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Item Description:


Oil on canvas


48 x 48 in. (122 x 122 cm.)

Signed and dated 'PADAMSEE / 2009' upper right


Recent Works by Akbar Padamsee, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, 10-30 January, 2010.

In speaking about the body of work to which the current painting belongs, shortly after his exhibition opened at Pundole Art Gallery in January 2010, Akbar Padamsee explained his ongoing and eternal quest for 'metaphors in painting'. 'I was reading Kalidas who creates metaphors for the elements. He doesn't say sun, moon - he says, ye dve kala vighahah, these two controllers of time. I wanted to apply such metaphor in painting, find a new vocabulary. As a poet Kalidas can't paint. As a painter I can't write. He started the circle by replacing the image with words. I complete the circle by removing words and bringing back images of all eight elements - sun, moon, water, fire, wind - which together represent Shiva. These are Shaivite landscapes. A landscape in which physical forms become a metaphor for Shiva.' (Meher Pestonji, 'Akbar Padamsee's World of Colour', Times of India Crest, Mumbai, 18 January, 2010)

Padamsee first began experimenting with these landscapes or Metascapes in the 1970s, and frequently revisited the theme whenever he felt the urge to re-calibrate the delicate balance between composition, forms and palette or introduce certain new elements into the Metascapes. The current work, for example, was created out of a desire to exploit the richness of brown pigments and allow them to be a more integral part of the paintings. 'Two years ago I discovered the importance of brown. Brown is a tertiary colour made up of red, yellow, blue in different proportions. As a painter I was neglecting the rich variety of browns... I designed these canvases to juxtapose red and brown so that red starts scintillating and releases luminosity.' (ibid.)

As a group, the Metascapes can be broadly described as a series of polychrome landscapes created by applying thick, impasto oil paint to the canvas with a palette knife that yielded a series of visually distinctive works; unique in concept and multi-layered in meaning. While the paintings do include elements typically found in a landscape, as discussed, the artist's choice of name for the series suggests that his is a more complex philosophy that goes beyond the superficial delineations created by form, colour and shape. The Metascapes are landscapes in their most archetypal form, crystallised down to the principal elements. In doing so, they acquire a sense of timelessness that defies temporality. Unlike other landscapes that may make specific references to time or place, Padamsee 'is not interested in location or landscapes. My general theme is nature - mountains, trees, water, the elements - and obviously one is influenced by the environment, but I'm not interested in painting Rajasthan or the desert or whatever... The [Metascape] paintings are neither abstract nor representational.' (Padamsee in conversation with Eunice de Souza, 'Akbar Padamsee's Metascapes', The Economic Times, Mumbai, November 30, 1974)

This balance between the representational and the abstract is a key element in the works. While certain elements of nature are always identifiable in the compositions, there is also an element of abstraction present, a key component for the artist who feels that all art is abstract to a certain degree. The picture plane is divided into distinct areas and forms delineating the earth and mountains, as seen in the current work, and often include water, sky and even the shapes of trees. Each element transcends its transient, physical role in the painting to fulfil a larger, theoretical purpose in Padamsee's works, resulting in a sense of perpetuity that makes viewing the works an almost spiritual experience.

Padamsee's use of the palette knife in a precise and deliberate manner also heightens the abstract qualities of the painting, while infusing the surface of the canvas with a certain depth created by the texture and three-dimensionality of the paint surface. Ridges of paint formed by the edge of the knife produce a grid of intersecting planes of colour. 'A knife is ideal for defining planes. A brush devolves on its own axis and produces forms. So when I paint oils I use a knife to move in a certain direction, then in a counter direction so the two strokes intersect, at what angle they intersect, the way they intersect.' (Meher Pestonji, op. cit.)

As Ella Datta states, 'For their meditative character counterpointed by sheer poetic intensity, their breadth of vision and the way colours have brilliantly melded only to break out into a controlled crescendo, the Metascapes are outstanding creation.... Dual pulls of matter and spirit are always latent in his work... He sees his paintings as a bed of tensions created by 'the linear, the formal, the tonal, and the chromatic' on which the form describes itself or 'remains in a fluid potential state.' (Ella Datta, 'Akbar Padamsee', Art Heritage 8, New Delhi, 1989, pp. 37-40)


The colours of the original are considerably brighter than the catalogue illustration throughout the work. The red-orange tones of the original are bright and yellows lighter than the catalogue illustration, and the background brown tones are also brighter. The canvas would benefit from a light cleaning. Good overall condition. Please see the installation photos for colour reference.

About The Artist:

AKBAR PADAMSEE (1928-2020)


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