Krishen Khanna Archives

From: Akbar Padamsee, Paris

6th June, 1960

... What a disgusting fellow I am! Not having to replied to your letter instantly. I must develop a love for writing letters, I keep on postponing writing, I like to talk, there is so much more warmth in conversation, even silence acquires meaning, one couldn’t leave a page blank in between, now and then, and recommence writing, could one ? then we should have continuity. I am delighted to have one of my paintings in your collection. .....

...The painting you sent left me a little dissatisfied, I feel that abstract forms gain in profundity when they are near to the mind, and lose when they are begotten emotionally. Your choice of forms and colour is too spontaneous, they are not grilled enough, you stop, or rather the painting ends when the eye is pleased - you don’t mind, do you, my writing like this. There is an interesting point George Simenon makes when he writes “I tried to give my words just the weight that a stroke of Cezanne gave to an apple. That is why most of the time I use concrete words. I try to avoid abstract words or poetic words , you know, like ‘crepescule ‘ for example. It is very nice, but it gives nothing. Do you understand?....

...George Keyt is in Bombay, charming fellow, has a keen sense of humour, very talkative, unfortunately he hasn’t got any canvases with him. ....

Recd. A letter from Raza, he suggests we hold an exhibition of modern Indian Paitning at Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris or Musée Galliera or Galerie Charpentier. He wants Gal’59 to organize the show, and feels we should each of us contribute Rs 500/- towards expenses. Please let me have your reactions One thing is certain, it will mean a lot of works to organize the show. Raza has suggested the following names, Husain, Khanna, Padansee, Ram Kumar, Samant, Gaitonde, Raza, he says he would also like to add Ara, Hebbar, Gade, Gujral and Pai, Palsikar, if no one has objection. Think it over.

From: Akbar Padamsee, 7, Rue Lebouis, Paris

18th May, 1961

... I think Bal + Husain had come to Kanpur to meet you on Bal’s return from Paris, and I believe he had discussed with you regarding Gal’59. I should like to have your version of the conversation, as I believe Gal’59 is undergoing a crisis. It is all the more a pity, as it is not the commercial side or the business difficulties which are responsible for the crisis, but Bal’s own attitude, rather a conflict in Bal’s mind added by to Husain’s infidelity (!) which have resulted caused this crisis. I recently received a letter from Bal, he must have written to you also, suggesting that the gallery be jointly handled by the artists, as a non-commercial, non-profit making concern. I am very sceptical about such galleries run on such basis, and if there is no enthusiasm and directive, the gallery would only stagnate would just drag on, I would rather that we drown the fish, rather than mummify it mummify it. Let me have your realism to this, it is very important for us, and I would hate to see any project in which we are involved to end so badly, and for causes which are absurd.

... I had heard that you are leaving the Bank, this is the right time to do so, as financially you will have no problem with the sale of your paintings with India and Europe and maybe you can get even an American dealer.

From: Akbar Padamsee, Paris

25th June, 1961

... Your idea of starting a news-sheet is splendid, but better make it a quarterly, as otherwise it will take all your time - I also feel that considering the shortage of interesting local news, it would be a good idea to have as a permanent feature, 3 pages, one for Paris, one for London, and one for New York, which could be handed over to 3 persons, I propose myself for Paris, where I would take the responsibility of furnishing you one page of interesting reading material on different subjects, either on a painter’s work, or on an important salon, or I could ask a critic to do an article - I do not imply that I would do the writing myself, but I would find the right person to do it - the same could be done for London, maybe we can ask Tyeb, or George Butcher, as for New York you have lots of friends there, those makes 3 pages, maybe we could follow up the same plan for India, and have a Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta page each given to one person who is entirely responsible, there could be the Editor, of their, page respective page, for Bombay, Shamlal could be the ideal man. You can take over one the pages, besides being the General Editor + financier!! How do you like the idea?

From: Akbar Padamsee, Paris

16th July, 1962

... Raza is leaving on the 19th for New York - most probably you will be meeting him there.

About Satish Gujral, it is a pity his mind is working in this direction, bad for his mental health, he will do himself more harm, than to any of us, besides we stand on the strength of our own legs, and not on reciprocal propping up, ours is a sort of abstract group (!) in which anybody can enter or walk out, nobody decided to include Bal, he walked in! Nobody plotted to throw out Gade, he walked out.

