1952, Lovers, 157.5X81.3 cm, oil on

What takes place in the portrayal of the couple? To begin with, an artist responds to those inherited images most strongly, which transport his effort into the eternal values of the mythic. The images become icons, sealed into their own remote supremacy.

Padamsee’s men and women, either stand aloof from each other, yet share an anguish; or look out at the viewer through dark eye-slits, foregrounded massively against vestigial fields, shores, huts, evoke a distance. It is as if they were offered to us as objects of veneration, of adoration, whose feelings occur as it were, on a cosmic scale –and as such, instill in us, not so much empathy as awe. The particular moments of history do not matter; a perceived pattern is distilled, and depicted, on such scale, that it evolves and affirms a suprahistorical order………….

‘Akbar Padamsee, Between the Hieratic and the Human’,1992, Art Heritage,Delhi,
Text Ranjit Hoskote.

The couples are mute, grieving witnesses to the years of living wasted by habit, use, non-communication. The ennui that overcomes the most passionate lovers is manifest in the aging bodies and faces.The figuration is heavier than that of the sixties but not much different. There are single figures and couples. The mood is one of irrevocable sadness. The heads are turned away from the aridity which life holds.

There is one exception: a warm and tender painting of a young couple 1986 clasping each other. The mood itself, almost nostalgic, is very rare in Padamsee's work. Unlike the lovers of the early fifties, these two are not sublime creatures, grand and detached, very much of the earth. Their hair retains the soft curls of youth and their skins glow red and gold on their supple, resilient flesh. But even their perfect moment of intimacy is fraught with the bittersweet knowledge of the imminence of parting. Padamsee's people have tasted the forbidden fruit of knowledge. The war between love and death is not unknown to them.

'Akbar Padamsee:The spirit of order'
1988-89 Art Heritage8Exh.Cat Delhi,
Text: Ela Dutta.
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