‘I give a damn to the MARKET’: Akbar Padamsee
Reema Gehi Mumbai
Although the financial meltdown has hit the art market hard, works of master painters like Akbar Padamsee continue to fetch the moolah. Recently, his artworks sold for more than a crore at auction houses like Osian's and Saffron Art. But, art prices apart, this highly-feted artist's work continues to be innovative and ingenious. The act of "mark making" is the key element in his art. He builds up the surface in which each stroke supports the other as if it were a syllable in a conversation. In fact, a book providing an insight into Padamsee's art dating to the Fifties till date is in the offing. The launch of this pictorial volume, scheduled for later this year, will also mark the opening of his solo art exhibition in Mumbai's Pundole Art Gallery. Indeed, Padamsee is a contented man. On a clammy morning, the 80-year-old artist spoke with Hardnews.
In retrospect, how do you view your career graph as an artist?
Art has always intrigued and interested me. Now when I look back, I am satisfied with all my work. I have experimented with various media. I started using the Corel Draw on the computer out of curiosity. However, spending seven hours a day in front of the computer became strenuous for my eyesight. I even made several sculptures. Then, I returned to painting.
Your Gandhi series is considered one of your most important work. Do you think it's your best?
All my artworks have been my best. Even my metascapes are considered essential. One keeps working and gets better each time. A painting is never complete. I stop when I know I can add nothing more to it.
Did you always want to be an artist?
I did not set out to pursue art as a career. As a child, I loved to draw and doodle. My first real encounter with art was when I went to Paris in the 1950s with SH Raza. He had asked me to join him and I readily agreed. I rented a small room in a hotel in Paris and converted it into my studio. During that time, I painted a woman with a bird that fetched me a trophy, given to me by the legendary André Breton. I was only 21 then, and over the moon.
Was pursuing art an easy career decision to make?
Well, it was easy for me because I didn't have to worry about my finances. Fortunately, I was financially sound. For the first 15 years, I never sold a single painting. Even the money that came in thereafter did not suffice, but I continued to paint with vigour. The huge amount of money that we see in the art world today has come in only five years ago.
Has big money affected the artists' work?
Honestly, I give a damn to the market. It's not my job. I cannot comment on the entire art fraternity; I can only speak for myself.
Has the global recession affected the art market?
Sure, it has. Five years ago, several people developed an interest in art because of the money involved. Auction houses abroad started showing a keen interest in the art from India. Now, things are different. Some galleries have closed down. Even the art investors are not enthusiastic any more. However, the real art enthusiasts will continue to support art.
You have lived in Paris, Montreal and India. Did they influence any change in your paintings?
The pattern of creative thinking is more important, the place has very little to do with the art.
Does the political nature of a place influence art?
Perhaps, but art is a personal quest.
What inspires you?
The moment I enter the studio I challenge myself to create something new. I seek inspiration from several things. My inspiration comes from my intuition. I don't look for it anywhere else. I have always tried to have a dialogue with my work. There is always an enquiry. Besides, I have always been curious about the 0-2-5-9 code, which when carried out forms an inverted triangle. In fact, some of my limited editions in the forthcoming exhibition are based on the aforementioned code.
Which artists have influenced you?
I am a huge fan of artworks by master painters like Rembrandt, Giotto di Bondone and Albrecht Durer. In India, all our temples at Tanjore, Chidambaram and Khajuraho are a manifestation of astounding works.