Bombay/Mumbai for Sudhir Patwardhan is at once the metropolis and the suburb, the skyscraper and the slum. In Patwardhan’s paintings, the high-rise buildings, aspiring for the sky, are inseparable from surrounding slum squatters around their base. His art continues to demonstrate a long sustained engagement with the historical city and its labouring masses, highlighting the social inequalities in a reflective manner.
A self-taught artist and a radiologist living on the fringes of the megalopolis, Patwardhan can be called a ‘painter of people’. Inclined to visualize the city from a subaltern viewpoint, he paints the ordinary, working class populations caught in transit, traveling between places, waiting at train stations, crossing over bridges, stopping over for tea stop or an Irani restaurant, walking the busy streets and sidewalks, performing their chores in the overlooked corners or at suburban construction sites. Grounded in their realities, and placed within the locale of the everyday; the quiet dramas and unknown struggles of the subaltern are immortalized through Patwardhan’s art.
Patwardhan has over decades explored the city and its transformation amidst continuous growth and decline. In The Clearing, the reflection of an uninhabited high-rise in the still water body, at a distance, the hollow footprint of a yet to be constructed skyscraper in the foreground vacant lot form a distressing link. In which hides the forecast of ‘life in a brand new megalopolis’, will turn into in the near future.