Subin Kalarickal uses unconventional and unexpected means for artistic expression

It was during his third year of computer science engineering at the Government Engineering College in Thrissur that Subin Kalarickal decided that his real passion lay in art and design. The 24-year-old, who has been drawing and sketching since his school days, then decided to take up his interest in earnest and joined Saltmangotree, an advertising agency, to widen his portfolio, going on to create many unconventional works using materials ranging from salt and spices to coffee.

Subin, who hails from Kalloorkadu near Muvattupuzha, has always been open to new ideas, and it was a work that he did on a whim that launched him on his path of experimentation with materials. “I used to make artwork and upload them on Facebook as part of my job, and those would get a few likes, but the response would be lukewarm. Then one day, I spotted a vehicle belonging to one of my co-workers lying outside with its windows coated in dust. I used the dust as a canvas and made works depicting Che Guevara and Sachin Tendulkar, and when I shared those on Facebook the response was tremendous, so I started looking for more out-of-the box ideas,” says Subin.

He then began considering sand art, but was dissuaded because stable sand art is best done on fine quality sand which in some cases has to be imported. This roadblock caused him to try another experiment, and the result was a portrait of actor Mammootty created entirely out of salt. Subin used the same principle again when he was required to come up with a promotion involving spices, and went on to make a portrait of Jawaharlal Nehru on the occasion of Nehru’s birth anniversary by laying out spices and rearranging them to create the likeness.

While coming up with creative campaigns and designs to promote products is something he loves, Subin wants to go further and work on product design, something he believes his degree in engineering will help with. “I have always loved advertising art and product designing. Someday I plan to take up a design course, and as the seats available for these courses in India are not too many, I’m trying to create as versatile a portfolio as I can,” says Subin before describing one of his ideas, an iron box with a strap on top that allows the user to slide their entire palm into it for more precise movements.

One of Subin’s more recent materials of choice is coffee, and he plans to create a work using coffee (the beverage sans milk) on a canvas the size of a large room. The query about how many bags of coffee beans this endeavour may require is answered with a smile, “I have already used coffee to make a sketch of Rajinikanth to commemorate his birthday, and that received great reviews on Youtube, so I’m definitely going ahead with my larger project when the circumstances are right,” he says. A quick search on YouTube is all it takes to bring up a video of the work being created; with coffee being poured from a spoon to create artistic stains that come together to make up the actor’s face.

Apart from the work done within office walls, (literally, as the walls of the office he works at are covered in Subin’s artwork), he has also worked on a graffiti project that decorates the parking lot of the Pai Dosa eatery in the city, a project he worked on with some friends. Despite his proclivity for art in its various forms, Subin says he has had no formal training in the craft, and hopes to get better at what he does by getting admitted to one of the design courses available in the country.

Now that he has dabbled in doodles, graffiti, salt, spice and beverages, does he have any new projects on the anvil? The answer is given after some contemplation, almost as if he is visualising the work take shape, “I am considering arranging colour paper, like sticky notes, into a large work. Something that makes no sense if you are standing close to it, but slowly materialises as you step back and look at the big picture,” he concludes.

Subin’s work can be followed on Facebook at