Photos: Artist Sudhir’s Patwardhan’s Mumbai

In July, Hindustan Times invited artist Sudhir Patwardhan to create an original work that centred around the theme of the Mumbai and the pandemic. The work is a line drawing titled Departure, and it is a visceral portrayal of three migrants with a child walking with luggage through a deserted street. The work was made during the lockdown imposed in Mumbai to curb the spread of Covid-19 disease that has infected millions across the world. “I have been painting people who lived in the city, but this is the first time I’m painting them as migrants; the migrant in a condition of absolute precarity,” he said. Here’s a glimpse of some of his works that explain why he is the quintessential Mumbai artist.

UPDATED ON SEP 06, 2020 11:34 AM IST 10 Photos
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Sudhir Patwardhan: Departure, 2020, pastel on paper. The work is a visceral portrayal of three migrants with a child walking with luggage through a deserted street. The work was made during the lockdown imposed in Mumbai to curb the spread of Covid-19 disease that has infected millions across the world. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

Sudhir Patwardhan: Departure, 2020, pastel on paper. The work is a visceral portrayal of three migrants with a child walking with luggage through a deserted street. The work was made during the lockdown imposed in Mumbai to curb the spread of Covid-19 disease that has infected millions across the world. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

UPDATED ON SEP 06, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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People on a Bridge, Acrylic on canvas, 1996. An ever forward-moving crowd on a foot over bridge is a common experience for the millions who travel on the suburban train network even today. This work juxtaposes a lone figure on the track below against this crowd. Patwardhan reads this as an “interesting contrast,” but it’s also an eerie one. Who is the man standing precariously at the intersection of the train tracks? What is he witnessing? And, importantly, is anyone watching him? (Sudhir Patwardhan)

People on a Bridge, Acrylic on canvas, 1996. An ever forward-moving crowd on a foot over bridge is a common experience for the millions who travel on the suburban train network even today. This work juxtaposes a lone figure on the track below against this crowd. Patwardhan reads this as an “interesting contrast,” but it’s also an eerie one. Who is the man standing precariously at the intersection of the train tracks? What is he witnessing? And, importantly, is anyone watching him? (Sudhir Patwardhan)

UPDATED ON SEP 06, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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Riot, Acrylic on canvas, 1996. “After the 1992-93 Mumbai riots, I struggled with the idea of a painting that could express some of the anguish. It took three years to paint this image after making multiple drawings, and yet it could do no more than suggest the horror,” Patwardhan said of this work that depicts the riots that broke out in the city in 1992. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

Riot, Acrylic on canvas, 1996. “After the 1992-93 Mumbai riots, I struggled with the idea of a painting that could express some of the anguish. It took three years to paint this image after making multiple drawings, and yet it could do no more than suggest the horror,” Patwardhan said of this work that depicts the riots that broke out in the city in 1992. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

UPDATED ON SEP 06, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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Bhayya, Acrylic on canvas, 1999. The migrant is not a new figure in Patwardhan’s works. But there is a crucial difference between “Departure” and his previous works. In this piece, the dignity of the migrant is not in question, his private space is well delineated; the line drawing on the other hand is a study on absolute loss, not just of livelihood but also of the dignity afforded by home and personal space. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

Bhayya, Acrylic on canvas, 1999. The migrant is not a new figure in Patwardhan’s works. But there is a crucial difference between “Departure” and his previous works. In this piece, the dignity of the migrant is not in question, his private space is well delineated; the line drawing on the other hand is a study on absolute loss, not just of livelihood but also of the dignity afforded by home and personal space. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

UPDATED ON SEP 06, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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Flyover, Acrylic on canvas, 2005. By the 2000s, Mumbai had turned from a manufacturing hub to a services-driven economy. Old mills went up for redevelopment and sky scrapers began to house the city’s rich. Yet, as this work shows, the grandeur of development diminishes the individual, who looks almost disembodied in a sea of cement-- also a reminder of the floods that submerged large parts of the city for days in 2005. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

Flyover, Acrylic on canvas, 2005. By the 2000s, Mumbai had turned from a manufacturing hub to a services-driven economy. Old mills went up for redevelopment and sky scrapers began to house the city’s rich. Yet, as this work shows, the grandeur of development diminishes the individual, who looks almost disembodied in a sea of cement-- also a reminder of the floods that submerged large parts of the city for days in 2005. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

