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(1907 - 1988)
Vasant Raghunath Amberkar was born in 1907 in Mumbai. His oil paintings, aquarelles and pastel drawings are animated by a lively vision and a fine sense of observation that capture moments filled with a magical, amorphous presence. A strong Expressionist definition of figuration and compositional values underlie his work while rasa, the Indian essence of aesthetic flavour, permeates his powerful brushstrokes and smudged colour grounds. The works are alive with an existential play, that evokes the shifting emotive quality of his creative ideation, where colour speaks and evokes the poetry embedded in everyday happenings.
The large oils and powder pastels rendered on hardboard, canvas and paper, show Amberkar's mastery of delineating the structural elements that build the figure and the sensuous flow of drapery that gives an emotive fullness to the composition. The background and hinter ground are often smudged and contoured with diaphanous volumes of colour grounds that seem to remain still in the midst of an internalised movement. This contrastive device Amberkar uses in his paintings brings a degree of drama to the viewer's perspective. The action is held alive in the moment of painting as we see and absorb the scene through the artist's eye and mind. Even while painting architectural structures a strong, bold emphasis of line and volume govern Amberkar's work, so that the built structures come alive with a near existentialist quirkiness. In this, Amberkar's inner understanding of the mood of the subject reflects an intuitive perception of the Indian philosophic fundament of the unity of beings that governs all things. The internal flow of rhythm, mood, form, volume, colour, technique and the mathematics of inner balances engage with the local environment that Amberkar is steeped in. There is a soundless musical rhythm that quietly permeates the work, which to my mind brings alive the essence of rasa, the inner aesthetic being of the painting.
In his portraits of heads largely rendered in oils on paper the artist highlights the immediacy of the subject's presence. Strong, textured surfaces highlight the features, where the tentative brushstrokes are built in layers to wash over one another giving a far away dreaminess to the persona.Amberkar who was awarded a Fellowship of the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1979 while Karl Khandalawalla was honoured simultaneously at the then Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay, and who held important offices either as President, Secretary or Chairman of several art bodies, university faculties and senates spent much of his life in organised administrative functioning, which was in many ways important in its contribution to the building of the arts scene and art education in India. Amberkar really lived when he delved as an artist into the world where colour, volume, form, line and shape gave him the creative space necessary to keep his aesthetic vision alive and nurture his inherent passion to put brush to canvas.