Monday, August 20, 2012

Spotlight on a reclusive progressive

Born in Amravati in the state of Maharashtra in 1916, Hari Ambadas Gade did his graduation (science), though he was fond of drawing since childhood. Reminiscing about the formative years, he had once stated: "When I was a child I was fond of drawing. But I also had a compelling interest in science and mathematics. I therefore went on to qualify for the master's degree in Sceince." Since he couldn't find a job, Gade joined a school as a teacher. It was in Jabalpur, where he went for his Bachelor of Educator examinations, that the artist began painting landscapes.

Initially, he painted some exquisite landscapes. Later, his sensitive mind was touched and affected by the slum life he witnessed across Mumbai and the abject poverty the people around lived in, diverting the course of his art journey to reality from abstraction. The dirty slums, poverty and the state of life recurred as a motif in his works.

However, he did not fully abandon landscapes, and would travel frequently to different parts of India, traversing Kerala’s lush greenery, the deserts and palaces of Udaipur, and the dense forests elsewhere. Indeed, Gade’s landscapes are a precious treasure to cherish. He also did a wonderful series on monsoon greens.

He opted for an unconventional style, and rebelled against the set norms of academic art, imposed by the British education system, as most PAG members did at that time. He came in touch with S.H. Raza, who provided him with precious inputs. The talented artist started off by primarily painting watercolors. However, he gradually switched to painting oils on canvas. Gade made use of the palette knife as well as brush to finish his paintings. He had his exhibition in Mumbai in 1947, and a year later at the annual Bombay Art Society show.

The artist was invited for a show in Paris, and at Stanford University in 1949. His works were exhibited at the prestigious Venice Biennale in 1954. As several art critics have rightly pointed out, his art practice stands on a solid intellectual platform and his works reflect a unique streak, wherein color is of great importance, and form happens to be only incidental. Hari Ambadas Gade passed away in 2001, but left behind a rich treasure-trove of work.

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