Blog

Monthly Archives: December 2011

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

Posted in Reviews | 4 Comments

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. 

Posted in Reviews | 5 Comments

RETROGRADE REALITIES: Sunil Padwal’s Intuitive Line (An essay by Urshila Mehta)

 

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse.
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone.

 

- September 1, 1939 by W.H. Auden

 

 

Sunil Padwal cuts a quietly studious figure in his spacious New York- style studio. If anyone told you that his well-known meditative, muscular men were selfportraits, you’d do an internal double-take. Yet, this is exactly how we start our conversation on his newest body of work.

 

Padwal began his career not as a painter, but as a man of the press, illustrating for The Sunday Review’s lead stories. In 1993, he first began to paint his well-known protagonist: brooding, somber, his defined musculature and shorn profile lost in reverie. Padwal explained how in these early years, he began to paint a physical ideal of the man he wanted to become: toned and healthy; an epitome of physical fitness. He achieved this part beautifully, but this perfect rendition of himself still had to wrestle with the issues that plagued him internally: the dystopic state of the surrounding urban situation that an everyday man in India grapples with.

 

 

Art critics like Ranjit Hoskote and Georgina Maddox, and, Columnist Anil Dharkar who have written on Padwal’s work from this time detected an emotional catatonia in these images. “…[his] paintings are completely still, the solitary man made completely inert by the human condition”, wrote Dharkar, “…[he] is no longer a witness: he is past seeing, feeling and hearing. And what he has seen, felt and heard has put him in a state of catatonic angst.”Hoskote identifies “his subjects [as being] those fugitives of crowded metropolitan life, whose identity is rubbed away in the glissitude of traffic and the onrush of pedestrians. It is Padwal’s purpose to seize the aura of these intriguing faces, to commemorate them in that moment between vision and erasure.”3

Padwal’s man was a self-inspired protagonist of a mundane urban story. In spite of appearing physically capable to take on the world around him, Padwal’s early protagonist was always depicted without any defining facial features and, therefore, bereft of any means of communication. Although he contemplated the urban predicament, he was not given any tools to express his concerns. This makes for a frustrating conundrum: He is eyeless but not blind; mouth-less but opinionated. He becomes a silent spectator to the goings-on around him as well as an involuntary participant.

Padwal introduced colour into his works between 2000 and 2004 as an emotional signifier. His urban man remained his main tool of communication but he started allowing for more symbolic devices. He began to draw heavily on photo references and graphic design elements and used these to make emotional statements on the realities around him. An agony and helplessness pervades these works as well as a humiliation of his continued inability to instrument any significant change. Nonetheless, this period signified an awakening for Padwal, a time when he began to reach out through his symbolic devices to express what he wanted. He began to find his voice through a multitude of other graphic languages.

‘Numb’ (2007), a show of mixed media drawings and installation, spoke about socio-political realities. Critic Georgina Maddox, in her catalogue essay for the show observed that “these works are similar to a diary and catalogue the artist’s musings over mortality, violence and form…These 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.” Padwal, as observer, implicates himself in the inert and indolent state of metropolitan India; he feels as jaded, as helpless as any other urban citizen. However, as artist and social commentator, he creates worlds and systems that heavily allude to universal narratives.

 

 

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. 

 

 

Padwal’s installation, ‘Digitally Twisted’ (2011) continues his preoccupation with the trauma of erasure that the individual faces in the digital era. The installation consists of a tenuously long spinal column, printed, almost infected, with numbers that call to mind DNA and Binary Codes. As it snakes along, it transforms from an organic structureto a formation that visually alludes to urban sprawl. Padwal exposes modernization to be a flawed system that is literally mutating our genetic natures and causing a degradation of our very basic natures. Fine black threads run across the front of the installation, a graphic reminder that no matter how much order and logic we impose on ourselves, the human mind and body is too far disfigured to be able to adhere to ‘Urban trauma II’ (2007-2011) addresses the trauma of hospitalization. Surgical instruments suspended within a ‘matchstick-house’ wooden framework threaten and titillate in a macabre dance. The instruments glint and clash, creating villainous music that is both melodic but discordant.

