Category Archives: Reviews

SOLILOQUIES: Notes from the drawing book (Most Resent review by Georgina Maddox)


Giving vent to the pent up passion inside of them, drawing is perhaps the most direct way of speaking that an artist can lay recourse to. Arguably drawing, unlike painting and other forms of art, requires less premeditation, it is, in a way, unpretentious, raw and immediate.  


In this body of work, artist Sunil Padwal, attempts to unburden some of his angst and frustration towards social tribulations and the apathy felt by many as a result of being relegated to the margins.  For this, he turns to drawing that unlike his larger canvases is intimate, yet striking–almost like a stage whisper.


While writers resort to prose and poetry to ponder questions, artists speak through the medium of lines on paper. Padwal’s implements for this body of work are paper, an isographic Rotring pen and basic drawing materials, enhanced with water- colour and ink. Some of the works are titled with a font of the now almost defunct typewriter.  


Largely these drawings, like most of Padwal’s earlier work, reflect upon the changing face of the metropolis of Mumbai. The constantly morphing sky-line of maximum city has played muse to many an artist, as it has for Padwal in his previous series, Numb, however the scale of the works are an important factor since their miniature size is in direct contrast with the larger-than-life  experience of Bombay/ Mumbai- with its sky scrapers, earth movers, Bollywood hoardings and teaming millions. This direct contrast is perhaps an invitation to examine closely what one has often taken for granted.


Padwal has approached some of his drawings as one would the act of automatic writing, wherein the lines of the artist have meandered from the austere dictates of strictly delineated forms and taken their own entangled path. These lines then to create forms that have, ‘come into being’ as opposed to them being purposefully created with premeditation.  They are perhaps, fictional forms where the artist has allowed himself to come close to abstraction. The works speak in black and white, but in a role reversal where the background is black and the lines are rendered in white with an isograph pen with white ink.


In other instances, the works gain multiple-layers and appear more self-consciously worked upon, even while they strive to maintain the feeling of being spontaneous doodles.  The drawings are actually quite studied in their casualness as they appear to have been torn out of a note book or sketch pad.  However, the drawings have in fact been worked upon, with Pawal’s trademark meticulousness to create textures, burn-marks, sutures, blue paper burnt on the edges to appear like an x-ray and other collage-like effects and processes that enhance the ruggedness of a scientists’ working manual. These make these spontaneous drawings more complex, refined and thought out.


In other instances the graphic quality of these works are so meticulous, that they appear almost like miniature paintings, they also bare the exactitude of and likeness to a study of human anatomy that has been a hallmark of Padwal’s earlier work.


In its entirety the works emulate the intimate format of a diary, yet they have a certain audience in mind; they possess theatricality and poise, which is why the title of the solo, Soliloquies, is extremely apt. The artists’ internal monologue is externalised and the intent is to share and articulate these quiet thoughts, without grandstanding, or resorting to heavy-handed preaching tone. The works are neither loud nor do they state the obvious. This body of work draws its effectiveness from the fact that it calls you in closer.

-Georgina Maddox

December 2011

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Soliloquies: Notes from the drawing book (By Urshila Mehta 2011)



Padwal’s newest body of work continues his inquest into his personal and the collective psyche.  ‘Soliloquies: notes from the drawing book’ consists of two installations and four series of small format drawings made on pages of his diary. 


For Padwal, the medium of drawing allows for thoughts to be overlapped and complexed. His soliloquies are memories and observations of a city, yet fictional and universal simultaneously. The worlds depicted are surreal, all-encompassing traps for the urban individual. Black and white as monochromes have tremendous strength according to the artist. They speak clearly, whereas colour distracts. These two primaries combined with a graphic language make for minimal but impactful works. Padwal has used a Rotring pen, an architectural draughtsman’s tool, to create each finely imbricated drawing. His lines follow an interiorized, almost intuitive logic to create these surreal urbanscapes. His pen meanders tightly, almost searchingly, lost in the maze of its own creation.


Many of the drawings hint at an underlying angst. Some lament a degradation of human values in the rat race for capitalistic power. Others express an urgent fear for the organic body turning mechanic: without feeling, intelligence or sensitivity. Many of the drawings depict a kind of reverse decay. Technology and urban development are symbolic of an alarming anti-climax that is fast encroaching onto Padwal’s worlds. The construction grid, and architectural forms indicate ruination, not evolution and tension, not celebration. Urbanization has reached saturation point in Padwal’s worlds and although his lines embroider delicate visual systems that are aesthetically fine, they also belie the artist’s keen frustrations with urban sprawl as much as he tries to map its complexities in a minimal graphic language.


Padwal’s new works are his most intimate and simultaneously his most geopolitical yet. 

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A Brush With Time: May 1994 Review of Sunil Padwal in The Sunday Times of India

Whose faces are these, that look out at us from the darkness of old windows? They do not always confront us boldly; more often, they look furtively away, or prefer the company of their own strangeness. It seems as though nothing we can do will draw these men of mystery from the private universe of their thoughts. Possessed by a quiet desperation, the subjects of Sunil Padwal’s paintings tenant a shadowy region; a region filmed almost entirely in a somber palette of umber and sienna, relieved only by an occasional flare of golden-ochre.


Sunil Padwal first achieved public notice thorough these very columns with his striking illustrations: in these, he combined the classical elements of collage with an inscriptional technique, to produce images that were quite autonomous of the articles to which they were ostensibly appended. Trained as a graphics designer at the

Sir J. J. School of Art’s applied arts faculty, Padwal brings an acute sense of compositional effect to his illustrations; often enough, his creations have seemed to be executions in miniature, of more ambitious pictorial projects.


