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Reading legends

Yusuf Arakkal pays tribute to the great masters of art in his inimitable style


WHEN YUSUF Arakkal unveils his recent works on paper titled The Book, it will be a book release of a very a different kind.

But then, the well-known painter is no stranger to such innovations. In 2001-02, Yusuf had released My Book Of Reference, comprising a series of paintings as his personal tribute to the great masters of art. Creatively interpreting the works of chosen artists, Yusuf had juxtaposed his characteristic tones and textures to piece together some lively images and imaginative compositions. One could, for instance, view Francis Bacon's study of Lucian Freud alongside Yusuf's own portrait of Muniswamy. Edward Munch's nude with crossed hands and striking eyes had for company an old Indian woman seated on a cot. Amedeo Modigliani's voluptuous woman reclined on a charpoy, while Vermeer Johannes' lace maker seemed lost to the world under the soft play of light and shade. Picasso's man with goat shared the agony of Ramu, who stood bemoaning his lost sheep. Vincent van Gogh's self portrait, boots and chair became objects of reverence as Alberto Giacometti's attenuated sculptures of solitary figures, while Paul Gauguin's youthful Tahitian damsel and Paula Modersohn Becker's pregnant woman had their own tales to narrate.

The Book is an extension of the same concept, where Yusuf has transformed some of the images of his favourite artists on paper in his own inimitable style, and incorporated his own similes like the brooding Mahatma, a young Kuvempu and anonymous street children. The images have been distorted, blurred, camouflaged to heighten the dramatic content and visual communiqué. Alongside the pictorial profiles are signs and symbols — often seen as perked up marks, blots and slashes — and subdued pieces of written word in indistinguishable languages. Predominantly in black and white, the works — seen individually and collectively — bear the façade of striking metaphors of printed illustration.

The Book is being previewed at Galerie Sara Arakkal at 7 p.m. on February 18 before moving to Mumbai.

ATHREYA

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