You must have heard of the new regulations which prohibit any one leaving India except in the interest of the country, as an artist is not considered to be working in the interest of his country, only carpet-sellers, and garam-masala wallas will go abroad. This worries me a lot, as I had planned to go to India this December....

From: Akbar Padamsee, Paris

24th December, 1962

.... in view of the cease-fire, and my own hopes that the hostilities will not start off again in spring, I would shelve the entire matter of war or fighting aside, and draw one lesson from this affair, that we must actively fight for peace i.e. development of India, economic, social, cultural, cast aside all the false problems, brought into limelight by political parties to serve their own ends, or by half baked politicians who ignore all values but their own those for their personal advancement, as a matter of fact, the Chinese aggression is a blessing in as much as it has dwarfed the stupid internal problems like communalism, provinciation, linguistic partition, when we have no real threat, we wake up the ghosts, the truth is that we are not only an under developed country, but an under-evolved one, whilst the Western scientist like Rostand the biologist is dreaming of biological intervention to push man ahead on the path of evolution and Europe is being amalgamated into one unit, we are breaking apart, for whose pleasure?

From: Akbar Padamsee, Paris

6th October, 1963

... On the comment you made about a cognisableform, the real problem of form is not plastique but literary, this observationis due to the fact thatlately I have been seeing a lot of abstract painters doingfigurativeorsemi-figurative painting, and what hits me first is that they are immature emotionally, for instance the painting of a nude, however valid as a form-colour organisation is monstrous if the painter has no poetic understanding of the nude....

... there are thousands of prisoners of Nicolas de Staël, thousands of prisoners of Paul Klee, thousands of prisoners of Picasso - and yet they are all a happy lot, with their little commerce, with their little newspaper cuttings, with their vernissages, exhilarating in blind compliments, unaware that the child who throws a pebble into the water and delights in the echo of circumferences, in this gestating spiral which returns to silence, was an artist before he grew up to become a slave. When the eye becomes a slave, the last freedom is lost, for then even when they look at a tree, they see a Soutine or a Van Gogh, in the old walls a Dubuffet, in the scribbles of children Paul Klee, yet they are all smugly happy, with their sweet wines with whispers coo in their ears that delicious word ‘genius’, and then doubt, the last trustworthy friends goes into exile.

From: Akbar Padamsee, Paris

15th October, 1963

... I will have to study the “mudras” of Indian dancing, for they are more than “signs”, they are more than means of communication or a language - for the deaf speak with fingers, and the traffic - policeman gesticulates, but the motionless Buddha, gives voice to silence, the huge monolith at Shravanabelagola of Gotameshwera (Gommateshwera) has something of the bird of Brancusi in the agility of the stone it has also something of the morning dew, in its pristine stone-fragrance, the dancing Shiva, the source of rivers and the refuge of souls, turns the face of his palms towards humanity to rescue or to repudiate.

In the last letter or in this one, whatever I have said has nothing ‘personal’ in the sense that I am not directing any criticism, or proffering any advice, I am just mentioning this , so that there is no misunderstanding. I personally find it stimulating to a friend circumvallating certain frontiers which seem vague, defining other which lack contrast, mobilising units which seem to contain possibilities, this is an integral part of the gestative process, well, we ask each other the state of our health, or wealth (!) it would be preposterous were we to stop at the first two enquiries, and do not move closer to hear the ticking of the cerebral time-machine, for it was not the chance concord of circumstances, nor geographical proximities that led to meeting between Bal or Raza or Husain or Gai or yourself or myself.

... Swaminathan, Kanheria and some others had formed a 80-90 group, I don’t know if you knew about this , the 80-90 business, because it was at the house of this no. in Hyderabad that they met for the first time, I hope that this chance encounter at 80-90 will continue as an inspiring factor to guide them in their work and the element of ‘chance’ or the possibilities of accidents would be the guiding principle, for else the 80-90 group could as well be called by any other name. It is their intention accordingly to Inderjeet to move in this direction, a sort of belated Dada movement. ...

