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.
Art correspondent for the Indian Express