AKBAR PADAMSEE (1928-2020)
Untitled (Landscape)
signed and dated 'PADAMSEE 64' (upper left)
oil on canvas
3112 x 3112 in. (80 x 80 cm.)
Painted in 1964
Acquired directly from the artist
The Collection of Mr Emile Dubrule, Florida
Christie's New York, 21 March 2007, lot 38
Acquired from the above by the present owner
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Lot Essay

The 1960s was a decade of innovation, experimentation and evolution in Akbar Padamsee's virtual vocabulary, as he travelled and worked between India, France and the United States of America. As Beth Citron notes, "In spite of (or perhaps because of) spending the 1960s transiting among urban hubs in three continents, imaginative natural landscapes became one of Padamsee's central artistic projects during that decade [...] Never subsumed by wispy trees, romantic sunsets, or the limitations of conventional geography, Padamsee's landscapes often transcended the representation of specific sites and physically accurate settings. 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's Artistic "Landscape" of the '60s', Akbar Padamsee, Work in Language, Ahmedabad, 2010, p. 195)

During this decade, the genre of landscape painting emerged as the quintessential basis of Padamsee’s artistic practice, marking a shift from empirical representation towards non-naturalism. Form dominated color in his earlier years as is evidenced by his thick use of line, however, in the 1960s, the change to color over form is most noticeable. Padamsee experimented with various textures and techniques in his painting juxtaposing dark and luminescent colors and using sharp and violent strokes of the palette knife. "Dual pulls of matter and spirit are always patent in his work [...] He sees his paintings as a bed of tensions created by 'the linear, the formal, the tonal, the chromatic' on which the form describes itself or 'remains in a fluid potential state.'" (E. Datta, 'Akbar Padamsee', Art Heritage 8, New Delhi, 1988-89, p. 40)

The present painting has a matt black background with vibrant blues, ochres and reds in the foreground and under-layers that shimmer in spots on the surface, allowing the artist’s palette, rather than individual shapes and figures, to order the landscape. This minimal composition, populated only by brushstrokes and textural details, evokes a silence that echoes through nature. Padamsee’s paintings from this period speak of a deliberate distancing from the human figure, centering his focus on natural vistas instead. These consciously unpeopled landscapes evoke a rhetorical desolation, such that they no longer serve as merely formalist studies but rather as conceptualized narratives. In this sense, the artist's landscapes from the mid-1960s paved the way for his renowned series of Metascapes that followed a decade later, emphasizing his inquiries into the nature of human consciousness, time and space.
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South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art
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