From: Akbar Padamsee, Paris

6th December, 1963

... In order to be really effective, the Council that you have organized in India, will have to be an intellectual body, capable of publishing a Journal, organising exhibitions, and not just a trade-union. Of course this demands organisation, but whatever time is spent on such a project, one would have no reason to regret which is not the case were it a kind of political party, with unhealthy alliance, situation is classic, the idealists work, and the materialists pocket the profit, result, disenchantment - bitter taste in the mouth, I am interested in persons and have faith in only those who have something to lose by joining this Council - anybody in such a project, who has nothing to lose is suspect. ...

From: Akbar Padamsee, Paris

27th April, 1964

... I heard from Krishna Reddy who met Prodosh Das Gupta in Paris, that Hebbar, Parrikarr and Prodosh had found galleries in New York, and that Prodosh was showing with Gal’63! This devalues New York. Also the Embassy Secretary told me that Segal was trying to move through administrative channels the Museum of Modern Art Paris to give a show, if I know the French, it won’t work, but one never knows, what influence this Segal has!

From: Akbar Padamsee, Paris

10th June, 1964

... I wrote that you have not been able to habituate yourself to the art atmosphere (or rather the lack of it) of Delhi. Only you can tell, if the environment affects the painter as you have worked for a year in Delhi New York, and now working in Delhi...

... You state in your letter that oil does not love the fluidity and speed of ink - but it is not the oil which is at fault but the canvas, find a canvas, a non-prepared canvas, which spreads, and the oil will behave nearly the same way, maybe you can try oils on blotting paper. If you tried ink on an absorbent paper, you will find the same problem which is now confronting you with oils, or so I think.

.... my guess is that Gai will never go back to India - he has no point of attachment in India, neither family nor fortune! And with his love of Zen whether the sky is above Bombay or above Paris, it is the same blue sky, one sees the same Sun and the same Moon as from anywhere else; finally the only artists who will remain in India, are the official painters á la Gujral or Kulkarni, or commercial painters, who turn paintings into bank-notes, both devalue with time!

From: Akbar Padamsee, Bombay

22nd October, 1964

... I am leaving for Manipal on the 27th for a few days.... I had already written to you about this Education Society wanting to have art exhibitions, art colleges etc. I had suggested to them a print-museum, which I think should precede an art-school for without an adequate collection of reproductions of world masterpieces the art students would be stultified in their perspective to view art both space-wise and time-wise. If they don’t provide an adequate budget, I have no heart to wear off my grey-matter churning out ideas to circumvent basic shortcomings. In the past I have made such a mistake, of art enquiring into the set-up of an organisation, and have let my enthusiasm levitate me over obstacles, but I find this wears me out, and does nobody any good.

... I am sure that the fault is entirely ours if we don’t discoverinteresting writers to write in art exhibitions. If we are interested in what they are doing, the ball is set rolling. Rajinder Bedi has donesome experiments on writing pictorially, and this eveningI am meeting a Sikh poet Sukhbir who has written poems on paintings.

From: Akbar Padamsee, Paris

16thJanuary,1965

….both Husain and Ram Kumar who are sitting complacently on the benches of Lalit Kala Akademi should be able to tell but nothing, nothing will touch them, they sit on wooden benches, wood on wood - this is nothing personal, as I have friendship and affection for both Husain and Ram Kumar, but I can’t help but feeling that their presence then is our presence, and their if they are absent from the benches of the Akademi, we can ask the question, as a group of the opposition, why such as such as thing was done, we are liquidated by having two eminent member of our group in the Akademi, as a matter of fact, taking them in was not due to love for democracy but a political trick to reduce the opposition to silence, and they chose well the two dumbsters, and want to take Gaitonde to make three dumbsters, I can’t understand how you are out of the Akademi, or why Husain and Ram have not done anything to see you elected, negligence, indifference, pre occupation with plastic problems, what? Why? Or wilful impotence, affectation - whatever is, is, because we have willed it, and if there is a desert, we have willed the desert.

