Describing the nature of Akbar Padamsee’s landscape paintings after 1963, the author Shamlal writes that the artist “leaves the human form alone and takes to contemplation of nature. In fact to call it contemplation of nature is itself a hyperbole. There are already hints at a new kind of silence which comes with the realization of the nothingness at the heart of things. The objects get lost in a sort of haze as words get lost in a melody.” (Shamlal, Akbar Padamsee, Bombay, 1964, unpaginated)
Padamsee spent the years 1963 and 64 travelling between Delhi, Bombay and Paris, creating landscapes that reflected his state of being in transition, ones that resisted the depiction of specific sites and times. Where form dominated colour in his earlier years, it was in the 1960s that the change to colour over form is most noticeable. The present landscape, painted in 1965, is a significant exemplar of this shift. Devoid of any discernible forms or shapes, the rich colour fields of this semi-abstract scene take precedence, illuminating Padamsee’s contemplative experiments with various hues and textures. Here, with skillful technique, the artist uses flashes of luminescent colour against a darker ground, applied with sharp, almost violent strokes of the brush and palette knife. The vibrant blues, yellows and reds in the under-layers shimmer in spots on the surface, allowing the artist’s palette, rather than individual shapes and figures, to order the landscape.
Through his investigation into light and shadow, Padamsee consciously draws the viewer’s attention to the vast emptiness of his landscapes. The minimal composition, populated only by brush strokes and textures, 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 conceptualised narratives. In a sense, these landscapes from the mid-1960s paved the way for his renowned series of Metascapes that followed a decade later, emphasising his perceptive use of colour and inquiries into the nature of human consciousness, time and space.
Painted the year of his solo exhibition at Galerie 9 in Paris, this landscape was acquired from the artist by the owner of the gallery, Antoinette Mondon. Madame Mondon was a respected collector and gallerist in the city, and had served as director of Galerie Ventadour before its owner passed away prematurely in the early 1960s. Encouraged to keep on promoting the work of promising young artists of the Ecole de Paris like Padamsee, she took over the gallery and renamed it Galerie 9 as homage to the nine forms of art officially recognised as ‘Beaux Arts’ in France. Padamsee, who worked with multiple galleries in Paris including Creuze, Pacitti and St-Placide, was by the 1960s fully immersed in the international avant-garde art scene in the city. This painting remained in Paris since it was painted, is powerful testimony of the artist’s accomplished aesthetic and his rightful place as a representative of the modern art scene of the time.