An Artist's Artist : Akbar Padamsee
August 11, Thursday, quickly transformed from being a random weekday to an evening that held both humility and heart as the historic works of Akbar Padamsee took centre-stage at the Essar House. The diverse mix of attendees - artists, art aficionados and some curious folk (me included) were all drawn to the event graced by the artist himself. Akbar Padamsee’s life and works promised to offer a glimpse into the golden era of Indian artists like S.H. Raza, Tyeb Mehta, M.F. Hussain, V.S. Gaitonde, F.N. Souza, to name a few. I braced myself to be swept away.
The evening started with a visual presentation, guided by the recorded voices of Akbar Padamsee and Homi Bhabha, Director of the Humanities Center at Harvard University, discussing all that influenced and inspired his art over the decades. The presentation was a treasure trove of images meticulously curated from archives that housed moments and memories from Mr. Padamsee’s life and oeuvre. The conversation progressed with every passing slide showcasing his distinctly strong and striking forms in oils, watercolours, plastic emulsion, sculpture, and photography among others. A door had opened and we, the audience stepped into his world of colour and contour. I think the reaction of all those present to the conclusion of this riveting audiovisual was pretty much the same. We wanted to see more and hear more. Thankfully a lot more was in store.
Image Credit: Avid Learning
Organisers of the event, the Avid Learning team, had arranged for a live conversation between some of the artist’s close associates and friends in the field who had also contributed their insights on his works in the book titled ‘Akbar Padamsee - Work in Language’. This group of noted personalities included - India’s leading Contemporary Artist Sudhir Patwardhan, Art Historian and Director Founder of Cymroza Art Gallery Pheroza Godrej, Art Historian, Academician and Curator Dr. Saryu Doshi. The discussion was facilitated by Journalist, Author and Playwright Meher Pestonji. With him by their side on the podium, each of them regaled us with fascinating stories of Akbar Padamsee the student, the artist, the contemporary, the teacher, the friend and the eternal thinker.
A window had opened but briefly to reveal the genius of an artist whose works were testimonies to his perception of colour motion and orchestration. His Metascapes to an untrained eye (such as mine) appeared to have organically found their forms on the canvas without much planning; simultaneous acts of spontaneity. But on seeing the initial sketches of those paintings in the presentation shown earlier it was evident that a great deal of mathematical reasoning and thought stood behind the structure that eventually came to bear those full-bodied colours.
I was especially moved by his understanding of colour, both in its rendering and receiving, when I heard the guests speak of it with mind-boggling clarity and reasoning originally provided by the artist himself. These nuggets of information gave us a sneak peek into the nooks and crannies of the artist’s thought process which also reveals how he has nailed the Science of Art down to perfection while showcasing the imperfect. The artist Sudhir Patwardhan summed it up beautifully, ‘all his works - be it watercolours, lithographs, sculptures - express a certain awareness of the human predicament, of what it means to be human’.
I urge you to open the windows of your heart and mind to the wondrous works of Akbar Padamsee, catalogued in the book and on his website www.akbarpadamsee.net.