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Book Review
‘Art of Looking Sideways’: A treatise on visual thinking
Art can be anything and everything…so thinks artist Bose Krishnamachari, who sees it in everything, including fashion, design and architecture. Curiously, this is the guiding principle that navigates ‘The Art of Looking Sideways’. The book seems to echo the celebrated Indian artist’s belief that an artist can be inspired by anything, anytime.

In everything around, you can find (out) art. It’s up to you when and how you pick it up. If you are aware of it, you can enjoy the process of discovery. “I am a watchman. I watch everything from an artist’s eye and look for art in everything,” Bose has stated. Indeed, a piece of art can originate from any ubiquitous object if blended with right intent and intentions. The thought also apparently has inspired the author of ‘Art of Looking Sideways’.

Alan Fletcher, the master designer-artist, has been an avid collector of images, quotations and scraps of useless information that catch his fancy. This wonderful work distills his captivating collection of ideas into an entertaining and quirky compilation. He terms it as ‘a journey without any destination’.

The book unveils a mind-boggling database of anecdotes, curious facts, quirky quotations, intriguing images, oddities, and random memories - all concerned with the intriguing interplay between the visual and the verbal. It explores such fascinating subjects as illusion, perception, and creativity. In the process, it provides a peep into the realm of visual intelligence and limitless resources of the human mind.

India’s noted contemporary artist Baiju Parthan is particularly fond of this amazing compendium, offering tidbits of knowledge and information plus graphic design elements, all presented in an engaging manner. According to him, it’s a book that has no beginning or end. It loosely strings together intriguing ideas and assumptions on art. He adds, “Open it on any page and you’re drawn into its flow and content. I flip through it every once in a while and still find it as engaging and fresh as when I first laid my hands on it."

The volume, ideally to be read at random, is arranged in more than 70 chapters. The material that forms part of it is presented in an inventive series of pages, offering masterly demonstrations of the expressive usage of space, color and imagery. Explaining its purpose, an editorial note to ‘The Art of Looking Sideways’ states: “It does not really set out to teach lessons. The book is full of wisdom and insight collected from all across the globe. The author has distilled a lifetime of experience and reflection into a brilliantly witty and inimitable exploration of such subjects as perception, color, pattern, proportion, paradox, illusion, language, letters, ideas, creativity, culture, style, aesthetics and value. The compilation is entertaining and inspiring to those who relish the odd and the unexpected, and who enjoy the interplay between word and image.”

‘The Art of Looking Sideways’ offers cultural and historical observations and insights, apart from staggering amounts of trivia on the subject matter. In one typical section, called ‘Civilization’, the reader encounters six Polish flags that are designed to represent the world, drawings of Stone Age pebbles, a painting of ‘Ireland -as seen from Wales’, a photo of an anthropomorphic handbag, plus an of quotes and snippets of information, including Gandhi's comment, ‘Western civilization? I think it would be a good idea’.

The thought-provoking volume illustrates the author’s broad frame of reference set against a background that encompasses art, design and literature from pre-history era to the present day. ‘The Art of Looking Sideways’ is a reservoir of elegance, wit, and inspiration. As a critic has aptly remarked: “This stunning book cannot be read, but only experienced.” The document serves as an informative resource to understanding the nuances of visual awareness.