UPDATED ON SEP 06, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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The Clearing, Acrylic on canvas, 2007. One of the most familiar sights in Mumbai, even now, is of skyscrapers and hutments next to one another. Often such colonies are earmarked for clearing to accommodate another high-rise. “The city grows vertically and also horizontally beyond the horizon,” said Patwardhan. The disparity is immediately visible, but like his other works, a contrapuntal sight lies at the centre: a miraculous clearing in a space-starved city. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

The Clearing, Acrylic on canvas, 2007. One of the most familiar sights in Mumbai, even now, is of skyscrapers and hutments next to one another. Often such colonies are earmarked for clearing to accommodate another high-rise. “The city grows vertically and also horizontally beyond the horizon,” said Patwardhan. The disparity is immediately visible, but like his other works, a contrapuntal sight lies at the centre: a miraculous clearing in a space-starved city. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

UPDATED ON SEP 06, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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Bylanes Saga Diptych, Acrylic on Canvas, 2007. In the wall text of “Walking through soul city: A retrospective,” at the NGMA, art critic Nancy Adajania pointed out references to medieval Christian iconography — the child in the clearing recalls Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of St Jerome in the Wilderness, for instance. The painting employs a structure of “fracture and continuity”, as the artist put it, to portray hope and despair unfolding in the bylanes. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

Bylanes Saga Diptych, Acrylic on Canvas, 2007. In the wall text of “Walking through soul city: A retrospective,” at the NGMA, art critic Nancy Adajania pointed out references to medieval Christian iconography — the child in the clearing recalls Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of St Jerome in the Wilderness, for instance. The painting employs a structure of “fracture and continuity”, as the artist put it, to portray hope and despair unfolding in the bylanes. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

UPDATED ON SEP 06, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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Mumbai Proverbs, Acrylic on canvas, 2014. The seven-panel mural, commissioned by art patron couple Anand and Anuradha Mahindra, portrays a series of cityscapes that makes up the fragmented reality of residents. “This inexhaustible city overwhelms us and baffles us. It excites, enchants and exasperates us. To portray such a city is to soak in it, celebrate it, try and make some sense of it; and mostly to worry about it,” said Patwardhan. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

Mumbai Proverbs, Acrylic on canvas, 2014. The seven-panel mural, commissioned by art patron couple Anand and Anuradha Mahindra, portrays a series of cityscapes that makes up the fragmented reality of residents. “This inexhaustible city overwhelms us and baffles us. It excites, enchants and exasperates us. To portray such a city is to soak in it, celebrate it, try and make some sense of it; and mostly to worry about it,” said Patwardhan. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

UPDATED ON SEP 06, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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Irani Restaurant, Oil on canvas, 1977. Irani restaurants, which sprouted as migrants from Iran began settling in the city from the 19th century onwards, have a special place in the city’s culinary landscape. Some of the more famous ones today include Brittania and Company, Kayani, Kooler’s and Café Irani Chai. For Patwardhan, they’re “the quintessential place to sip a cup of tea and see the world pass by.” (Sudhir Patwardhan)

Irani Restaurant, Oil on canvas, 1977. Irani restaurants, which sprouted as migrants from Iran began settling in the city from the 19th century onwards, have a special place in the city’s culinary landscape. Some of the more famous ones today include Brittania and Company, Kayani, Kooler’s and Café Irani Chai. For Patwardhan, they’re “the quintessential place to sip a cup of tea and see the world pass by.” (Sudhir Patwardhan)

UPDATED ON SEP 06, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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Accident on May Day, Oil on canvas, 1981. Patwardhan based this work on his experience of witnessing a train accident in his early days in Mumbai — it can be seen as a metaphor of the decline of the organized working movement, he said. The artist moved to the city in the 1970s, when the city had a rich cultural and political atmosphere that derived from the organized working class movements. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

Accident on May Day, Oil on canvas, 1981. Patwardhan based this work on his experience of witnessing a train accident in his early days in Mumbai — it can be seen as a metaphor of the decline of the organized working movement, he said. The artist moved to the city in the 1970s, when the city had a rich cultural and political atmosphere that derived from the organized working class movements. (Sudhir Patwardhan)

UPDATED ON SEP 06, 2020 11:34 AM IST
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