INTERVIEW Akbar Padamsee says to be a master, one must be completely simple, open and willing to look at the world like a child
Though he can easily be considered one of the cornerstones of modern art in India, Akbar Padamsee shrugs off such titles. He does not like to called a “modernist”.
“I don’t categorize myself. I am a painter and I paint. Other people can define me as they like,” he states. “For me it is all about the practise of art. I always say stop philosophising and just do it. People always come and tell me that they want to create a masterpiece, but I say, first be a master. And to be a master, one must be completely simple, open and willing to look at the world around like a child. There is no need to read great books, just respond.”
Padamsee’s works were on display in Bangalore.
Experiments with mediums
With a career spanning over six decades, Akbar has mastered the art of the stroke in space, effortlessly working across media: oils, plastic emulsions, watercolours, charcoal, graphite and ink.
He has also experimented with film and photography.
“I know nothing of photography. Today with the digital camera, I don’t have to take into account technical details, I just have to click. But what you click, where you click, when you click, that is important. It’s not all about the measurements.”
Yet the interpretation of space in his metascapes (or metaphysical landscapes, as an interpretation since they sometimes seem to depict landscapes from other worlds) and landscapes is indicative of a consciousness of space that is hard to disassociate with a deeply thoughtful mind.
“Einstein had said science is an art and I say art is a science,” he pronounces, recalling an incident when a professor once told him to take a break while he was working, judging from the sound of his strokes that his mind was elsewhere. This is what, Akbar shares, gave them idea of attaching his pencil to a metallic instrument and tapping to create dots, instead of strokes. These dots, in turn, form some of the heads that feature in his works.
Through much of his career Akbar had mostly worked with heads, figures, metascapes and mirror images. But, he says, he has never drawn from life or from any models
“I draw only from strokes. Even when I did the series on Gandhi, I did not use any photographs.I did not want to make a realistic Gandhi, I did not want my works to be photographic or to look like copies. I simply wanted to express his spirituality.”
The series on Gandhi is probably the only series of recognizable portraiture by Padamsee. Nudes also figure prominently in his works.
“I am trying to change the naked into the nude, there’s a difference between both. Naked simply means without clothes, but in the nudes, you see different forms through the operation of light. Through light you also see shadow and shadow is important,” finishes the artist who was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2010.