Arguably one of the most enchantingly fascinating and mesmeric sights in the world is watching a large mass of water – be it a river or the ocean. It ever-changing quality is like a huge kaleidoscope of nature that changes every second and in turn changes everyone and everything that comes within its ambit – both metaphorically and actually.
Its generosity in allowing sustenance to flow out and in allowing even the unwanted to flow with it albeit temporarily is legendary. The really unwanted might flow with it for a while but either get left behind or submerge in it to the point where they become inseparable with its “intrinsic-ness”.
As the arrogant waters crash against the large boulders in the midst of the river, in a thundering bid to submerge and turn the rock to sand, one can’t help marvel at the sheer conceit of the water – or is it the rock that is conceited that it dares to stand in the way of the mighty river? The mere mortal is but an onlooker in this endless dance.
One artist who decided to flow with the river’s dance eternal is Yusuf, whose delicate imagery and highly refined sensibilities set him apart. His chosen idiom is abstract and he is one of the finest artists of the genre. An assignment took him to Uttarayan Art Foundation on the banks of river Mahi in Gujarat and the impact of the river has resulted in nearly 60 small and big works.
Since the Arabian Sea is only about 60 km from the river, the tides generate a lot of activity within the river, including very active whirlpools. The local belief is that the river Mahi comes to touch the feet of the Goddess at the Bhawani Temple and hence the large scale movement of water. For Yusuf, this interaction between the river and humans’ reaction is absolutely captivating.
Many of the works are the imprint of the prints and the forms allude to the linearity of both form and space. The lines are first printed on to acrylic sheets and he has used textile, metal, rice paper that has been sandwiched into polymer and acrylic to great effect. His wife Tabassum Yusuf also helped a lot to place the gossamer textiles correctly. “Some activities only feminine fingers can do”, Yusuf says respectfully.
Yusuf has an unbroken record of having a solo exhibition only when he has something new to share. “I am inseparably connected with abstract in thought, word and deed as part of my upbringing. We are constantly living with abstractions and we end up giving formal values to them. One can virtually see the whiff of the sound. The fact is abstractions are of already existing situations and it needs a different mindset to go beyond merely looking to actually seeing.”
And it is this ability of seeing things differently that has led Yusuf to explore vistas hitherto not ventured into by other artists. The conviction in viewing abstractions despite the “monopoly of figurative art” and persisting with his chosen path has led him to share his ananda or bliss like the old man river…