Oil on canvas
67 3/4 x 68 in. (172.1 x 172.7 cm.)
Signed and dated 'PADAMSEE / '71' lower left
Formerly in the Collection of Krishna Riboud, Paris.
Padamsee, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, 18 March - 6 April, 1972.
Padamsee, exhibition leaflet, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, 1972, front cover, illustrated.
'I'm not interested in location or landscape. My general theme is nature - mountains, trees, water, the elements, and obviously one is influenced by the environment, but I am not interested in painting Rajasthan, or the desert or whatever. When I paint a tree, a mountain or a river I am really interested in 'the river', 'the mountain', 'the tree'. The paintings are neither abstract nor representational.' (Akbar Padamsee in an interview with Eunice De Souza, reprinted in 'Akbar Padamsee's Metascapes', The Economic Times, Sunday, November 30, 1975)
When the artist explains that he does not wish to paint a tree, mountain or river and that he is not interested in specific locations, he outlines his intention to explore idealised forms. As De Souza explains, Padmsee's Metascapes reveal the 'primal world... serene, harmonious, unsullied, "contained"... One felt looking at these rivers, this earth, that every "individualised" river or mountain whether on canvas or in reality, could only be a poor imitation of these perfect forms.' (ibid.)
This tendency towards creating a universal landscape relates directly to the Platonic ideal, but it does not seem that Padamsee ever articulated his artistic practice in these terms. Despite being a Muslim, Padamsee's study of Sanskrit (which he began on his return to Mumbai in 1968) is understood as the immediate inspiration for his Metascapes. Specifically a single stanza from Kalidasa's Abhijnanashakuntalam, which states, 'these two created time: the quality of the sound pervading the universe.' This stanza in conjunction with the artist's understanding of rasa clearly underpins his own frame of reference for his Metascapes.
Authors such as Beth Citron have argued that Akbar created his first Metascape in 1970. When confronted with the current lot, dated to 1971, the idealised elements of the Metascape that Akbar discusses in the 1975 interview with Eunice De Souza are visible, yet, it remains questionable whether Padamsee would have termed the current work a Metascape at the time he created it. Later critics have argued that the element of time symbolised by the Sun or Moon and referenced in Kalidasa's stanza, were crucial elements required to warrant the term, but in these early interviews, the artist does not always convey this specific concern.
Importantly, the exhibition title for the 1972 show where the current painting was displayed, unlike the two shows that followed in 1974 and 1975, did not specifically mention the term Metascape. This could suggest that at this early stage, even if the notion of the Metascape was at the forefront of the artist's mind, the art that he conceived may not have been fully understood in that manner by the artist himself. Bhanumati Padamsee, the artist's wife, however, confirms that according to Padamsee's views later in life, the Pundole Art Gallery exhibition of 1972 where this painting was first exhibited, was indeed the first show in which Padamsee's Metascapes appear and that therefore this work should be identified as one of the very first Metascapes of his career.
Despite this question of terminology, it is clear that the landscapes painted in 1969 and the early 1970s are important forerunners to the Metascapes that were to appear in no uncertain terms by 1974. 'The astute critic at the Times of India brought this issue to the fore by beginning his review with the statement that Padamsee's works are both "more and less" than landscape. This indicates the sense that even before the introduction of the idea of the Metascape, Padamsee successfully situated his paintings in relation to the principles of landscape whilst transcending mimetic representation and the conventional intentions of the genre.' (Beth Citron, 'Akbar Padamsee's Artistic Landscape of the '60s', Akbar Padamsee Work in Language, Mumbai, 2010, p. 211)
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About The Artist:
AKBAR PADAMSEE (1928-2020)