The nude has been a recurring theme in Akbar Padamsee‘s work starting from the 1950s. The stylistic evolution from the sharply defined figures to the almost abstracted figures of his later compositions on the subject provides a fascinating insight into the development of his visual language and creative process of the prominent artist.
Throughout his career, the artist has been enthralled with mapping the human form and capturing its emotive qualities using portraits and heads to experiment. His portraitures, however, are portrayed vaguely with a deep focus on the construction of the form rather than in the details of representation. In the picture, the central character is portrayed in a hazy dream-like scenario, almost as if the viewer is intruding into a private moment. The bold red color of the background juxtaposed with the nude sets the emotive tone in the image while the ingenious use of texture gives the body sculptural presence and dimensionality.
Clearly, Padamsee’s artistic concerns do not lie in the realist depiction but instead on the overall structure of the picture. Curiously, despite the detached treatment of the theme, Padamsee was able to maintain a sense of sensitivity to the lived experience of his subjects.
‘Sensitivity to the human presence has been Akbar Padamsee’s obsession, inspiration, and purpose of his art. Direct in a nearly-tactile way, but also sublimated and universalized, his heads and nudes initially exude a feeling of almost real persons. Gradually, however, they reveal themselves as distanced and generalized. Sometimes strong, even harsh in their impact, and sometimes indistinct and ethereal. Padamsee’s images are never portraits of identifiable people. In fact, they resemble a residual vision after an encounter. An aura is left by a presence transposed in the memory. They come through like quick notations of transitory meetings, the heads and bodies deeply attuned to what is experienced within them, while also absorbing the proximity of their surroundings, especially other human presences. The background becomes a part of the human situation imprinting it character and compulsions on people, and in turn, being influenced by them – the process both violent and soothing.’ (Marta Jakimowicz, Tracing Shadows of the Sublime, Akbar Padamsee Works on Paper – Critical Boundaries, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, 2004).