Curiously, Padwal, on his own account, seems not to have speculated on these possibilities inherent in his art. Since he does not regard illustration as an inferior or incidental form, he has been content with operating on the scale it sets. On the other hand, the format does breed a certain discontent, as does the fact that the limited shelf life of a newspaper illustration is no reward at all for an artist’s labour. Indeed, it is not surprising that many artists who have worked as illustrators should have, in recent times, pulled away to concentrate on their own painterly aims.


Sunil Padwal’s paintings certainly flourish in this freedom: not bound by the parameters of an assignment, he freely explores sensuous experiences to which he is attracted, articulates his private figural obsessions. An inventive collageur, he makes no distinction between the frame and the framed in his work: his is an art of total surface, its forms slashing every which way across divisions, so that the entire rectangle of the painting is legitimately picture space. A votary of Chor Bazar baroque, Padwal picks out old, ornamental frames with relish from the welter of the junk shops; his propensity for the mixed-media mode allows him to deploy a range of materials in diverse permutations: tarpaulin sheets on a grand scale; emulsion paint juxtaposed with Touchwood varnish; colour xerox output overlaid with acrylic paint; sections of stenciled cartons;  wooden planking; an old academic certificate dated April 28, 1930, in an interesting brush with time.


In this last work, especially, numerous poignancies surface: the names of an institution and a student, each obscured by dry-brushed ink and the outline of a brooding figure; the document with its curlicued Gothic script and its effaced markings, suggests an excavation of things past, a séance with reluctant ghosts.


Who, then, are these men in trench coats, crisscrossed by searchlights, storm-shadowed? Meditative and prayerful, Padwal’s art permits us access to astonishing transformations, as when the mug shots of wanted criminals give way to saintly icons: the same faces which seemed to belong to Dashiel Hammett or John Le Carre characters, now seem to be the tallowstained, candle-soot-covered portraits of martyrs. Padwal’s theme is the city as dwelling; his subjects are those fugitives of crowded metropolitan life, whose identity is rubbed away in the glissade of traffic and the onrush of pedestrians. Faces rise up, are held for a moment in the mind’s eye, and then vanish. It is Padwal’s purpose to seize the aura of these intriguing faces, to commemorate them in that moment between vision and erasure. Amphibious spies, double agents, Sunil Padwal’s protagonists negotiate between the invisible and the light.

 Ranjit Hoskote

May 1, 1994


The Sunday Times of India

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Numb 2006-2007, a review by Georgina Maddox of the Indian Express

Broad brush strokes give way to fine graphic lines; the large scope of the canvas is abandoned for the smooth surface of paper and glass. Sunil Padwal’s recent body of work marks a moment of transition for the artist, where he discards the comfort of the known for the challenge of the unknown. The journey of self discovery bears its own rewards.


Numb is departure as much as it is homecoming for the artist as he revisits his collegiate flair for finely rendered graphic drawings coupled with his trademark monochromatic rendition of the male protagonist.


Here Sunil opens is vocabulary up to new metaphors, where the singular, lone figure of the male protagonist who was the sole carrier of the artist’s emotions and thoughts gives way to other objects and elements. Machines and grids, insects and animals populate the space that was once reserved for the solo figure.


Surprisingly despite the arrival of all these new elements in his works, Sunil’s approach to space remains uncluttered and minimal, his construction of the visual experience is as precise and pristine as the earlier works, if not more so.


Executed over a year the works comprise of three sections that encompass separate concerns of the artist that of course culminate into one viewing experience since they are presented together in one show.


One section, titled Fragile consists of works are faux light boxes in black and white with a section of anatomical drawings and grids traced onto the top of glass, under which an echo of the image is presented on paper; a finely drawn form that acts as both shadow and alter ego of the image on the surface.


These works are similar to a diary and catalogue the artist musings over mortality, violence and form. Here the male figure is still predominant though other forms like the dog, a cage and grids appear to provide a sense of movement to the form.


The other set of works are loaded with commentary on the current political scenario and are a set of finely drawn images on paper mounted in a box frame.


In works like Black Gold we see a fat bumble bee attired in the stars and stripes of the American flag, buzzing among oil drilling machines. The reference to the oil wars and the US invasion of Iraq are implicit in this work, while the title acts as a cue.
In the same section there are other renditions of obsolete machines ticking within the anatomy of insects, once again referring to the hidden agenda of globalization.

These works deserve a good long look since they are the first instance where the artist has abandoned the human form all together. The works are non narrative in nature and yet they have a story to tell, all they require is a keen eye to spot the reference to larger issues.


The last set of works, chronologically the first works that led to this series, is titled Frailty. Here one can trace the beginning of the artist’s initial explorations, where the form of the male protagonist is very much present and harkens back to his early works but there are already sings of the new series as the artists constructs a series of grids and lines around and over the figure. These works signify an emotional state rather than a realm of reason. Journey into the mind of the artist to experience his highs and lows in this large format works that lead you into his latest series, which jump off the precipice and into the unknown. 


Georgina Maddox

Art correspondent for the Indian Express


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Ponder over Padwal’s art

Vadhera Art Gallery here is holding "Numb", a solo show of paintings, drawings and installations by well-known artist Sunil Padwal from June 2 to 30 (2007). Padwal's creations have been critically acclaimed both by the critics as well as the peers and many claim his work forces the viewer to think and ponder over what he sees.

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