CHAT Akbar Padamsee narrates instances from his long creative journey

Amaster artist and raconteur, Akbar Padamsee has been essentially engaged with ‘form’ and ‘space’. “I am more interested in spaces. People look at my drawings and say ‘It is very nice’.

But do they look at space? No, they don’t. I tell them to look at space. Faces are just an emergence from those spaces,” says Akbar Padamsee, an important figure in the world of modern Indian art.

The 85-year-old artist The modernist travels back and forth in time to narrate riveting stories from an eventful career.

On being called a “conservative” and a “recluse”

Because I didn’t go to parties or art openings. When you are not seen, people call you a recluse.

There was a whole new movement of abstract art, but I stayed representational. So people say he is still in the old way of painting.

Early days

I was still in art school when the group was formed. When the diploma results came out Raza (S.H. Raza) came to the school to see if we had passed. All of us had passed. And then he asked ‘What do you plan to do now? I am going to Paris in three months. Come with me.’ I decided to go along. Palsikar (S.B. Palsikar), who was the dean of the school then said, ‘You haven’t seen India properly and you are going to Paris. First see India.’ I had three months’ time, so I bought plane tickets to Madurai and went to the Meenakshi temple. I saw some marvellous art there.

Meta-scapes and elements

Dr. Godbole introduced me to Kalidas’ Abhijanasakuntalam and its introductory verse says ‘ye dve kal vighattah’ (sun and moon are the controllers of time) and ‘sarva beej prakriti’ (water is the source of all seeds). Then he goes to fire. I thought if I were to paint, how would I paint it because I have to paint the sun and the moon, water, fire… I used forms, and put the sun and the moon together. People asked how these two could be together, and I would say ‘Please read Kalidas’. He became my authority, and they were like meta-scapes, metaphorical landscapes. I fell in love with Sanskrit and continued learning it for 15 years.


The first time I painted a nude was when I was 15. I was still in high school and during the recess I would see my art teacher paint. Seeing my curiosity he asked me to come to his studio and once he had a nude model. My nudes don’t titillate. I like the way light falls on them.