Yusuf Arakkal was a Malayali painter based in Bangalore, India. He was born in 1945 at Chavakkad, Kerala. He passed away on October 4th, 2016 at Bangalore. His mother belonged to the royal family of Arakkal, the only Muslim royal family to have ruled Kerala and his father to Keyees, the well known business family based at Kozhikode and Thalassery. Both his parents died when he was young.
Possessed by a burning desire to be an artist, he enrolled at the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat, Bangalore, just to get a formal education although he was already a good artist. His early years of struggle to establish himself, his sensitivity to the social environment, the loss of human dignity in the face of harsh reality and a longing for peace have led him to say, “There is an anguished being, disturbed and in distress somewhere deep inside me. A human being who yearns for a meaningful existence. It is the human presence that arouses my attention and stirs my creative inner space. I have been committed through my work, seeking a definition of human situations.”
Yusuf Arakkal’s early paintings captured the lives of the city dwellers in abstract. Initially, he used a large amount of bright colours to depict their situation but with time his growing concern with social issues began to reflect in the colours he used in his paintings. Arakkal, through his art, depicts the everyday life of the outcasts in urban areas – their poverty, helplessness, dismal living conditions and their strength in the face of tragedy. Arakkal’s paintings are singularly expressionistic in style. In them one could trace the artist’s “deep concern for man and society. Set against a dark, oppressive background are the faceless figures of ordinary people expressing brooding loneliness and despair brought on by a society obsessively drawn towards material success where ordinary people have no place”. The artist concentrates on the texture of his canvases and gives them a grainy, rough surface, reminiscent of timeworn, peeling, cracked walls. The two-dimensional figures are introspective and haunting. He captures the poses and moods of humble people in stoic silence. His people are typical, eternally waiting characters caught in situations of conflict, contemplation or just a state of being. His experiments with three dimension have retained his obsession for texture. the granite murals, sculptures that pay homage to the machine and industry, are part of his experience of working in a factory.
Yusuf Arakkal received the prestigious Lorenzo De Medici Gold Medal, at Florence Internazionale Biennale, in Florence, Italy for his work Bacon’s Man with the Child and Priest. The award is instituted in memory of the great Florentine statesman Lorenzo de Medici. Yusuf had produced a large collection of miscellaneous works consisting of drawings, paintings, sculptures, murals, paper works, prints, and writing.
He had won several other awards including Karnataka Lalithkala Academy award in 1979 and 1981, a national award in 1983, a special award at the third Asian Art Biennale Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1986 and the Karnataka Lalithkala Academy honor in 1989 .