The idea of exhibiting photography and painting under one roof has initiated an innovative endeavour with the intriguing name, Chapter One. Galerie Sara Arakkal in Bangalore began this new venture last month by displaying the work of photographers Rafique Sayed and Shibu Arakkal together paintings by artist Azis TM.

The gallery intends to high-light the worldwide recognition that photography has gained as a serious art form, and particularly to create an awareness in India of the value of art photography, as distinct from conventional commercial photography. Educating the public and helping them to understand that original photographic prints are collectibles to be esteemed., as is the case in the West, is another reason for showing photography on a common platform with the eclectic talent of young painters.

The gallery plans to organize such a show every year – hence Chapter One. The show will be on at Mumbai’s Gallery Beyond from August 4 to 14. So far the most usual response has been, ‘We can’t wait for Chapter Two!’

Sharlene Chatelier Das
Shibu Arakkal’s photographs inject laughter, irony, dialogues into a silent space. His camera smashes clichés. Twists boredom around to make it enjoyable. Freeze-frames the usual manner. A rock face, a champagne flute, a leaf, sand dunes, he photographs from near and from far and makes them all look intriguing, fresh, animated.

Chapter 1, the unusual group exhibition featuring veteran photographer Rafique Sayed, artist T. M. Azis and Shibu Arakkal and he recounts how it all came about. “I wanted to show-case five photographers with senior names like Rafique Sayed and Prabuddha Das Gupta as well as younger people like myself. The dates however didn’t work out and after waiting for over an year, I decided to do a smaller, more focused show. The idea to bring in a painter amongst two photographers came because I wanted to show people how related both these forms of art are.

“One of my biggest aims with Chapter One and the chapters that’ll follow is to make sure the photographic print is made collectable like paintings.” About inviting T.M. Azis to the show, he says, “Azis’ work bridged a stylistic gap between mine and Rafique’s works along with trying to deal with this whole idea of loneliness that’s common to all three of our works.” About his own evolution as a photographer, he says, “My work begins with an idea. I have only recently discovered that it doesn’t end with the completion of the work itself. My work itself tends to lean towards abstraction in form or idea.”

The stark frames bleached of all colour lend his photographs a certain dramatic quality. He agrees, “I don’t consciously differentiate between black and whites and colour although I feel an undeniable pleasure to work in monochromes. My usage of the black and white medium also reinforces two important aspects of my photographic style; minimalism and subtlety.”

On his diverse choice of subjects, Shibu comments, “My work has lingered on great architecture and the usually unnoticed surroundings in our daily lives. Also trees and plants. This year started with great new ideas and an effort to reach the next level in my work because I have always been restless and dissatisfied with whatever I have done.”

And somehow capturing the innate essence of life with a camera made more sense to him than wielding a brush like his father Yusuf Arakkal because, “For some reason I’ve always unconsciously done what nobody expects me to or done something contrary to what everyone thinks I should be doing. So while you expect him to enjoy the success of chapter 1, he is already planning the details of Chapter 2. And dreaming of the day when photography too will be treated with reverence usually reserved for ‘serious art’.

Reema M.Parashar
Shibu Arakkal, Rafique Sayed ans Azis T M open Chapter One, unique show of different art forms at Galerie Sara Arakkal.

First impressions are all important. The three artists of Chapter One seem to know this fact well as there is an art show that experiments with different art forms, having a common theme running through them.

It is but natural for the viewer to compare, when several artists work are on display. However the packaging of the show is brilliant enough to ensure that the work of one artist complements the other. The result ensures that the various elements unique to that art form shout out loud to catch your attention. For example, the vastness in Rafique’s works, the melancholy in Azis’ paintings and the clarity in Shibu’s photographs all hit the viewer immediately.

Rafique Sayed (photographer), Azis T M (painter) and Shibu Arakkal (photographer) have carefully selected their works to fit into the larger context of the mood they intend to create. “We worked on the show with the aim of opening minds and exploring possibilities by trying to wipe out boundaries,” says Shibu Arakkal.

He adds that the show is directed towards making photographic prints as much a collectible as a painting or a sculpture. As proof of the realization of this aim, day one of the show saw several photographs bought up by visitors.

“This is only an experimental effort and we hope to do this every year with different art forms. We may consider sculptures too. However photographs will remain constant always,” says Shibu.

One can experience the infinite in Rafique’s photographs. The desire to embrace life, the willingness to accept the power of the supernatural and feeling at home between the sky and earth; are features of his photographs.

Azis’ paintings reflect the cycle of life. In his works, there is a symmetry of man’s search for a comfort zone and the fact that man realizes he is alone after all. “The paintings exhibited here are mostly influenced by photographs. This collection depicts loneliness, but in different ways. In some paintings, I have created an optical illusion, broken images and a sense of mystery to say what I want to,” he says. Simply put, Azis paints simple forms in an abstract manner.

“It’s all about how you look at life,” says Shibu Arakkal of his photographs. His work is full of surprises. It could be staircase or a stem of a plant. Look at it from Shibu’s lens and a totally different perspective emerges. The play of light in his works bring out the unknown and it stares in your face.

“I have selected my best works for this show, but keeping in mind the overall theme. All my photos blend in with the theme of the show,” he says.

The show is on in Bangalore at Galerie Sara Arakkal (156, 4th Main, BEML Layout, ITPL Road) till Jun 20, after which Chapter One will move to Mumbai between August 4 to 14 at Gallery Beyond. For further details, contact 51162622.

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