From: Akbar Padamsee, Paris

24th March, 1965

... There is an idea germinating, Raza, Krishna Reddy, and myself have been thinking for some time now, on launching a kind of studio or Institute if you like, in Bombay or Delhi, where we could all come into touch with the new upcoming painters, Krishna would take charge of the engraving section, send over a press, and we could divide amongst ourselves the other parts, besides inviting our numerous French or American artists to come over as working partners. After all fighting there officials, will mean only replacing the bad old officials with the bad new officials, and we may go on rolling the stone up the hill like Sisyphus.

To: Krishen Khanna, 3 B Mathura Raod, Jangpura Extension, New Delhi

From: Akbar Padamsee, 205, West End Avenue, Flat 22 E, New York

5th September, 1965

... We had Mike and Nirmal Singh over to dinner, also present was a charming young girl Geeta Kapoor who I think you have met in New York, she is very intelligent, and is doing a thesis in contemporary Indian Painting, I have asked her to meet you and keep in touch with you in Delhi, where she should be back in a few months, as she is leaving in a week’s time for Europe. If you are recommending anyone to Porter, she would be one of the right persons to back, in my opinion.

To: Krishen Khanna, 3 B Mathura Road, Jangpura Extension, New Delhi

From: Akbar Padamsee, 205 West End Avenue, Flat 22 E, New York

12th October, 1965

…. Though I see around me Indians here, and I believe it’s the same in India, who are quite enthusiastic about this war, I am non-plussed, I do not think we can afford to waste our energies and financial resources on fighting a neighbouring country who finally is hardly a neighbour having taken birth from India, this quarrel will lead to our becoming indebted to foreign powers and to that extent we lose our autonomy - this hate mania which is doled out daily by stupid newspapers, the very industrialists, Dalmias & Birlas who finance these newsprints, and who cover the with glory the men who fight, have no sons of theirs on the front, though they do sell their aircrafts and machinery to the army, - war is an excellent investment for them, with compulsory military training for everyone, this irresponsible attitude would be considerably toned down - it needs so little for the masses to get cheerful and enthusiastic, let’s not call this ‘a high morale’, a little excitement is better than the indifference shown to their misery, to their poverty, now they can shout slogans and feel the warmth of hate, to cheat them for a few months, before they fall back into oblivion we have reserved for them.

To: Krishen Khanna, 3 B Mathura Road, Jangpura Extension, New Delhi

From: Akbar Padamsee, 205 West End Avenue, Flat 22 E, New York

3rd February, 1966

…. Paris as calm as when I left it, physically it had shrunk, and morally very low in spirit, the painters walk with their hands in their pockets as if somebody was going to filch their loaf of bread. …… I met Krishna Reddy in Paris, and we have both decided to buy a big plot of land near Bombay on the sea front either in Juhu or Madh Island and build our studios there, Krishna will be sending his press etc. for printing, he is coming most probably around September for 6 months - would you like to join us? - it would be nice if you had also a little studio alongside - I would probably sell my Bombay flat, to finance this operation.

From: Akbar Padamsee, Paris

18th October, 1967

... one thing is sure I have had enough of Paris, and I just feel I want to get as far as I can from it - I have been hearing a lot of things about how bad things are in India, but whatever the situation it is our problem, and an identification is possible, I am not suggesting that it is our ‘responsibility’ or ‘obligation’ or any such ‘noble’ sentiment, only that without an identification contact with and fusion with one’s environment, a disintegration takes place, and this is what I have been feeling since I have been back here.......there have been many painters who have been able to make made Paris their home in the past, but that was a matter of a certain epoch, and was true at that time only.

... I suffer terribly when I indulge in any activity which does not regenerate me, I have an immense amount of energy for certain work + none at all for work which I consider ‘futile’, this may be meeting someone, discussion etc. I am absolutely allergic in some cases - I remember meeting Avinash Chandra in London in 1958 along with Husain, and I excused myself and left the group and went for a walk, though I had never seen the bloke before - when Husain asked me later on, what I had against Avinash, I said ‘Nothing visible, it is as if I am against his very being’.

To: Ara

Copied to: Krishen Khanna

From: Akbar Padamsee, Paris

Date not specified

... People sacrifice their time, their speech, their enthusiasm, they engage their powers of concentration, depriving themselves of leisure and introspection, there are terrible losses when the heart is bankrupt.

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