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1951, Imbecile, 89X71cm ,Oil on board

Most of the figures, for instance, evoke a sense of vulnerability and anguish, yet none of them are simple victim figures. They are not merely alone, but essentially separate from the viewer. They have not sought the camaraderie that commitment to a social cause can offer, they have not even in many cases attempted ordinary companionship, or sought temporary relief in the sensuous delights of sun and sea. This separateness is so persistent a feature of the paintings that one is forced to ask whether it arises out of a sense of the privacy of the self, or an uncompromising existential search in which each man or woman is irrevocably alone, or whether it is not, in some way, a defence against experience, a withdrawal from involvement and foreseeable pain.

..... No one answer can be offered. Every picture is a construction of ambivalence, of multiple points of view, and the balance of elements changes in each. At first sight the formal elements of Prophet I (1952) for instance, create the impression of a forbidding, unsympathetic character.

….. If Padamsee’s paintings continue to haunt us it is because the painter has been able to capture so many ambiguities in a single image: the subject of the painting, and the spectator experience simultanesously both the pressure of conflict and the ability of the human to contain, although with great weariness, the tensions of contradictories.

……. Even as “emanations”, the nudes are distinctive because of their self-absorption. They do not offer themselves up for their femininity to be surveyed either by voyeur or lover, despite, in some cases, the erotic promise or rich colour and monumental proportions, despite their vulnerability, they are not really accessible.

Art Heritage “1980-81, 205, Tansen Marg, New Delhi 110001
Text : Eunice de Souza.

In the case of a painter like Akbar Padamsee, it is certain that questions are bound to rise among serious viewers as to why the painter has turned away from the metascapes which dominated his canvases in the seventies and early eighties, to the human figure once again. After all Padamsee is not like some artists who rework their images with each changing season.

Padamsee, draws his figures and forms from the world around him that he knows intimately, but he invests them with a profound sense of alienation. They are not heroic creatures, nor are they angst –ridden, shattered beings. They exist, and on their flesh and bones is stamped the experience of living.

This moving from figurative work to landscapes, only to return once again to figurative painting, is not a new phenomenon in the artist's oeuvre. An examination of his development as an artist will illustrate this. Padamsee's years as a student in India was a time of preparation. He went to Paris in 1951 and already his figuration was under¬going a change. The transformation from the female forms painted in 1951 with their elemental faces like primitive cult objects. and their attenuated bodies to the growing physical presence of the figures was a major one. From 1955 onwards, the defining contours began to disappear. The canvases grew in size and the figures became more and more massive.

Padamsee continued to alternate between figures and landscapes.

Soon after in the early sixties, the painter went back to strong chromatic values. The massiveness was considerably scaled down and the figures of nudes acquired a sense of poetry and lithe grace.

Now,in the eighties, figuration is heavier than that of the sixties but not much different. The bodies and faces have aged a little. There are single figures and couples. The mood is one of irrevocable sadness. The heads are turned away from the aridity which life holds. 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.

Akbar Padamsee:The Spirit of Order” 1988-89,ART Heritage 8, Exh.Cat.Delhi,
Text: Ela Dutta.
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