How much shadow and how much light is in us?
Off the shadow is, in itself, a title quite explanatory of the intentions of an artist who works with an art that by “writing with light” derives its name. We do not always remember, in fact, that photo-graphy, literally means “writing with light” and that logically, if we speak of “reading” of the image we should also speak of “writing” too.
The theory of perspective, expressed in the drawing, and the theory of shadows, expressed in light and darkness, are contributions that Italian art gave to the Universal art putting in the space and time the image content, but because art is universal, we find that the traditions of ancient civilizations have come to create an understandable language over and above the determinations of space and time.
The images are read in the tradition of Italian critics, because they originate inside a communication system that is (exactly) a real language, with its rules and its syntax; it seems obvious, but not to everyone, that the respect of these rules is not sufficient to make a work of art, but what is important is the content that the artist wants to communicate and how many of these messages, the others receive.
It is not off topic to remember that, from the ancient times, India was always considered the alternative and, at the same time, a reference for the Mediterranean civilization. In fact in towards India was always directed the desires and efforts to establish a more constructive contact and one of more intimacy. Shibu Arakkal is proof of the correctness of this desire.
The ease with which Shibu Arakkal manages the image, in his photos, is a big help for the spectator (or enjoyer if you prefer) in the acquisition of the meanings that are expressed from these same photos, but we must immediately make it clear that this way of speaking with photography is so fluid because upstream there is a large inner work, which certainly must have cost the author a great effort and a steady application to refine its sensitivity and capacity; if we also add the study, to achieve a wonderful technique, everybody can well understand that the viewer enjoys without effort, without realizing it, through a very big and heavy work of an other.
We think that it is correct to have explained it, because the “writing with light” made by Shibu Arakkal becomes, in this exhibition, writing “from the shadow” and not “off the shadow”.
Let us be clear, Shibu Arakkal does not just read and let us see what is, more or less, hidden in the shadows, but he starts from the shadow, even conceptually, to make us live a reality that in the relationship between light and shadow that reflects our relationship with reality, or at least a possible relationship, although we do not feel this to be ours. This relationship is not only exterior, but also and above all internal, psychological, rather of the soul than of the body and it is this what makes artworks of these photos. The structure clear and highly significant of his photographs is expressive of this inner reality. However we believe that everyone in the audience will find the correct topic to meditate and find something of themselves in the Shibu Arakkal’s photos, as art is art also because its discourses are basically universal.
For us Italians, are classic the images in which the sand builds with its lines a precise and timeless structure like life, but it is at this point that Shibu Arakkal surprises us, in the transition between shadow and light, transferring the view of reality in terms of vision, from the world of the ascertaining to one of the internalisation of the experience.
Within us lives his world of contrasts between the “modern” highlighted by the geometric rationality of current architectures and the traditional property of his cultural heritage, which seems much human in its forms and in its elegance, soft and liveable, with its own personality, as if it were human and living on its own form. And we accept and live this feeling as if we were together with the author even if in a reflective plane.
Through the reciprocal relationship between light and shadow we live in this last dimension while we are dreaming of the other. The light is always given to us in a purely intellectual sphere: the memory, the regret, the desire or the dream.
Just with a little sensibility more by the enjoyer, just a little bit, we can understand it because these images have within themselves the ability to take us where Shibu Arakkal wants.
Art historian, critic and former professor of the History of Styles,
Academy of Fine Arts, Frosinone, Italy
Belforte del Chienti, Marche, Italy (but could be anywhere), May 2012.