Abstractions reign supreme and the black and white world reflects a softly rendered rhythm of tonalities. Uma Nair meets Shibu Arakkal who contents in his world of grey

Spending a day in Bangalore with artist Yusuf Arakkal proved to be a doubly rewarding experience. I use the word doubly because other than spending one’s time in the artist’s studio among his magnificent canvasses of The Kerala series, one was also able to discover the work of photographer Shibu Arakkal, the son of Yusuf.

Youthful to the point of looking like a schoolboy, Shibu picked up photography at the age of 17 just as he was finishing school. Having lived a life watching his father paint, and looking at the art world in general has given Shibu an aesthetic advantage. Naturally when he look out his black and white shots that were getting ready for a show at Sakshi, the delight was immeasurable. Judging from a large blow up of a shot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris taken with his Hasselblad, it was apparent that Shibu had an indepth bias towards architectural facades and the tectonics of scale in any city.

In his unusual collection of photographs there is indeed a certain resonance-a cameo quality of visual intentions and expressional evocations. Abstractions reign supreme, and so the black and white world has the quality of reflecting a softly rendered rhythm of infinitely tender tonalities.

“The idea of doing pictures that have an abstract as well as animate quality is what drew me to photography,” says Shibu. “Black and white as a medium has deeply interested many photographers, some of whom have been my inspiration. I guess, I have grown in this medium because of the surrealistic feel it possesses and the subtlety that it can so poetically capture.”

When asked what category his works would fall under he simply said, “These pictures would fall under the stream of art photography.” Artistically speaking, it is the approach to the subject, the subliminal quality of looking at its oblong angularity that makes the works art like. Whether he zooms in a façade if a haveli or a street scape in Europe, it is the accuracy of tonality and the intensity of modulation that imparts a mystery to the atmosphere created.

In one shot of sand dunes there is indeed a Edward Weston like quality of sheer texture that symbolises the expansive majesty of terrain. In the angular shot of the Eiffel there is a buoyancy that is inspired, there is also a deep emotion that wells up in the eyes of the viewer. The interplay between the darker and dimlit spaces displays a fine sense of understanding.

“My pictures try to find a simplistic approach to the subtleties that lie around us. This is also the first time I have tried to do montages and the large sizes of some of the works are an identity of myself. These works have followed a more stylized and concentrated idea of work and pursued only black and white compared to earlier works in colour.

“I have made a deliberate effort to create and maintain the individuality of each work in its style and character and thought. Having seriously followed art in general and the work of few artists in particular, over the past few years, my work takes its inspiration from many but I strive to find an innovative but minimalist niche.”

The minimalist mooring is aptly visible, so is the fact that gradations in subjectivity come from a similarity in intent with father Yusuf Arakkal. Specially because Yusuf too creates works that are so intrinsically architectural in terms of textures and tonalities in colour. But like Yusuf who marries abstraction to realism Shibu too blends the elements of the numinous to the subjects of realism and creates an enticing array of dimensions with a alternate spectrum of prismatic perspectives. Large montages remind you of the greatest of shutter bugs in the west who made silver gelatin prints to give us images for posterity.

The show abounds in an incisiveness that is insightful and intensely personal. The lyrical ambience created by each work will perhaps allow the viewer to get a window into the world of an upcoming and promising talent in the world of lenses and light.

Uma Nair
Shibu ArakkalImages of Europe – Reviews