Educated at the Sir JJ School of Art, the groundbreaking movement that set the stage for new art making in post-Independence India, Akbar Padamsee found inspiration in the École de Paris, and moved from Mumbai to France in 1951. In Paris, Padamsee worked and exhibited alongside other expatriate Progressive artists, such as Sayed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza and Laxman Pai, before returning to Mumbai in 1967.
By the early 1970's, Padamsee began to work on a series of polychromatic metascapes – landscapes which, as the name suggests, pare down the landscape into its most bare, archetypical form. These metascapes (a term coined by Padamsee) are expressed through color, form and space, and from the basic natural elements: earth, water, fire, air. The Metascape series on the whole, stretching across a span of almost four decades, is an exploration of color theory, perception, the relationship between objects, and a highly personal vision of what can be termed Platonic idealism. Of his artistic process, Padamsee explains that he "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. When I paint a tree, a mountain or a river, I am really interested in 'the river', 'the mountain', 'the tree'. The [Metascape] paintings are neither abstract nor representational." (Padamsee in conversation with Eunice de Souza, "Akbar Padamsee's Metascapes", The Economic Times, Nov. 30, 1974).
Known for his manipulation of the palette knife to define space, and his philosophical application of color, the artist explains: "Colors expand and contract, colors reach out of their skins to invade each other's territories, the blue goes in search of its complementary counterpart yellow or orange. Color trajectory is a strategy ... the further away from each other I place them, the greater the space and voyage." (Padamsee, Mirror-Images, Pundole Art Gallery, 1994) Padamsee was strongly influenced by the Swiss-German painter Paul Klee, particularly with regard to Klee's mastery of color and tonality, his noted surrealistic treatment of space, as well as his metaphysical inclinations. Like Klee before him, Padamsee sought through his work an artistic reconciliation between the temporal and the absolute. To this end, he developed a visual vocabulary to express through his metascapes "images of all eight elements which together represent Shiva. These are Shaivite landscapes; a landscape in which [all] physical forms become a metaphor for Shiva." (Padamsee in conversation with Meher Pestonjee, The Times of India, January 18, 2010)
In contrast to his later metascapes, in which only the bare minimum is suggested to navigate space and differentiate form, Padamsee's early metascapes, such as this work from 1977, suggest an impressionistic clarity of form reminiscent of Cézanne. The vibrant corals and ceruleans, so distinctive of Padamsee's palette, command the attention of the viewer, draw the eye into the visual center of the painting, and create an illusion of visual convexity that divides the vista of the painting – foreshadowing the Mirror Images series of the decades to follow.
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