Review by The Hindu (India’s National News paper since 1878)

(On Unni Pulikkal’s exhibition ‘Rhapsody in Abstraction’)
Monday, Sep 21, 2009

Where distinct frames form a perfect sequence

One expects a photographic exhibition to be essentially mimetic, or a composition really or an interpretation of a visual element that the photographer has encountered. ‘Rhapsody in Abstraction’, an exhibition of photographs by Dr. Unni Krishnan Pullikal is on Chaitanya Art Gallery. The exhibition concludes on September 30.

But with ‘Rhapsody in Abstraction’, Dr. Unni Krishnan Pulikkal turns painter-photographer. Most of the photographs at the exhibition are in sequences, of course there are individual frames too. But some of the most striking photographs are part of the sequences. These photographs seem to assume another dimension, they become philosophical, meditations really. ‘Sound of the universe’, therefore, a sequence of four photographs is contemplative. A combination of still life and nature photography, there are droplets of water on a tendril, poised to drop and then there is a bell. All those lectures on Keats’ ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ come rushing back. The photographs manage to capture and convey silence and sound, the conflicting dualities of time and timelessness are presented photographically. The images, in that sense are constructed. “I work on an idea, and then consciously make an image. The pictures are based on specific concepts,” says Pulikkal.

The conversation then veers to the very nature of photography, of the photographs on show. This is not photography but fine art photography, “fine art photography is the use of photography as a medium to create a work of art. It is different from photojournalism in that sense,” Pulikkal elaborates. Photography then ceases its documentary role and becomes a painting. Inspiration came in the form of Ansel Adams one of the pioneers of fine art photography in the 40s and 50s.
Composite story

In the photographs time zones, the real and the unreal, geography all merge to form one uniform whole. As is evident in ‘The Bird Sequence’, photographs taken at different times, in different places merge to form a composite story. Pulikkal started out with painting as hobby, and then moved on to fine art photography via nature photography. That exposure to nature photography, Better Photography magazine voted him among the top 10 wildlife photographers in India in 2007, he acknowledges has given him that keen eye or the inner third when it comes to see the potential of a naturally occurring scene.

At times, as any passionate photographer would know, the photographs take enormous amounts of patience and persistence for instance, the sequence ‘Ripple Abstract’ where nine shots have been selected from around 20 shots to tell the story. Each of the photographs or sequences have been thought of and composed like an artist would a painting.

Dr. Pulikkal is a paediatrician who practises in Kodali (Thrissur). He is member and associate of Royal Photographic Society, United Kingdom and is also the founder director of Butterfly Art Foundation, an organisation that promotes visual arts. He has exhibited his photographs of butterflies at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.