The story of Indian Art #23: Akbar Padamsee

Akbar Padamsee is a contemporary Indian artist and painter. He is considered as one of the pioneers in Modern Indian painting. Today his paintings are among the most valued by modern Indian artists.

Akbar Padamsee is a contemporary Indian artist and painter. He is considered as one of the pioneers in Modern Indian painting. Today his paintings are among the most valued by modern Indian artists. He was awarded the Lalit Kala Akademi Fellowship by the Lalit Kala Akademi, India’s National Academy of Arts, in 1962 and the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour in 2010.

Akbar Padamsee

Artist: Akbar Padamsee

Born in Mumbai in 1928, Akbar Padamsee graduated from the Sir J J School of Arts in 1951, with a Diploma in Painting, following which he went to live and work in France. In 1952, he was awarded a prize by Andre Breton on behalf of the Journale d’Art.

He has participated in exhibitions and Biennales – Venice, 1953 and 1955; Sao Paulo and Tokyo in 1959; Museum of Modern Art, Oxford 1981; Royal Academy of Arts, London 1982 and National des Arts Plastiques, Paris, 1985.

Untitled Metascape by Akbar Padamsee

Untitled Metascape by Akbar Padamsee

Akbar Padamsee has a deep and abiding interest in Sanskrit texts, a glimpse of which finds resonance in his statement on sun-moon metascapes of the mid seventies.

In an interview Padamsee says “in the introductory stanzas of Kalidasa’s Abhijnanashakuntalam he describes the sun and the moon as the controllers on time – ‘ye dve kal vighattah’, and water as a source of all seeds – “sarva beej prakriti”. I would never have thought of painting the sun and the moon together if it were not for this. I felt I could use the elements – water, earth, sky – without referring to any particular landscape – a metaphysical landscape”.

Early in life, he started copying images from The Illustrated Weekly of India magazine in his father’s accounts books at their store on Chakla Street, in South Mumbai. This is how he started his relationship with art. He studied at St. Xavier’s High School, Fort, and it was here that met his first mentor, his teacher Shirsat, a water colourist.

Art by Akbar Padamsee

Art by Akbar Padamsee, inspired by Kalidasa

He first learned this medium, followed by classes on nudes at Charni Road in preparation for his studies at the Sir J.J. School of Art. As a result, he was allowed to join the course directly in its third year. He was still studying fine art at the school, when the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) was formed in 1947 by Francis Newton Souza, S. H. Raza, and M. F. Hussain. The group was to have a lasting impact on Indian art. By the time he received his diploma he was already associated with the group.

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. Padamsee’s pioneering spirit has allowed him to experiment with a wide range of media, from oil on canvas to photography and digital printmaking.

The artist lives and works in Mumbai. You can read more about him and see his work online here.

Avinash Subramaniam

Avinash has been an advertising writer, fiction writer, poetry writer, freelance writer and serial wronger. Other roles he has been in include those of an editor, brand builder, and teacher. His interests include advertising, scrabble, body building, chess, cinema, making money, reading, internet culture, cricket, photography. To hear him air his thoughts, follow him on Twitter @armchairexpert.

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