The Last Progressive

Akbar Padamsee's style continues to be "experimental and individualistic".

By Suchismita Ukil Updated: Jan 29, 2019 12:40:49 IST
The Last Progressive Sun-Moon metascape, by Akbar Padamsee. Oil on canvas, 90 x 180 cm, 1978-2005. Photo Courtesy: Bhanumati and Akbar Padamsee.

Akbar Padamsee is one of the last remaining artists associated with the Progressive Artists' Group of post-Independence Bombay. Trained at the JJ School of Arts and achieving international recognition early on in his career, Padamsee resisted "easy categorization" as a modernist.

Experimenting with various media, from oil on canvas to photography and digital printmaking, his style continues to be "experimental and individualistic". Known for his grey series, mirror images and metascapes, Padamsee's rich canvases leave the spectator overwhelmed with their poetics.

Deeply affected by Sanskrit texts, the artist, talking about his metascapes, says "the introductory stanzas of Kalidasa's Abhijnanashakuntalam describe the sun and the moon as the controllers of time, and water as a source of all seeds. I would never have thought of painting the sun and the moon together ... I felt I could use the elements-water, earth, sky-without referring to any particular landscape-a metaphysical landscape".

His love affair with colours is perhaps best expressed in these lines: "Colours expand, contract and also travel on the surface of a static canvas. White expands, black contracts. Red and green remain the same. The expansion value of yellow is six times greater than blue. Colours reach out of their skins to invade each other's territories. Blue searches for its complementary orange. Involuntarily, the eye starts travelling till the colours find each other. To create a feeling of expanse I keep blue and orange far apart. The further I keep them apart, the greater the search. The eye feels it has traversed miles when it has only moved over a few inches of canvas."

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