Art: Sushaman Kadavil’s lens dextrously captures the flowing patterns of diesel emulsion

A few years ago, when photographer Sushaman Kadavil was travelling in a bus, it began to rain. He looked out of the window and was fascinated with a “vision”. Rain water had mingled with drops of diesel to create curious patterns in crazy colours. Sushaman kept gazing at them, trying to discern familiar forms. Even after he returned home, the vision remained with Sushaman. He undertook a mission of sorts, clicking pictures of random formations of oil on water.

Unexpected patterns

Days of observation and hard work later, Sushaman came up with a collection of over 400 photographs of oil in water. He set up a tank in his house, filled it with water and put in a few drops of diesel. What emerged, as expected, were exotic patterns in hallucinatory colours. He photographed them all, at different times of the day, and was overjoyed by the result. “This kind of photography is unpredictable, you do not know what the subject presents you,” he says. Sushaman has chosen 20 of his favourite photographs from the collection for the show.

‘Jalarekhakal’, at first glance, is a captivating assembly of colours on jet black canvas. But on a closer look, the abstract forms seem to rearrange on the canvas to form birds, a lithe woman, a microscopic vision of a cross-section of a plant stem… “These are what you make of them. I just clicked the pictures,” he says. All the photographs have been shot using a medium 40 D Canon semi-professional camera and mounted on canvas. They have not been manipulated with paint or any other photographic technique, Sushaman says.

He has conducted an exhibition of photographs by the same name in 2009. The pictures were taken at the Vypeen beach during the early hours of the day and late evening. However, they are not the conventional scenic snapshots, as one might expect. They resemble fine art. “A lot of people would not believe they were just photographs,” says Sushaman, who has won several awards at the National and State level for his photographs. “Why does one want to click photographs of what people can already see?” he asks. So, he trained his lens to the myriad things in nature, which the human eyes may not always see. The patterns formed on sand as the waves recede; ripples on the water’s surface, shells embedded in the sand, the photographs celebrate the purest beauty of nature. The show won him a lot of appreciation. The pictures were taken from a height of 7-ft, which add to the effect.

The ongoing show, too, has been given the same title as it explains Sushaman’s special relationship with water. He hails from Vypeen, “which is surrounded by water, but still has no drinking water”. “It is this connection perhaps that appears as a leitmotif in my works.”

He believes it is only recently that photography has acquired the status of an “art”. Also, mobile phones and digital cameras revolutionised photography. So one needs to explore the medium and try out the immense possibilities it offers. “I am just urging people to look at things beyond what the ‘unseeing’ eye can see.” The total investment on the series, he says, is about Rs 70,000. “A lot of friends helped me put up the show. Though I take photographs for the love of art, I work as a freelance wedding photographer. That is what puts food on the table,” Sushaman laughs.

The show is on till April 6.