KOCHI: The bright, vivid colours in movie posters and typography always caught Unni Ullas’s eyes. When he was in college, bright reds and yellows of wall paintings made during election campaigns attracted him. It was then that Ullas picked up a pencil and started his tryst with art. The hobby soon became the centre of his life. While away from college for two years, Unni did nothing but paint.
“I wasn’t that good at studying. Before I found drawing, my dream was to be in a music band and play the drums. When I saw my seniors in college creating wall arts for elections, protests and college programmes, I wanted to try it. They taught me all I needed to know about art,” says Unni in his quintessential Fort Kochi accent over the phone from Warsaw in Poland.
In the backdrop of the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, he says things are seemingly normal there. “People fleeing Ukraine are being put up in Warsaw. There is some fear of war intensifying if NATO deploys its ships from here. Other than the slight hike in demand for groceries and other items, people in Warsaw are living a normal life so far,” says Unni, who is now pursuing art at Vistula University in Poland.
Unni’s art doesn’t reflect any turbulence, however. They are bright and beautiful. His fascination with everything pink is evident in his works, be it paid or personal.
“Between 2017 and 2019, I did nothing but practice art. Initially, I was recreating other artists’ works. Then I worked on movie posters for a while. For a few months, I did plein air art of Fort Kochi architecture. Soon, I started getting commissioned works at cafes in and around Kochi,” says Unni. But he was never satisfied and wanted to learn more.
“After I was debarred from Maharaja’s for my artworks during a protest when the principal’s chair was burnt in 2017, I was stuck at home. To make a living, I knew I could depend only on my drawing skills. That is when I started doing digital paintings,” says Unni. Now, the artist is working at an advertising agency as an illustrator while also pursuing graduation in art.
“I became an artist very late. I still feel like I am very new to it and have much to learn. So, between 7 and 11pm after finishing work and classes, I daily work on my paintings,” says the dedicated artist. He spends his weekends outdoors, soaking in the harsh winters and bright summers of Poland.
His works now are a fusion of European and Kerala styles — both techniques and colours. His meticulous detailing and unconventional palette — mostly shades of pink — makes his work stand out. A woman, her skin dusky like the dark cloud on a rainy day, the funny dog with a judgemental face, or the many veshams of Kathakali — all have their own character. “I want everyone to have a moment of peace and joy when they see my art,” says the young artist.