EP 200 . 04 Nov 20

Painter of people

With Sudhir Patwardhan

In the episode


  1. Most legendary musicians talk about having emptied the mind to reach a higher state of consciousness while performing (Bismillah Khan or Kumar Gandharva). Is this the same process while painting? A painter seems to be filled with thoughts, contradictions, and conflicts in the world.
  2. Your early works (70’s) were just the subject. Later on, you started bringing in context along with the subject. Why? What made you make this shift? Eventually, your paintings become busier. Why?
  3. You’ve said, “It is about what is possible to communicate and what is not. The artist starts by saying something, then he wipes and starts anew.” – Is this the reason why Mumbai has always inspired you? Even Mumbai gets washed with every wave hitting the island and starts fresh? Why Mumbai?
  4. This maximum city is transmuting rapidly all the time. How did you pick subjects to paint? Be it “corporate towers threatening to take over the long-defunct mills” or be it “riots”. How did/do you handle the anxiety of expressing these equally burning issues and yet making it an iconic piece of art? (Is that how your multiple scenes within the same canvas emerge?)
  5. In my understanding, be it Vijay Tendulkar, or Satyajit Ray or you (For eg: “Paying the bill” painting – people next door, a common man, are subjects of your interest. What do you think makes your work so relatable? How come the common man (most of the time) is non-cognizant about it?
  6. Human forms in your painting are doing mundane activities. Yet they are imbued with a sense of innate dignity as they go about performing their chores. What is transpiring in your expression?
  7. Your work ‘Citing the city’ at Sakshi Gallery in 2007 created a dialogue with society – How do you see these dialogues reaching the masses when the galleries are visited by the elite?
  8. You have been drawing Mumbai tirelessly. Crowded and chaotic scenes seem to be clearly depicted in your work. If you have to start all over again, which city would you pick?

About Sudhir Patwardhan

Bio from JNAF

Sudhir Patwardhan is born in 1949 in Poona and is a self-taught artist and a practicing radiologist. He began painting seriously in the ’70s when he moved to Bombay. Patwardhan’s works centers around one poetically monumental panorama of an urban and natural environment The human figure remains the center of his painterly universe. His early paintings of construction workers, rickshaw drivers, railway porters possess an expressive urgency.

Patwardhan uses scale to maintain an emotional distance from his subject. Recording landscapes in transition has been a lasting interest for Patwardhan. He often paints the suburbs, shanty towns, and satellite townships where his subjects work and live.

Patwardhan’s canvases are densely populated reflecting the hub of city life often with an emphasis on the ordinary, working man. His human forms are imbued with a sense of innate dignity as they go about performing their chores in busy city streets or in suburban construction sites.

Apart from several solo shows Patwardhan has participated in international exhibitions like ‘Aspects of Modem Indian Art’ Oxford, UK 1982; Contemporary Indian Art, Festival of India, London, 1982; Seven Indian Artists, Hamburg, West Germany, 1982; Contemporary Indian Art Festival of India, New York, 1985; Festival of India, Center George Pompidou, Paris 1986 and ‘Coupe de Coeur’ Geneva, 1987.

In 2004, a monograph on his work, ‘The Complicit Observer’ was written by Ranjit Hoskote. In 2007, Hoskote also wrote ‘The Crafting of Reality- Sudhir Patwardhan: Drawings’, which was translated into Marathi and a monograph in Marathi was published in 2012. Anjali Monteiro and K.P.Jaysankar have made a film on Sudhir’. In 2012, the Mumbai theater group Awishkar staged a play ‘Chitragoshti’ based on Patwardhan’s paintings.

Patwardhan curated an exhibition of Indian Contemporary Art ‘Expanding Horizons’ which traveled around Maharashtra. He also curated a show at Guild Art Gallery, Mumbai and Sudarshan Art Gallery, Pune. He lives and works in Thane, Mumbai. He lives and works in Mumbai.

Further reading.