The Off-Side View of Soccer and Survival Stories

Artist CS Sanal’s work pays a tribute to the motion, sportsmen, team-spirit, violent streak, anguish, anxiety and struggle inherent in the world’s most popular sport.

Published: 16th February 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th February 2014 01:44 PM   |  A+A-

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Soccer is closely connected to man’s primitive urge for survival,” says young artist Sanal C S. When Sanal was working on his series of paintings, Scissor Cut, the players of Kerala were his muse. The 24-year-old artist could easily compare their team spirit, violent streak, anguish and anxiety to the struggles of an ordinary man for survival. Scissor Cut is a collection of 20 works done by Sanal over the past two years. Painted in bright shades, the works reflect the exuberance of a young mind. Since soccer is the central motif, young players, with long hair, expressive features, dusky skin and colourful jerseys are recurring images in many works.

Surprisingly, some of the figures have a stark similarity to the lanky artist from certain angles. “These images are of myself,” says Sanal, with a smile. “Just as this sport is a means of survival for this youngsters, I rely on art as my medium of expression.”

Sanal feels that soccer is an expressive game which provides the players a chance to be themselves. “It comes to them naturally,” he says. “In that sense the game is an art in itself.”

Pointing to the dusky skin of the players, he talks about the native flavour that has been the strength of the game globally. “Haven’t you noticed the acumen of the sportsmen from the lower strata of society?” says Sanal. “I wanted to give them space in my works.”

A striking work  questions the distinction of human beings from animals. A lion-faced jersey-clad man with a cross around his neck and a wild, piercing look, is seen standing near a cactus tree. The work has a connect to the God-animal-human being relationship. “We usually attribute wildness to animals,” says Sanal. “But in reality, man is no less similar. He, too, has a violent streak that comes out when he is unable to survive.”

Speaking about the inspiration behind this particular work, the artist remembers seeing a play called An Italian Odyssey which was staged at the Thrissur Theatre festival. In this play, a middle-aged couple embarks on an adventure through Italy. “This is a work which demonstrates the idea I wanted to convey through the show...The dual existence of evil and virtue within the same person.”

In one of the works, a dusky man with bright curls is glowing with joy. The works convey the idea of doing one’s best. “I can only play, and it is the audience who should progress,” says Sanal.

The body language is a characteristic feature of the images. Since the works picture sportsmen, they are always seen in motion. In some works, the players are moving topsy-turvy, as if trying for a scissor-cut shot. Hair is another feature that will draw your attention. In some paintings, the curls are like bubbles, while in others they appear like trees, bee hives and even a halo.

The artist has given careful attention to details in objects and figures, like a jackfruit with minute thorns. Sanal attributes the passion for detailing to lessons he once learned at a camp organised by the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi. “I met the artisans who practice Madhubani, Gond and Kalamkari styles at the art camp,” he says. “Those ethereal works were my inspiration for doing minute details and round figures.”

Along with the paintings, there are 40 works of scribbling. “I first do the scribbling and then concentrate on the larger canvas,” says Sanal about his style.

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