 

 

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 Padwal. 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. Padwal’s 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 belie 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. This is a far cry from turn-of-the-century western artistic practices which celebrated urbanization, industry and technological speed. The Italian Futurists and British Vorticism both were defined by their embrace of industry and made significant stylistic progress in the way mechanical motion and industrial evolution was changing the way human beings visually experienced a changing world around them.

 

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 figures now have mouths along with their trademark musculature. They spew circuitous lines, they drown in a riddle of constructivist sprawl but over all they express a complex set of feelings which even the artist cannot articulate into words. These works are brimming with subtext. So much so, that in some instances aesthetic expressions of these physically bypass the restrictive frame. One particular series, ‘DISCLAIMER: the views expressed here are strictly personal’ (2007-2011) features five mixed-media drawings voicing Padwal’s disdain of Western capitalistic and political systems. These works literally have elements that project beyond the frame, part of the drawing, part of Padwal’s inner swirl of thoughts literally spill, bleed, leach and run off onto the wall.

 

The irony of this body of works lies in the intersection of two tangential artistic principles: subjectivity and aesthetic minimalism. Padwal’s work is firmly rooted in the figurative tradition. Yet he has made it his very own. Padwal has infused his individual preoccupations with a unique graphic language developed from various influences: maps, architectural drawings, Japanese graphic design and British editorial design as well as drawing on the art of Christian Boltanski, Marlene Dumas and the Chapman Brothers. Padwal’s new works are his most intimate and simultaneously most geopolitical yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Essays | Leave a comment

Soliloquies: Notes from the drawing book – Extended Essay by Georgina Maddox

 

A drawing simply is no longer a drawing, no matter how self-sufficient its execution may be. It is a symbol. 
— Paul Klee


Looking for truth, respite and catharsis, artists have often turned to the very primary and graphic   act of putting down lines on paper—by just drawing. Giving vent to the pent up passion inside of them, this form of art 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.

 

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.

 

While writers resort to prose and poetry to ponder these 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.

 

The five part series sets out to examine the genesis, growth of the city and its ramifications on human life. Continuum Chaos, Interpreting,Disclaimer and Analogic are some of the chosen subheadings for this series.

 

Padwal embarked on a similar trajectory of introspection about the city and its growth when he contributed his works for a group exhibition titledForty years of Freedom, and once more when he revisited the idea of urban growth for a similar exhibition titled Sixty years of Freedom. Like in his earlier works Padwal has continued to use the familiar symbol of a male protagonist, whose tonsured head and taut body became the symbol for urban man. However the body comes unravelled in meandering lines and strong anatomy drawings that candidly bare the bones of the protagonist.

 

This body of work is a culmination of his thoughts and feelings about the city, beginning from childhood and going up to his present lifetime. He has used the platform of the drawing book or diary as a chronicler of disquiet, when his immediate surroundings create within him a sense of dystopia. Here there is evidence of ‘progress’ but there is something not quite right with the manner in which this progress and modernisation has taken root in the city.

 

While one craves to be modern and to progress towards a ‘better’ future, stock taking of this so-called betterment is important. Padwal’s work constantly poses the question; must progress come at the expense of the degradation of society and the loss of human values?  In the post-industrial age of machine –versus-man, Padwal does not quote directly from the debate or rhetoric of displacement of migrant mill workers to make way for the glitzy mall; however it alludes to it obliquely where man and machine clash and twist in a dizzying dance of destruction.

 

In another series titled As far as I can see, he has embarked upon skeletal studies of animals and the human anatomy to evoke a metaphor of the quintessential symbol of dispossession. Is man a mute beast that can neither find a voice to protests the gross inequalities that often jump up to hit one in the face in a metropolitan like Mumbai?

