Review by The New Indian Express Daily

(On Unni Pulikkal’s exhibition ‘Rhapsody in Abstraction’)
The New Indian Express news service
First Published : 14 Sep 2009 12:02:00 AM IST
KOCHI: A fine blend of photographic technique and aesthetic imagination. The result? Photographs with a pictorial quality. Each photo taken by Unnikrishnan Pulikkal displayed at the exhibition titled ‘Rhapsody in Abstraction’ is a painting in itself. Leaves, flowers and other aspects of nature acquire artistic appeal when captured in microscopic detail. Not surprising, as the photographer, who is incidentally a practising doctor, has a background in fine arts.
“Fine art photography is something which has been experimented with a lot in the West, though not so much in India,” says Dr Unnikrishnan.’The Fern Abstract’ thus has a single fern leaf surrounded by moss and weeds. When captured in black and white, the photograph aquires a surreal quality.Most of the photographs are displayed in sets, which form a sequence. ‘The Ripple Abstract’ for instance, has a set of eight photographs, each of which is a study of ripples in the water shot at close quarters.All the shots were captured in a span of ten minutes, with varying exposure and colour combination. “The art of presenting different perspectives, that is the crux of my work,” says the photographer. ‘Flower in Motion Sequence’ depicts a series of small, bright orange flowers floating in the water, against the green leaves and the black water and has a sensuous quality. ‘Evening Abstract’ and the ‘Birth of a Poem’ are experiments with colour, or rather experiments with light.Most of the frames have been shot during travel or from the photographer’s own garden. “Only very few have been captured on purpose, the Bird Sequence being one,” he says.The sequence has a set of four photographs of birds, one of a real bird, the second of a clay bird, the third of a black and white photo of a glum looking cement vulture, and the fourth a caged macaw against the backdrop of a painting of a family obviously on the way to a picnic. The upbeat mood of the family presents a stark contrast to that of the caged bird, which has an expression of wide-eyed terror.The photos have been printed on 100% cotton archival paper, using pigment- based ink, such that they will last for more than a century, without losing the original colour or saturation.
Doctor,photographer, nature lover
Asha Prakash
First Published : 19 Sep 2009 12:16:00 AM IST

KOCHI: It is not often that you come across works of art that capture your attention and your senses, which stand out from the rest. One can say that Unnikrishnan Pulikkal’s works choose to present nature, and life, at their calmest and most beautiful.

Dr Unnikrishnan Pulikkal is better known in photographers’ and artists’ circles as the director of the Butterfly Art Foundation, the NGO which promotes visual arts, based in Thrissur; the photographer whose catalogue of Butterfly Photographs – Damsels From Heaven – was exhibited at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Ohio, US, first for an Indian; who was featured among the top ten wildlife photographers of India in 2007 by the Better Photography Magazine; whose works have appeared in magazines like Times Journal of Photography, Discover India, Naturalli Magazine; who has conducted innumerable photo and art exhibitions all over the country and outside.

Not many know that he is a qualified doctor from Thrissur Medical College who still practises six days a week. Not surprisingly, Dr Unnikrishnan is self-taught in art and photography. As to how he manages to find time to devote to his profession and to his hobby, he says, “I have always been an introvert and generally don’t spend much time on anything other than the two.” Dr Unnikrishnan grew up in the scenic village of Chettichal, ‘when it was still untouched by civilisation,’ in his own words. “My companions were birds, butterflies and bees,” he says. All the beauty and greenery obviously had a strong impact on him, for most of his works have a touch of nature, even now. Being the only son of his parents and artisitcally inclined, he soon started experimenting with drawing. “I couldn’t afford a camera those days. I bought my first SLR camera much later, when I was around 30.” Being an avid traveller helped too. Dr Unnikrishnan has made trekking expeditions to all scenic spots of Kerala. In fact it was the images which he captured during such sojourns to the Western Ghats which later found their way to the Butterfly Photographs exhibition at The Cleveland Museum.

His tryst with art which began with painting went on to nature and wildlife photography and recently to fine art photography, where the line between painting and photography blurs. Currently, a collection of Dr Unnikrishnan’s fine art photographs are exhibited at the Chaitanya Art gallery, Kochi, titled ‘Rhapsody in Abstraction.’ “I would prefer to describe them as art for which I have used photography as a medium,” he says. Herbert Ascherman, reputed photographer and platinum print maker in the US, was a major influence on him in this genre. He hopes to offer even better contributions to the world of Fine Art Photography and at some point turn to art full time. However, for all his international acclaim, he still prefers to live at Kodaly, very near his native village, with wife Sandhya and parents. He works as administrator and Chief Medical Officer at a Primary Health Centre there. His reason for this is simple – he cannot separate himself from nature and its beauty. In his website, he says – My life is so simple!…Maybe I am wrong. Maybe the way Nature expressed itself to me was such that it appeared misleadingly innocent and deceptively transparent.Yet, my life remains simple and beautiful.
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