Solitude, society, synergy: NGMA Bengaluru presents a major retrospective of renowned artist Yusuf Arakkal

By Madanmohan Rao
October 15, 2022, Updated on : Sat Oct 15 2022 03:31:32 GMT+0000
Solitude, society, synergy: NGMA Bengaluru presents a major retrospective of renowned artist Yusuf Arakkal
In this photo essay series, we showcase some of the outstanding artworks of multi-talented creator Yusuf Arakkal (1945-2016).
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Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 645 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery, world music festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup 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.

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This showcase is the first-ever major retrospective of the renowned artist, with artworks spanning five decades. See our earlier coverage of NGMA exhibitions from 2015 onwards here.

The exhibition has been put together by the NGMA Bengaluru curatorial team and Yusuf’s wife Sara Arakkal, herself an art curator. See our earlier photo essay on Galerie Sara Arakkal in Whitefield, Bengaluru.  

Yusuf was born in Kerala in 1945 and passed away in Bengaluru in 2016. As described by the exhibition curators, he ran away from his native place as a teenager and launched his creative journey in Bengaluru. He studied at Chitrakala Parishath College of Art, and also became a technician at HAL.

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Yusuf described himself as a ‘figurative realistic painter,’ and has a huge body of works to his credit. Many of his works have been featured at festivals in India and overseas, spanning styles like oil, watercolour, graphics, collages, and sculptures.


In this photo essay, we showcase some of the artworks in copper, bronze, steel, wood, granite, terracotta, paper, and fibreglass. Yusuf’s international shows have been hosted at venues like Wallace Gallery, Dower Street, London; Air Gallery, Chelsea, New York; and Gallerie Taormina Dell'arte- Le Havre, France.


“He successfully established a style and he focused on figuration when abstraction was the order of the day,” his wife Sara Arakkal says, describing the early steps.

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Some of the artworks display his technique of restricted use of colours. Other works show how Yusuf departed from the solitude of human angst to celebrate the human form, especially the female body.


The exhibition showcases the following periods of Yusuf’s creative journey: Early works (figurative paintings), Wheels of life (socially-relevant works), Journey into solitude (re-discovery), Ganga: Of darkness and light (spiritual influences), and Tribute to masters (drawings of the art greats).


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

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One of the outstanding exhibits is Yusuf’s copper car, Arto Mobile. He transformed his first car, the 1956 model Fiat Millecento, into a sculpture.


Symbols from the ancient Egyptian and Indus valley civilisations have been added to the surface of the car. This is a metaphor for the age of technology and machines, the curators describe.

“Yusuf Karakkal left an indelible mark in the art world through his diverse creative pursuits and expressions,” sums up Nazneen Banu, Director NGMA Bengaluru.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new avenues to apply your creativity?

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


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Edited by Suman Singh