 

Within this angst ridden landscape is room for humour and Padwal has dedicated a series to an application on his phone, titled A100 Words that make you Sound Smart. He has used these words, from his phone App, lettered in a font of the now almost defunct typewriter, which survives only in government institutions. The intent is to make the words ironic and tongue-in-cheek. For instance he has used words like Tirade and simply juxtaposed it with an image of a twisted spine. It is a comment on the digital era where words and images can be twisted by powerful members of society to confuse people by the smoke and mirrors of clever wordplay.

 

Finally, Padwal departs from the small format to amplify his comment with an installation titled Digitally Twisted. This installation consists of a huge paper roll, about 36 x 8 feet large, folded over in a manner of an accordion book or a sheet of corrugated paper. While it emulates the human spine it alludes largely to the spine of the city that has come under threat with the degradation of the very fabric of society and its basic human values. The work could also be seen as the spine of a book that in a way ties up the work with the notebook format followed by the artist throughout the show. The works are backlit with a spotlight lending them, once again, the air of theatricality that is so much a part of Padwal’s lexicon in this series. 

Posted in Essays | 394 Comments

Soliloquies: Notes from the drawing book

15th December,2011 – 27th January, 2012

The hypocrisies in the name of development, the never ending corruption, the ancient social and religious cruelties, the communal fanaticism and the various other turpitudes of present day society. One just cannot escape from reality of our everyday life.

We try not to get affected by it. Time and again it disturbs us, murmurings in our heads go silent. We are increasingly questioning less, reduced to being a sad bemused observer. What does one do?

This drawing series is an attempt to bring a form to all that unsettles you, all the fragmented expressions – affected by hundreds of questions.

This particular feeling of your own observation of reality you want to express in some ways- is a kind of a monologue or rather soliloquy. These drawings are culmination of those layers of expressions intended to give the illusion of unspoken reflections.

Although inspired by reality, they are however semi abstract and fictional -a metaphoric imagery letting way for hundreds of overlapping thoughts. 

While depicting and transforming these sensitive thoughts into line drawings, the line played an integral role in creating a new form, far more complex and intricate.

These drawings are my voice, a way of questioning and looking at the reality of the noisy polluted fragile life of ours.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Myopia: Black on Black (An essay by Anil Dharker for Sunil Padwal)

Over the years, Sunil Padwal’s signature man has become instantly recognisable. If R K Laxman’s Common Man is a bewildered witness to the idiocy of daily life, Padwal’s Desolate Man (as I call him) is no longer a witness: he is past seeing, feeling and hearing. And what he has seen and felt and heard has put him into a state of catatonic angst. He is a thinking man’s Common Man, perpetually in a state of Wordsworthian despair:

 

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

 

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:

 

Little we see in Nature that is ours….

 

The Desolate Man’s profound feeling of anxiety and dread was something we could identify with. Padwal’s muscular figures and monumental heads were shorn of decoration and embellishment, apparel and costume; anything, in fact, that could place them in time or place. Their faces had power and strength yet they were faceless; they had vision which seemed to bore through stone, yet we couldn’t see their eyes. They were heroic figures brought down to their knees; shorn Samsons drained of their strength. In their universality, they could be anyone, anywhere and anytime, and in their universality, they could be us.

 

In his current exhibition Myopia, Sunil Padwal contemporarises this timeless sense of frustration and despair, of helplessness and pent up anger. In his most ambitious body of work yet, we have moved into battlefields of every description and in every part of the world. His women―the first time the artist has brought in the other sex―are  presented with the starkness of photography. These startling images have come from variegated sources: a photograph in Time for a United Nations World Food Programme in aid of Kashmiri earthquake victims, a prize winning World Press photograph of a girl displaced by a Pakistani earthquake, a picture from Mexico, one from India… What is striking is that the origin of these images seem immaterial: in all of them, the women wear the same look, haunted and haunting, defensive yet defiant. By changing the frames of these pictures and giving them a seismic shift in context, Padwal seems to bring them together into one universal woman, neither country nor religion specific, identified only by her gender, which makes her a second class citizen of whichever country she happens to be rooted in.

