The Church has always been a great patron of art and artists. Countless masterpieces adorning churches and cathedrals all over the world stand a testimonies to the great tradition of christian art. Ever since the Second of Council Vatican there came changes in the church art, giving greater freedom of expression. This inevitably led to the flourishing of church art with respective regional flavours.
Balan was born in Kerala in the year 1942, in the small temple town Perumbavoor; he took his early lessons in art from the Cochin School of Arts and later graduated himself in fine arts. He left his home town at his youth, spent about two decades in Madras. Now he is permanently settled in Bangalore.
He roamed the country, doing artistic works on contract for companies and individuals at random, But his true vocation and passion were elsewhere. A few years later he found it in Christian art and iconography.
Christ, the guru on the facade of the Dharmaram Church of the CMI fathers in Bangalore embodies his approach to Christian art, depicting Christ as a teacher. The indianness of sitting posture and colours rendering blend well with the universality Christ image. The mosaic art of Christ, the guru is one of the earliest christian works of Balan; and truly a visionary depiction breathing the air of Vatican ll as early as 1969.
SECULAR / EARLY WORKS – AN ARTIST OF GREAT INGENUITY
Balan expressed his enrapturing beauty of art in purely secular works first. It was the years of struggle in pursuit of a career in art.
Balan’s yearning to get deeper and deeper into any subject is something remarkable. As a young artist he found natural and pure expression in Indian subjects.
In the capital city of Kerala, to embellish the Padmanabha theatre, Balan has visualised in Mosaic art the Kathakali expression of Lord Padmanabha, the chief deity of Padmanabha temple, which is adjacent to the theatre.
The Gopikas in Hotel Dwaraka, Madras.
The Geetopadesam in Jyothi Theatre, Madras.
The celestial nymph, Menaka in the menaka theatre, Kochln
The Dancing Folk at Hotel Ranga, Vellore.
— all reflect his fine grasp of the subject and originality in approach. In the medium of mosaic he expressed whatever theme is given to him with an eye for detail.
LIFE IN MADRAS — INTRODUCTION TO CHRISTIAN ART
Till i982 for almost 15 years Balan lived in Madras His great tale talent is versatile, varying from canvas to Mosaic, from metal to wood AND from sculpture to architecture based in Madras he got opportunities to execute the Christian works in different parts of the country – right from the North Rishikesh in the Himalayas to down south and even in Sri Lanka.
Thereafter Balan did more than 300 hundred works related to churches and religious institutions during his tenure in Madras.
He renovated the interior of the historic church at Negombo in sri Lanka. He also did the interior and the facade of the Cathedral in Port Blair the Capital city of Andaman Islands.
THE ARTIST ON THE MOVE
In 1983 Balan moved from the crowded city of Madras to Kothanur, a quite village in the suburbs of Bangalore. There he built Tapovan, brick by brick his studio (now his permanent abode) with a training centre for young artists- Kalakshetra, which was his long cherished dream.
There are about a dozen of disciples at present with him, learning different trades like sculptures, mosaic art, metallic art, painting, stained glass work and the like. There are many who have passed through his simple Gurukul styled institute.
His sister, Ponnammal is the only support and managing person Balan has with him all along in his lonely unending search_ and surge for genuine beauty and perfection.
LOVER OF NATURE
His love for nature is as passionate as his love for art. He nurtures a herbarium and garden in his courtyard and cares for a horde of animals at home.
Being in harmony with nature is visible in his life as a person and in his ap-
proach to people. He is truly a man of nature and of grace.
Balan has lent himself to painting passionately right through his in his career. Here painting – stations of the cross is (DB church, Mannuthy, Kerala) In extreme close up he tries to capture the agony and anguish of the Lord.
Though Balan is often identiﬁed with his characteristic mosaic art, the sculptures produced by him reveal his profound artistic talent than any other medium.
“The queen of the apostles” – is a unique presentation of the theme in the premises of the Shrine of St. Vincent Pallotti, Bangalore.
The visualization of “the song of creation” of Francis of Assissi is a recent relief sculpture with copper finish.
The gigantic relief sculpture measuring 125′ x 42′ in the Sanctuary of the St. Vincent Pallotti’s Shrine, Banasawadi, Bangalore — depicts salvation history from creation to the resurrection as a background to the 45′ high Resurrection figure and the Christian Community gathered in worship.
The Sculptor in Balan is clearly seen in the peculiar forms and shapes of altars and tabernacles he has given shape in wood, stone and metal in different churches.
Balan also works with the medium of metal. The peculiar metallic ﬁgures and images, cast in his studio are yet again a manifestation of his multifaceted talent.
Another medium in which Mr. Balan is well versed is the traditional stained glass. With meaningful designs in fabulous combinations of hues and shades he brings out a prayerful atmosphere in church interiors – whether small or big.
stations of the cross on windows, illustrations on side panels and designs of canopies. They are different in stylistic expressions, and each a unique masterpiece. The treatment is sometimes realistic and at times stylized. But all carry a touch of Indiannes in colour application and form.
The Architect .
The architectural talent in Balan is a natural extension of the artist in him. Hiclear detailed drawings for churches are proof of that architectural mettle and precision.He has designed and executed many churches.
The master of mosaic art
Though Balan works with many a medium, his mosaic art stands out as special and characteristic. it is a traditional medium seen in renaissance period of art in Byzantine and Europe. But rarely seen in India. But Balan somehow, took a liking to this medium and has executed world class works. Some German and Italian artists seeing the mosaic of Balan have marvelled at the detailed unique colour rendering with the limited resources available in our country.
THE SILENT MAN
Balan always kept a low profile; as a little known loner! detested hogging the limelight and media hype. He never put a signature on his paintings, mosaics or murals. He is little known as a person and loved his anonymity.
Balan, with all the strains of his early life and the minimum of facilities around to learn art in the country, is a self made man. He studied and searched and grew and matured in life and style all alone. His pursuit of learning is a never ending process. He is never satisfied with any of his works. He always feel it could have been done better. May be it is this insatiable thirst for perfection that make him a master of his medium. Balan is a visionary and dreamer, striving to achieve a rare found perfection in what he is doing . His dream that goes on and on….