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NGMA Bengaluru presents a major retrospective of renowned artist Yusuf Arakkal

Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly column of Your story, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the previous 645 posts, we featured a arts festival, cartoon gallery, world music festival, telecom fair, millet fair, exhibition on climate change, wildlife conference, boot festival, diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) Bengaluru has launched a six-week exhibition titled Celebration of Solitude and Humanity – Yusuf Arakkal Retrospective.

This showcase is the renowned artist’s first-ever major retrospective, with works spanning five decades. See our previous coverage of NGMA shows from 2015 here.

The exhibition was put together by the curatorial team of NGMA Bengaluru and Yusuf’s wife, Sara Arakkal, herself an art curator. See our previous photo essay on Sara Arakkal Gallery in Whitefield, Bengaluru.

Yusuf was born in Kerala in 1945 and died in Bangalore in 2016. As the curators of the exhibition describe, he ran away from his hometown as a teenager and started his creative journey in Bangalore. He studied at Chitrakala Parishath College of Art and also became a technician at HAL.

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Yusuf describes himself as a ‘figurative realist painter,’ and has an enormous body of work to his credit. Many of his works have been featured in festivals in India and abroad, spanning styles like oil, watercolour, graphics, collages and sculptures.

In this photographic essay we present some of the works of art in copper, bronze, steel, wood, granite, terracotta, paper and fiberglass. At Yusuf’s international fairs have been hosted at venues like Wallace Gallery, Dower Street, London; Air Gallery, Chelsea, New York; and Taormina Dell’arte Gallery – Le Havre, France.

“He managed to establish a style and he focused on figuration when abstraction was the order of the day,” his wife said. Sara Arakkal said, describing the first steps.

Some of the artwork displays his technique of restricted use of colors. Other works show how Yusuf emerged from the solitude of human anguish to celebrate the human form, especially the female body.

The exhibition presents the following periods of Yusuf creative journey: Early works (figurative paintings), wheels of life (socially relevant works), Journey in solitude (rediscovery), Ganga: Of darkness and light (spiritual influences), and Tribute to the masters (drawings of the greats of art).

Other phases to understand Still life… with momentum (international explorations of urban notions), divine sacrifice icon (series on Christ), Celebrating feminine grace (strength and spirituality), Faces of creative loneliness (pen drawings by Indian artists), The power of lines (travel sketch), and Where man meets machine (inspired by his experience at HAL).

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One of the most notable exhibits is Yusuf’s copper car, ArtoMobile. He transformed his first car, the 1956 Fiat Millecento model, into a sculpture.

Symbols of ancient Egyptian civilizations and the Indus Valley have been added to the surface of the car. It is a metaphor for the age of technology and machines, the curators describe.

“Yusuf Karakkal has left an indelible mark on the art world through his various activities and creative expressions,” summarizes Nazneen Banu, Director of NGMA Bengaluru.

Now what have you done today to take a break from your busy schedule and find new avenues to apply your creativity?

(All photographs in the exhibition were taken by Madanmohan Rao on location at the gallery.)

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