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Inspired art

R. Madhavan Nair

Yusuf Arakkal recently won the prestigious Lorenzo De Medici Gold Medal at the Internazionale Dell'Arte Contemporanea in Florence.



ART ABD ARTIST: Yysyf Arakkal with a copy of his work 'Bacon's man with the child and priest.'

Yusuf Arakkal vividly remembers reading an article on Michelangelo in a Malayalam newspaper. "I was hardly 11 then. But I read that article a number of times, and that was how I became a fan of Michelangelo," the painter reminisced during a recent visit to Kozhikode to attend a reception hosted in his honour by VNM Diamonds and Open Eyed Dreams, art promoters.

Proud moment

It was a proud moment for Yusuf Arakkal, when he received the prestigious Lorenzo De Medici Gold Medal at Internazionale Dell'Arte Contemporanea in Florence. Michelangelo had lived and created many of his masterpieces in Florence.

Yusuf, who hails from Kottakkal, is now a resident of Bangalore. On this trip to Kozhikode, Yusuf opened his mind on his craft and art.

" I paint contemporary events that touch my heart," he said.

One recent event that moved him to produce one of his famous works was the communal riots that hit Gujarat. He was so moved by what he read in the newspapers that he took the next flight to Vadodara from Bangalore.

It was three days after the incidents that he reached Vadodara. Yet, he was in such a state of shock and grief that his friends put him back on the next flight to Bangalore. They feared he would get into trouble by speaking up.

Moving on to his award, he recalled that he and his wife had gone sightseeing in Florence as he had not expected to win any award. Incidentally, the artist had won a silver medal earlier. Only after he returned to the venue did he learn that his painting `Bacon's man with the child and priest' had been chosen for the Lorenzo - De Medici Gold Medal.

R.B. Bhaskaran, an artist and Chairman of the Lalitkala Akademi, was a member of the jury that selected Yusuf as the winner.

Speaking at the reception to honour Yusuf, he said that he felt proud when the jury chose Yusuf Arakkal's painting from nearly 2,000 entries from 72 countries. Prof. Bhaskaran felt that Yusuf's triumph in Florence signalled the emergence of Indian painters in the frontline of the international painting scene.

Said Yusuf about his award-winning painting `Bacon's man with the child and priest': "I have always found masters like Francis Bacon (English painter) fascinating. This painting features human forms, a boy sitting on a bar stool and a priest. There is an unmistakable element of defiance in the way the boy sits on the barstool. It is the mood, which I suspect can be found in my artistic personality also."

Hard times

Yusuf said that the hardships that he had endured as a teenager, living almost like an orphan in the urban wilderness of Bangalore, had sharpened and enriched his artistic sensibilities.

He had abandoned the comforts of a comparatively financially secure family to run away to Bangalore when he was very young .

Born in Kerala in 1945, Yusuf Arakkal has a diploma in painting from CKP College of Art, Bangalore and a one-year specialisation in graphic print-making at GHARHI - the National Academy's community studio in New Delhi.

His art, he pointed out, has always been an attempt to define human predicament. Yusuf has produced a large body of works consisting of drawings, paintings, sculptures, murals, paper works, prints and writings.

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