Art reviews

Tender harshness

Akbar Padamsee’s exhibition at Time & Space (November 9 to 15) was a rare opportunity to see a significant body of his work.

In particular, that the quite recent images were a continuation of his primary search interrupted only by periodic departures into contrast, they let one immerse oneself in experiencing them as part of ever subtly varying yet ever constant waves of creativity attuning itself to as well as probing the rudimentary human condition.

That recurrent flow where an immediate, calmly pitched sensation cannot be separated from the distance of conscious and complex reflection made the spectator intuit in it the core feel and dynamism of life in its is becoming, sustaining and dissolving to become again.

The gravity and scale of its reference, within its empathic modesty, also helped one understand Padamsee’s position as a modern classic who nonetheless remains independent and, unlike the senior Progressives avoids specific or illustrative address preferring to anchor himself in feeling others as sentient beings.

Such an all-inclusive but admiringly humble aim necessitates limiting of the enquiry’s area for the sake of maximum depth, on the one hand, and on the other admitting the importance of complementary opposites that always permeate things, both these strands needing frequent revisiting on another plane of the past knowledge, techniques and skills, occurrences and premonitions.

Thus, the viewer was comfortable as well as slightly surprised with the ample series of heads whose beginning in Padamsee’s oeuvre goes back at least five decades.

Their minimalist ethos in black and white, whose non-evident character relates to the Chinese painting tradition, holds endless aspects around the state of being human on the verge of the specific and universal, as if the individual potentiality in all of us, among which one can recognise the artist as a compassionate, co-feeling presence within and an agency of evocation and analysis, while the sheer multiplicity of the compelling phenomenon invites the simultaneous act of denial and erasure.

What the spectator senses with an unobtrusive intensity is the inextricably whole blend of muted, accepted and naturally endured sadness, even pain and of quietly relished joy in just being alive and feeling it.

Like always and slightly unlike before, Padamsee’s faces appear to be lowered in an internal attentiveness and withdrawal whereas at the same time allowing outside sensations to enter them; otherwise they rise a little, as though exposing themselves to and absorbing the external, yet only to also lock in and nearly diffuse over an inner focus.

The impact arises from the dual employment of realistic accents in clear strokes, tactile, skin-alluding textures and warm tonalities that conjure plasticity along with their instant contradiction by high abstracting, hazy dilution or violent stabbing and crossing out that flatten, almost dissolve shapes and volumes to depersonalise-refine further associations and intuitions and admit the final inscrutability of everything.

The artist’s tenderness is such that it reaches the suffering of people as well as hurts him.

Hence, soothing stains contain harshness whilst defining strokes become mere markings of unnamed and accommodated violence and protest and graded hue tones or uncovered paper white oscillate between illumination, radiance and X-raying solidity.

The embracing permeability of qualities inevitably includes the media used, especially that the vast majority of the works are lithographic prints. When confronted with the few drawings and watercolours, they reveal the force of the contradictions that mutually enhance and contribute, since these graphics reinterpret the strokes, tonalities and textures of drawing and of painting, connected as much by the frequent use of the brush in both as by the wash-like element there.

Scenic enthusiasm

‘Dust on Butterfly’s Wings,’ Milind Nayak’s current display (Genesis Art Gallery, November 12 to 26), brings yet another chapter in his celebration of nature’s beauties. Having used pastels before along with oils and watercolours, the artist attributes their partially new look to his being inspired by the American painter Wolf Kahn.

Not knowing his style, one may guess its presence under the somewhat more realistic sceneries with perspective, accentuated shadows and repeated directional strokes, as plenty of burning reds and yellows perhaps come from temperate climate autumns.
While delighting in the lushness and saturated, bright colours of landscape throughout, the works seem to opt for different angles – some more literal and some highly abstracted in their vast, textured pigment spreads.

Both, however, tend towards designing, which eventually results in a third and more interesting, aesthetic variant with large stretches of contrasting, even hues and abstracted forms resembling angular, digital patterns.

On the whole, though, the always sincere joy cannot fully compensate for the somewhat easy pleasantness of the idiom.

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