The Quintessential Artist

One would expect the winner to swoop in gracefully, collect the award, utter some pleasantries and return to his friends and family sitting amid the audience. But on Friday evening, as the winner of The Skoda Prize for Indian Contemporary Art 2012 was announced, one saw a frolicking LN Tallur go up on stage and between breathlessness and laughing say, "I really believe in jai ho rather than vijay ho. In jai jo, you challenge yourself, but not so much in vijay ho." This was Tallur's second consecutive nomination; he lost out to Navin Thomas last year. This time, he beat the likes of Shilpa Gupta, Srinivasa Prasad and CAMP to win the prize amount of Rs 10 lakh.

After many congratulations were showered upon him by friends, family and members of the art fraternity, the artist made some time to talk about himself and his work. "From one work to another, I wouldn't say there's been growth but there has been a sort of learning," he said, comparing his award-winning exhibition "Quintessential" to his previous works.

"When the economy was booming, people were talking about money and that's how the 2011 exhibition 'Chromatophobia' came about. The 2010 exhibition 'Apocalypse' had a machine that polished a coin. But people are greedy, so they polish in excess and the value gets erased. So, you make people think about reality and that is work as an artist for me," he adds.

His usual engagement with the past and his theory of the "fifth dimension" is evident in his award-winning works as well. "Quintessential" borrows from the elephant at the entrance of Rajabunder Jetty on Elephanta Island, believed to date back to 540 AD, which shattered to pieces in 1864 when the British tried to move it. His work has viewers engage with blocks of an incomplete model elephant.

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