over 2500 children might have attended his art classes and over forty of them have taken to Fine Arts, Design or Architecture as their career.
ARTICLES ON BALAN NAMBIAR:
Guido Perocco: Former Director of Ca' Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art, Venice
From LaBiennale 82 catalogue
Nambiar, Balan (2015). "Veeralipattu, Valampiri Shankha, Kannadi Bimbam". Kottayam, Kerala State, India: DC Books. ISBN 978-81-264-5348-1(Malayalam)
Nambiar B. "Ancient Ritual Objects and Modern Sculptures: The Metal Mirrors and Valampiri Conches of Kerala". In History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization: Indian Art, Roddam Narasimha (ed.), pp. 407-422, New Delhi, 2011, ISBN:81-87586-49-4
Nambiar B. "The sky is the limit". In S. Pathy( ed.), Angarag, Bhubaneswar, pp. 94-98, 2010
Nambiar B. "Ritual, Mythos und Kunsthandwerk" (Rituals, myths and handicrafts). In: Johannes Beltz (ed.), Wenn Masken tanzen - Rituelles Theater und Bronzekunst aus Sudindien. Museum Rietberg, Zurich, pp. 19-55, 2009 (Main text with 34 photographs By BalanNambiar of Bhutas in the catalogue of the exhibition of Masks and Artefacts of Tulunadu, Rietberg Museum, Zurich, 2009)
Nambiar B. "When legends come alive". In T. Varghese (ed.) Kerala, pp. 242-243, Stark World, 2006
Nambiar B. "Masks in the ritual arts of the west coast of southern India". In S.C. Malik (ed.) Man, Mind and Mask, IGNCA, New Delhi, 2001, pp.267-271, ISBN:81-7305-192-5
Nambiar B. "Teyyam, the Ritual Performing Arts of northern Kerala". In History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization: Indian Art, B.N. Goswamy (ed.), pp. 265-277, New Delhi, 2000, ISBN:81-215-0904-1
Nambiar B. "Breasts in Indian Mythology, Iconography and Folklore". In A.M. Pluchinotta (ed.) Incanto e Anatomia del Seno, Charta (ed.), Milano, 1997, ISBN 978-88-8158-134-4 (Italian) and in S. Pathy( ed.), Angarag, Bhubaneswar, pp. 15-19, 2008
Nambiar B., "Monument to the assassinated and Resurrection of Janaki". In A. Mukhopadhyay (ed.) Art and Nature, Lalit Kala Contemporary - Vol 42, New Delhi, 1996
Nambiar B., "Photographing Teyyam" and "Teyyam". In Kerala Progress and Paradox, Indian International Centre Quarterly, n. 2 and 3, pp. 132-142, 1995
Nambiar B. "Tai paradevata: Ritual impersonation in the Teyyam tradition of Kerala". In H. Bruckner, L. Lutze, A. Malik (ed.) Flags of fame, Studies in South Asian folk culture, pp. 139-163, South Asia Books, 1993, ISBN 81-7304-049-4
Nambiar B. "Teyyam", A. Frenz Herman Gundert, Suddeutsche Verlgsgesellschaft, pp. 255-258, Ulm, 1993, ISBN:3-88294-186-3 (German)
Nambiar B., Fisher E. "Patola / Virali pattu - from Gujarat to Kerala", Peter Lang ed., Asiatische Studien 41,2: 120-146, 1987
Nambiar B. "Gods and Ghosts - Teyyam and Bhuta rituals". S. Doshi The performing Arts Marg,Guest Editor - VK Narayana Menon, Bombay, 1981, pp 62-73
Nambiar B. "Art as a Ritual in Rural Environment" and "A Comparative study of Teyyam and Bhuta rituals" In Teyyam, Sangitha Nataka Academy, Tricchur, 1977 (Malayalam)
Articles/photographic features by Balan Nambiar have been published in: Dharmyug (Hindi); Mathrubhumi (Malayalam); Udayavani; Prajamata; Taranga and Sudha (Kannada); Kunstrepoprt and GEO (German); Gente Viaggi (Italian); Marg; Deccan Herald; Frontline; India Today; Sunday; Swissair Gazette; Wings of Gold (Malaysian Airlines); Namaskar (Air India); Rediscovering Karnataka; IIC Quarterly of India International Centre; New Delhi; Art India; idi; a+d; Inside Outside; Architecture + Design; Creative Mind; etc.