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Ambadas: A Silent Voice of Freedom

By Akhilesh

“How can someone write on the paintings of Ambadas?” This is a statement written by Swaminathan two decades ago for an exhibition in Delhi by Ambadas. Mesmerized by the beauty and simplicity of the paintings, Swaminathan pointed out a fact that the paintings by Ambadas are paintings not by Ambadas, but paintings of their own. Both Swaminathan and Ambadas share a great bond of friendship. On one hand Ambadas was reticent about him being a human being and on the other hand Swaminathan was full of agony of his being a human, perhaps both thereby escaped being complimentary to each other.


Works by Ambadas are picture of reticence same as concealed in nature. ‘A silent voice of freedom’ this is how Swaminathan describes his paintings. These voices don’t indulge themselves in a strong statement neither do they try to prove themselves. These are the voices that cannot be heard but can be seen. Presence of Ambadas reminds about the human presence in the caves of Bhimbetka. Just like the cave paintings of Bhimbetka, Ambadas perhaps had nothing in mind but only the painting, no idea of expression and no burden of history. Creation and pure creation. The irony of this 20th century is that it cannot see beyond ‘reason and result’, but Ambadas was far away from this bondage, rather he was all about ‘subject and object’.


It may sound unnecessary that I compare these artworks with cosmos. But here I would like to mention an anecdote with Ambadas while he was a resident artist in Bharat Bhavan. There I got a chance to see him painting live, the way he spreads the canvas and starts mixing and dissolving the colours on it. One such evening out of my naivety I asked him as to what form of nature he considers to be the basis of his pictures. ‘Germination’ Ambadas replied spontaneously, \”the boundless energy in which a sprout burst through the earth is the basis of my pictures\”.


Talking about these pictures as an expert is to take oneself away from these works. Feeling the pictures is more important that just viewing it. It’s like those experiences we live but never express.

Ambadas doesn’t give any title to his drawings and paintings. There’s no reason behind giving and not giving title to the artwork. Most of the pictures of Ambadas are without any titles but two artworks, which are in the collection of Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal titled Roopbheda I and Roopbheda II. Painted in early 1980s, the titles have been taken from Vatsyayan’s Kama Sutra. Decoding the title as to see what could be the ‘roop’ of Ambadas pictures would be quite interesting. Is he referring to the difference of form? Or her merely thought of it as an interesting title? Here I am reminded of an episode of Mahabharata ‘The Swayamvar of Draupadi’. The context could possibly unravel Roopbhed.


While Arjun was aiming to the fish’s eye while looking at it’s reflection, he was quite disturbed for the first time in concentrating on his target. Earlier hitting the target was the outcome, but on that very day the target was the eye and outcome was Draupadi. This was not for him piercing the target, this was piercing the form.

The above mentioned story must have been in the mind of Ambadas when he gave the title Roopbhed. Did Ambadas take an aim? Did that form become a formal structure? The wandering cells in the pictures of Ambadas are arrows released in search of form. There’s no hope in this search. Diffidence is present at every point, during creation and the hesitation of exposure is also there in Ambadas paintings and the spontaneous connection with Ambadas make them pause in the moment of creation. The celebration of one energy merging into another present itself on the canvas.

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