At 84, Akbar Padamsee is as devoted to his craft as he was when he began his career over half a century ago. Displaying in his hometown after a gap of three years, we caught up with the artist on the sidelines of his new show, A Visual Metaphor.
What is the theme of this new show?
I’m displaying a whole body of my work from oil on canvas, which includes heads and metascapes, to lithographs and giclee prints of six of my recent works — four metascapes and two heads. The latter is an interesting technological art form that creates high-end prints on imported canvasses treated with a special veneer. They are the closest replication of original artwork currently possible. It’s a laborious and expensive method but the end product is spectacular.
Over the years, you have incorporated new techniques like printmaking, photography, computer graphics etc. How important is it to use modern techniques?
They are all simply different mediums to express and explore. Each new medium excites me. It gives me the opportunity to learn, and that is an inspiration in itself. I enjoy oils, watercolours, photography and sculpture equally. Experimenting with new mediums renews your thinking when you don’t know what to do next.
Over the years, has the definition of modern art changed?
It’s funny, because there was a time when the frame of the artwork was considered more exclusive than the art itself. Today, art is not an accessory; it’s the main feature. The appreciation has also increased. In the beginning, art dealers were only interested in doing business. They would reject masterpieces if they felt they would not sell. It’s too early to say what the future beholds. We can only wait and watch.
You’re among the few artists of your age who are still around and actively creating art. What keeps you going?
The journey has been wonderful. As a child I was always inclined towards art. In fact, when I started working with my father in the family business, I would draw in his account books as well. I haven’t chosen to be an artist but I was chosen as an artist; it’s a calling. My passion for art and the flexibility to experiment with new mediums keeps me going.
Does the thought of retiring ever come to mind?
I absolutely love what I do. It is not possible to master the art of painting in such a short lifetime. I have been a painter in my past births and I am continuing the tradition. Art has been my passion ever since I can remember.
What do you think of auctions and art being sold at staggering prices?
Art buyers are very selective in the artist they choose, as well as the quality of the artwork. So when it does really well in the auction, it is a fair indication of how well the artist is doing. It is a great feeling to know your work is being appreciated and getting recognised, and, of course, the high amounts paid for it validates it.
Who are some of the younger artists whose work you admire?
Subodh Gupta, Atul Dodiya, Anju Dodiya, Anish Kapoor and Bharti Kher are truly individualistic in their work and are great artists of modern times.
(With inputs from Arundhati Chatterjee)