 

By using another set of photographs, this time of the British coloniser’s attempts to do a “scientific” study of caste physiognomy, Padwal seems to say that in another context, it is not just gender that defines your status: the empire builder, whatever his era and whatever his politics, will find his own unique way to pin down a butterfly. Hitler’s systematic propagation of the Aryan supremacy theory comes to mind; its consequences are too well known and too brutal to need retelling.

 

The installations―a departure for the artist―carry on this theme and makes it almost palpable. The playfully named Toys R Us turns the house-boat, the very symbol of an idyllic, romantic tryst with Nature, into a comment on how the world has turned completely topsy–turvy: from a distance, it does look like a shikara; from close-up you see that the boat is constructed entirely of toy guns. The shikara now gets a new meaning: it’s now the hunted, a quivering object in the gun–sight of the shikari. The use of toy guns also suggests a loss of innocence, real guns being used as toys, while boys with roses still in tact on their cheeks become pre–pubescent soldiers.

 

The heroic figures of the US Marines fighting in Iraq are on the dog–tags which dominate the installation Of course. A tag is worn for identification, and soldiers are said to wear it with pride. But ironically, the tag is useful only when the wearer is dead, his face and body too mangled for recognition. When its wearer is alive, the tag serves the opposite purpose of suppressing the soldier’s individuality; in his uniform and the tag’s uniformness, every crease of personality is sought to be erased. The wearer doesn’t realise it but, all in all, he’s just another brick in the wall.

 

Urban Trauma comes from the artist’s very intense personal experience. We, of course, need not know this: the surgical instruments dangling from invisible strings move in their own macabre dance of death. When we need them, they save our lives, yet what is terrifying is that seen in an operation theatre or even in the clear light of day, they eerily resemble instruments of torture. Is there, then, so little that separates good and evil? Are they two sides of one coin? Are they each on both sides of the same coin?

 

Sunil Padwal’s world has always been bleak. With Myopia, that bleak world has turned even bleaker. The artist has applied black tones on black, and yet we will see this as not necessarily too dark a commentary on the world we live in. What can be more tragic that that?

Posted in BLOG | 6 Comments

Foreword about Sunil Padwal by Anil Dharkar, 26 May 2007

The editor of a publication faces many challenges on a day to day basis. Top of the list has to be the putting together of an interesting mix of articles for the reader. But that’s a challenge most good editors relish. The one that gives him the most headaches, though, is what visuals to use. Take a terrific article, but illustrate it with boring pictures, and chances are that the reader will skip the page. Photographs — good, strong photographs — are not always available, which is when you want good, strong illustrations.

 

As editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India, I was lucky enough to have a quiet, studious artist on the staff. His name was Baiju Parthan. But The Sunday Times of India’s Review  had no such luxury, so I embarked upon the difficult, but ultimately rewarding part of an editor’s job, which I call the Treasure Hunt. That’s when I found Sunil Padwal. I was immediately struck by how young he was : seeing the maturity of his work, I had expected someone much older. But he was a serious young man, and he always kept to the deadline. But more than that, he was able to capture the essence of the story and do so with illustrations which jumped out vividly from the page.  No surprise, then, that we used him more and more; he soon became a Review</B> regular and people began to notice him.

 

I have followed Sunil’s progress over a decade and a half since then. One of his large paintings hangs over my writing table : it’s the brooding, intense, yet unseeing face of one of his monolithic men; men of such epic proportions that they seem cast in stone. Yet, in spite of their stern impassivity, you sense a hidden vulnerability at their core. This, and many of Sunil’s other haunted looking men capture our urban angst, the alienation we feel in our big cities, and try to escape from again and again.

 

His current exhibition, I think, is his best work yet. Part of it carries forward the themes and motifs we are familiar with, but even there, in the detailing, there are departures. But what excites me more are the new avenues he has begun to explore. At one level, this shows itself in the experimentation with form, where the frame isn’t just an appendage put on the work after it’s done, but is an integral part of it. You will see that in the boxed frames, and you will particularly notice it in the multi-layered glass boxes, so that you get sometimes a three-dimensional shadow effect and sometimes different imagery at various levels adding up to a complex layering of ideas.

