(B. 1980)
When People Become Priests ...Flag Becomes Feint
signed, titled and inscribed 'Balaji Ponna When people become priests ... flag becomes feint oil & soot on canvas Triptych each 24''x 96'' inches Baroda' in English; dated '2008' (on the reverse of the middle panel)
inscribed 'Top' (respectively on the reverse and right canvas side)
oil and soot on canvas, triptych
each: 61 x 243.5 cm. (24 x 95 7/8 in.)
overall: 184 x 243.5 cm. (72 1/3 x 95 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2008
Bose Pacia Kolkata, Kolkata, India
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Bose Pacia, Black Smoke: Balaji Ponna, exh. cat., Kolkata, India, 2009 (illustrated, unpaged).
Kolkata, India, Bose Pacia Kolkata, Black Smoke: Balaji Ponna, 27 February-15 March 2009.

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Felix Yip
Felix Yip

Lot Essay

Melding humour with a strong personal sense of national identity in his paintings, Balaji Ponna attempts to refashion old colonial cartographic maps into more commonly used imagery from the mass media such as billboards. Incorporating texts from a wide range of sources including advertisements and political slogans, Ponna explicitly suggests the manner in which he wants his works to be seen and read.

In this series, entitled 'Black Smoke', the artist uses soot to hide, reveal, highlight or simply decode specific facets in his paintings. One of the most significant works from this series, When people become PriestsKFlag becomes feint (Lot 1560) shows a large gathering of people holding anonymous white flags in a field after what appears to be a political rally. A small group of men work to wrap up and in a sense put away the national flag, while bottles filled with kerosene shoot into the sky like firecrackers; thereby completing the central wheel or 'Chakra' of the National symbol. In this work, Ponna questions the role of such symbols in a modern India, while suggesting that they have very little to do with the wider public and citizens of the country.

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