Akbar Padamsee and his journey in fine art

Akbar Padamsee (born 12 April 1928) is a contemporary Indian artist and painter, considered one of the pioneers in Modern Indian painting along with Raza, Souza and M.F. Hussain. Over the years he has also worked with various mediums from oil painting, plastic emulsion, water colour, sculpture, printmaking, to computer graphics, and photography, as worked a film maker, sculptor, photographer, engraver, and lithographic.  Today his paintings are among the most valued by modern Indian artists. His painting Reclining Nude was sold for USD 1,426,500 at Sotheby’s in New York on 25 March 2011. 

In late 1950, Raza was awarded a French government scholarship, and he invited Padamsee to accompany him to Paris. Padmasee left for Paris in 1951, where artist Krishna Reddy introduced him to the surrealistStanley Hayter, who became his next mentor. Padmasee soon joined his studio, “Atelier 17”. His first exhibition was held in Paris in 1952. The artists exhibited anonymously, thus he shared the prize awarded by the French magazine Journal d’Arte with the painter Jean Carzou.

His very first solo show was held at theJehangir Art Gallery in 1954, and soon he became one of leading artists. He received the Lalita Kala Akademi Fellowship in 1962, a fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1965 and was subsequently invited to be Anartist-in-Residence by the University of Wisconsin–Stout. He returned to India in 1967.

His work is introspective; his “Metascapes” or his “Mirror Images” are abstract images formed from the search for a formal logic. His topics include landscapes, nudes, heads and he has done portraits created in pencil and charcoal. The depth which emerges from his oil-based works, emanates from the coloured matter. This creates a pictorial technique juxtaposing emerging split forms.

Padamsee’s forms bounded by the line and created from an assemblage of strokes on the surface are both real and transcendent. His experiments with the Chinese method of ‘ku fu’ have also lent his figures an agile grace. If the forms carry an expression of ineffable sadness, there are periods when he paints landscapes which express the grandeur of infinite time. In recent years he had painted Diptychs which are relative versions of the same landscape.

He has done, in addition to his painted work, black and white photographs which use light to create dimension. Padamsee always explored new plastic genres; he also created “SYZYGY”, “Events in a Cloud Chamber” films shot in 1970, and explored computers in “Compugraphics”. He lives in South Mumbai and works at his studio in Mumbai.

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