Untitled (Metascape)

Untitled (Metascape)
signed and dated 'PADAMSEE 2011' (upper right)
oil on canvas
60 x 40 in. (152.4 x 101.6 cm.)
Painted in 2011
Acquired directly from the artist
Private collection, Mumbai
Astaguru, 17 March 2015, lot 61
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Past Forward, exhibition catalogue, Mumbai, 2013 (illustrated, unpaginated)
A. Sardesai, 'With Many Colours, Comes Much Responsibility', Art India, Vol. XXI, Issue I, 2017, p. 49 (illustrated)
Mumbai, Priyasri Art Gallery, Past Forward, 27 April - 15 May, 2013


Akbar Padamsee was still a student at the Sir J.J. School of Art, Bombay, in 1947 when F.N. Souza, M.F. Husain and S.H. Raza, among others, came together to form the Progressive Artist’s Group. He is celebrated as one of the most eclectic artists to later join the group, with an oeuvre that now includes painting, photography, digital printmaking and even filmmaking.

In the early 1970s, with the painting of his first Metascape, Padamsee began his intellectual engagement with the genre of landscape. Curiously, the artist did not hold an Impressionist interest in capturing the essence of specific landscapes. Rather, as the title Metascape suggests, Padamsee created mythical or archetypical landscapes, overlaying various elements, such as the sun, moon and earth, within the same flat plane. Padamsee paired these elements with shadows loosely adapted from French Expressionist Georges Rouault’s palette, creating fresh, unexplored subjectivities within the genre. Yashodhara Dalmia describes Padamsee’s metascapes as “[...] brilliantly choreographed planes of light and dark made in thick impasto which evoke mountains, field, sky and water. The controlled cadence of the colours breaks into a throbbing intensity as the artist in his most masterly works, evokes infinite time and space.” (Y. Dalmia, Indian Contemporary Art Post Independence, New Delhi, 1997, p. 17)

In this Metascape, the artist's lifelong obsession with color is underscored. In many ways elemental, the artist’s palette is simultaneously bold and subdued. Placing swathes of textured primary colors alongside delicately layered shadows, Padamsee turns a seemingly flat, landscape into a three-dimensional environment for the viewer to enter. The placement of the shadows implies a shifting temporality or motion within the otherwise static landscape, no doubt an allusion to the multidisciplinary artist’s work in animated filmmaking.

Padamsee’s method of construction in this painting represents a graduation from his figurative modernism in favor of an aesthetic based around the potential outcomes of intense color interaction. Directly referencing traditional Indian idioms in his symphony of colors, the artist evokes temporal economies of future and past, creating a newfound harmony all his own. “Rather than an intent to describe the natural world per se, the artist’s object was the total conceptual and metaphysical ken of his visual environment, with his paintings impressing an immediate perceptual experience that relied on expression and sensation rather than realist recognition.” (B. Citron, Akbar Padamsee - Work in Language, Mumbai, 2010, p. 195)

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