NEW DELHI – Akbar Padamsee, one of India’s finest contemporary artists and the recipient of the Padma Bhushan honor, passed away in Coimbatore Jan. 6 evening at the age of 91.
A JJ School of Art alumnus, this Mumbai-based painter who also spent a considerable amount of time in Paris, was one of the pioneers of modern Indian art along with M.F. Husain and F.N. Souza and part of the Progressive Artists Group.
Born in 1928 in Mumbai, in an earlier interview to this correspondent, Padamsee stressed on the need for an artist to continuously reinvent himself. “The one who creates cannot afford to be lazy. There is so much to explore, both outside and inside,” he said.
Arrested by the Mumbai Police for ‘obscenity’ during his first solo exhibition at the Jehangir Art Gallery (for the paintings ‘Lovers -1’ and ‘Lovers-2’), the judge let go of him after M.F. Husain testified in his favor. He, however, preferred to keep a low profile.
Working in diverse mediums, including oil, watercolor and computer graphics, Padamsee, who was also a sculptor, lithographer, filmmaker and photographer, set up the Vision Exchange Workshop for artists and filmmakers.
The artist, who was primarily interested in constructing form and took to drawing at the age of four, was well known for his metascapes (combining cityscapes and landscapes) and was not averse to using the latest technology. “I have always believed in continuously updating myself. There is little point in being averse to using latest tools.”
Born in an affluent business family, his father Hassan Padamsee owned several buildings and ran a glassware and furniture business.
Several major contemporary artists took to the social media, remembering Padamsee. Artist Atul Dodiya wrote, “My true mentor. Akbar, will miss you forever.”
Poet, critic and cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote wrote on Twitter: “Akbar Padamsee has passed into the ages. I lose another early mentor, from whose guidance in matters both philosophical and practical I benefited greatly in my early 20’s. Whenever we met, over the years, we came back to our shared interests: Sanskrit, rasa theory and Shaiva thought.”
The artist, who had been keeping unwell for quite some time, was spending time at Isha Yoga Center in Coimbatore where he breathed his last.