The reclusive master Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (1924 - 2001) experimented with form and shape in his work. Though the artist disdained the constricting title of abstractionist, his ethereal and complex paintings conjure a veiled and highly codified version of the natural world. Influenced by Zen philosophy and ancient calligraphy, Gaitonde's works have an inherent structure and control in the midst of their stream of consciousness compositions. Unlike his more prolific contemporaries, Gaitonde produced very few finished works during his lifetime, preferring instead a slow and meticulous painting process. Gaitonde's lack of ground line and use of symbolic elements to build his lyrical compositions is reminiscent of work by artists like Paul Klee, Mark Rothko and Wassily Kandinsky to whom he was exposed early in his career.
Through his brilliant manipulation of form, colour and technique, Gaitonde has the ability to transform basic elements into platforms for spiritual introspection. The artist, through his skill in shading and chiaroscuro, incorporates a border into his composition instilling a subliminal depth to the canvas. Using both a roller and a palette knife, he scrupulously manipulates and mixes different media on the canvas, building up and masking pigments only to painstakingly remove them for his desired effect. It is as if a literal sublimation of the elements takes place with one form evaporating into another. This work successfully straddles the duality between density and weightlessness and his forms often seem to quiver between abstraction and representation. Using a palette of richly hued emerald green and azure blues, Gaitonde expertly utilises both negative and positive space to construct his masterpiece. "His paintings alternate in colour and texture, employing one to bring out the other... leading to an almost spiritual sublimation." (Yashodhara Dalmia, 'The Search for Significant Form', The Moderns: The Progressive Artists Group and Associates, Mumbai, NGMA, 1996, p. 27).
The artist himself believes "A painting is simply a painting - a play of light and colour... Every painting has a seed which germinates in the next painting. A painting is not limited to one canvas. I go on adding an element and that's how it evolves... There is a kind of metamorphosis in every canvas and the metamorphosis never ends." (Meera Menezes, 'The Meditative Brushstroke', Art India, vol. 3, issue 3, July - September 1998, Mumbai, p. 69.) While Gaitonde's technique allows him to control his canvas to a startling exactitude, this laborious process has resulted in a very limited number of works, making each painting extremely rare.