A catalogue and an exhibition of Padamsee's work

A new book of works on paper done by one of India's most renowned contemporary artists Akbar Padamsee is a perfect example of immaculate documentation. Pundole Art Gallery has published an authentic and exotic book of the artist's work with an obvious idea of keeping a record and reference for the art lovers and collectors.

The painter over the last several decades has worked on paper extensively using a variety of mediums such as charcoal, ink and acrylics. The book release also marks the opening of the exhibition of Padamsee's works on paper on November 9 at the Pundole Art Gallery. Kali Pundole founded the gallery in 1963 (His son Dadiba now runs the gallery.) The Pundole Gallery's first group show was a large-scale gathering of works by Ara, Arakkal, and others. Since its inception, the gallery has introduced several young artists apart from showcasing the work of senior painters. Padamsee is one of them.

Early Last year (January 6- 25, 2002) Pundole Gallery hosted a solo show by Padamsee. Dom Moraes then had mentioned: "Padamsee has often painted the nude female body. In a 1992 exhibition of watercolors, the woman shown, whose face was her own, without any artistic references, was sexually proud, triumphant, and joyous. But the woman in this exhibition is almost completely different: a naked Mona Lisa, scarred, abused, her cognizance of self taken away. The postures of her defeated body express some emotion halfway between shame and terror. Through the whole of the present exhibition, the changing shades of sepia, their delicacy and texture, create an impression of a sadness deep as a wound. A picture of Mahatma Gandhi also on display seems irrelevant to the rest only if we forget that Gandhi is an important influence on Padamsee."

As far as the present show is concerned, the prospect of the 'catalogue' of his work that excites the artist more than the show itself. It's a fantastic compilation of all his drawings and paintings on paper since the 1950s. A 'book' or a 'catalogue' (as Padamsee insists), whatever you may term it, it's a ready reckoner for his work.

The versatile artist was born in Mumbai, and studied at the Sir J.J. School of Art. He was a member of the Progressive Artists Group founded by F N Souza, S H Raza, M F Husain, S K Bakre, A H Ara and H A Gade In 1951. At the age of 22, he left for Paris. In 1965, the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation invited him to New York. He was later appointed an artist-in-residence at the Stout State University, Wisconsin, and held an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Montreal. In 1969, he received the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship, which allowed him to explore film as an alternate means of expression. He participated in several of the International Triennales in India and the Biennales of Sao Paolo, Brazil, Tokyo and Venice.

The more familiar of his body of works are the "metascapes", "mirror images", the figures and "heads"; he keeps going back and forth between them. The "metascapes" are a development from the landscapes. The "mirror images" show his concern with the duality of existence, of form and space. The figure is treated not as an individual, not even in the "heads" where the association with portraiture is even stronger. The only occasion when he has handled portraits, is in 1997, with the Gandhi series, done on paper with watercolors and charcoals.

Although he is best known as a painter, Padamsee has experimented with filmmaking, sculpture, and writing as an art critic. The 75-year-old artist is still busy with several projects, including moving house. He has constantly experimented and employed technology in his work; he has done computer graphics and has used a grid system on his canvas.

For Padamsee, digital art is not just reproducing the works on computer. He added to say, "I have not used the mouse to draw. I only use it to select, to pinpoint. I like geometry. I thought I would use equations. I thought I would generate forms. One way to do this was to superimpose two forms.

What I tried to do was explore geometrical forms. All the forms were based on the mathematical equations that I had fed into the computer. I wanted to explore the new technology and not just reproduce the old. When I use the computer I am not drawing the image, but I am employing other artistic principles. Skill is important, but being an artist is not just about having technical virtuosity." Padamsee also believes that the Internet is a highly effective tool for selling art.

Though having stayed in Paris for long, he is equally attached to the city of Mumbai. His peaceful studio in the serene suburbs of Juhu overlooks the sea. "I just love the sea. I have to live somewhere where the sea is close to me. When I'm in Paris I miss the sea," he says. However, he is now moving out of his Juhu studio to Prabhadevi in South-central Mumbai.

The book of drawings and watercolors has text by the artist and Martha Jackimov, art writer. The exhibition at Pundole Art Gallery is a must-see one for all since it puts together drawings and small format paintings by Padamsee done over six decades.

View Akbar Padamsee's catalogue

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