Though very meticulous in his method, master colourist Akbar Padamsee’s drawings and paintings pulsate with throbbing energy. This is an artist whose work ranges from the figure to non-figuration; for Padamsee it not the categorization of his work which is of consequence, but rather its relationships with form, volume, space, time, and colour. He is acutely aware of every brush stroke; the process of creation is one of contemplation and articulation of thoughts and ideas.
Padamsee’s pioneering spirit has allowed him to experiment with a wide range of mediums: the gamut of the traditional ones to his recent experiments with photography and digital printmaking. Whatever his chosen medium, the artist conveys a command over space, form and colour. Although he is best known as a painter, Padamsee has experimented with film-making, sculpture, and writing as an art critic as well. His formal education was in the fine arts – Padamsee graduated from the Sir J.J. School of Art in 1940, with a diploma in painting and series of sculpture classes behind him. In an interview with Dnyaneswar Nadkarni, he comments: “In those days, learning painting in that tree-studded campus was a heady experience.” An ex-professor from the school describes him as an “aristocratic intellectual, aloof from the usual hurly-burly of the school,” showing a rare seriousness and sense of direction as an artist.
The most familiar works from his extensive oeuvre are the metascapes and mirror images, and the figures and heads, which he keeps oscillating between. The metascapes are a development from landscapes, while the mirror images show his concern with the duality of existence, of form and space. The figure is treated not as an individual, not even in the heads where the association with portraiture is even stronger. The only occasion when he has handled portraits of known people, was in 1997, with his Gandhi series of works on paper in watercolour and charcoal.
Born in Mumbai in 1928, Akbar Padmsee has exhibited his works in several solo exhibitions, including most recently, ‘Sensitive Surfaces’ at Galerie Helene Lamarque, Paris, in 2008; ‘Metascape to Humanscape’ at Aicon Gallery, New York and Palo Alto, in 2007; and ‘Photographs (2004-06)’ at the Guild Art Gallery, Mumbai, in 2006. From 1994 onwards, Padamsee has held several solo shows at Pundole Art Gallery ,Mumbai, including ‘Tertiaries’, ‘Compugraphics’, ‘Imaging Gandhi’, ‘Female Nudes’, and ‘Mirror Images’. Padamsee’s first solo exhibition was held in Paris in 1952 at Galerie Saint Placide.
His recent group exhibitions include '''Progressive to Altermodern: 62 Years of Indian Modern Art' at Grosvenor Gallery, London, in 2009; 'Faces' at Tao Art Gallery, Mumbai, and ‘Freedom 2008 – Sixty Years of Indian Independence’ at the Centre for International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata in 2008. The exhibition, ‘Retrospective of Watercolors’, was held at Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, in 2004, and another retrospective of his works organized by Art Heritage, New Delhi, in Mumbai in 1980. Padamsee was awarded the Lalit Kala Ratna from the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, in 2004, and the Kalidas Samman from the Madhya Pradesh Government in 1997. The artist passed away in 2020 at age of 92.