 

I also like the dry humour in the small series which juxtaposes modern imagery with the old. Like the fighter plane, displayed like a criminal in a gibbet. Or the bug with a carburettor for its innards, which obviously isn’t a good substitute because its legs are all askew. Or the crow pecking at the orrery, suggesting a complex mechanism put into the wrong hands. Or the bee’s search for honey, but since it’s an American bee (its hindquarters are the Stars and Stripes!), the honey it is searching for is not in a garden, but in a landscape filled with oil derricks.

 

Artists arrive with such departures. Because that’s when other journeys begin.

 

 

             —Anil Dharker

                             2007

        

 

 

Posted in Essays, General | Leave a comment

The Solitary artist: An article about Sunil Padwal by Anil Dharker

If Sunil Padwal were to be a cake, Harsh Goenka would get a large piece of him. And so would Sunday Review. In 1993, when this publication was looking for someone to illustrate its lead stories, in came this bright young man who looked less like a painter, more of an ad man. As it happens, he was an ad man with a flair for painting. He was soon a regular Sunday Review contributor, his illustrations, often in sombre colours, often featuring a faceless, haunted (and haunting) male figure, becoming an intrinsic part of the look of this paper.

 

Padwal still looks like an advertising man, perhaps more so. He has a fashionably short hair style, with a bright tint sprinkled across the spiked hair. His clothes would get him instant admission into any discotheque. But he’s quit advertising and become that rarity: someone who makes a living out of painting alone.

 

It began with Harsh Goenka, the art collecting head of RPG Enterprises, noticing the Sunday Review illustrations. “Are you a painter,” he asked Padwal. “No,” said Padwal. “Well, you should be,” said Goenka and commissioned him to do a painting. Padwal did 15. He was soon on his way to his first exhibition. Goenka remains his patron-in-chief (a recent exhibition was sponsored by RPG), but Parmeshwar Godrej, Kumarmangalam Birla and Tina Ambani have also become avid collectors.

 

If that suggests a “society painter” tag, it’s misleading. Padwal’s signature solitary man, face blanked out often to blackness, has a mesmerising quality about it, made more so by our inability to locate the figure in time or place. He could be a man “awaiting a train at a deserted station. In Paris maybe,” suggests Padwal. He could be in a chawl in Mumbai. Or a prison in Sarajevo. That universal quality also draws foreigners to his work as it did at his recent show at Mumbai’s Jehangir Art Gallery. “They wanted to know if I had studied abroad. They didn’t believe I am J. J. School of Art product,” says Padwal.

 

Sunil Padwal, at 31, shows the restless energy of the young. Yet his paintings are completely still, the solitary man made completely inert by the human condition. Where does the artist’s energy go? In exploration. In finding new media, new ways and new materials. Not one of his works is a conventional canvas in a conventional frame. He will paint on the remnants of a packing crate on tarpaulin sheets, on colour xeroxes or on old degree certificates found in Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar. The frames come from everywhere: Chor Bazaar, of course, but also Kurla Old Market or Bharat Market or wherever. And they are ‘frames’ only in a manner of speaking. You might find gear parts, pulleys, or part of petrol can be incorporated into the work. The recent exhibition also included books; not real books but pieces of wood made to look like them with the solitary man glaring from the cover. A collection of them would make a wonderful library, the lack of words and the book’s literal hollowness a telling comment on our times. Not that Sunil Padwal wants you to see any large meanings in what he does. “I paint because I enjoy painting. And do you know what? People say the solitary man is melancholy. But he gives me immense happiness.”

 Anil dharker

September 24, 2000

Posted in BLOG, Obsevations | 12 Comments

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

REVIEW

The Sunday Times of India

Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

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

 

Posted in BLOG, Reviews | Leave a comment

Archives

LINKS

Categories

Sunil Padwal © Copyright 2017   Terms & Conditions    
Share