Layers of thick ochre, brown and white overlap what appears to be a trace of a landscape or a splinter either in bright hues of red and green or in pure white. What draws the eye isn’t as much the layering as the splinters or the fragments. And the creator of these works, Prabhakar Kolte, has an explanation of the layering that might help initiate you to his style of abstraction. “As if by some force, I have moved from pictures to objects to nature and now, I’m at the heart of nature. By nature, I mean the inner spirit that keeps the world going. Now I’m aware of that spirit within me, and that’s what drives me artistically,” he says.
Ten abstract works of 60-year-old Kolte are on display at the Pundole Art Gallery, at his solo show in Mumbai after five years. In 2005, he showed at Gallery 88 in Kolkata and Vadehra Art Gallery in New Delhi. Kolte, an alumnus and long-time faculty member of the J.J. School of Art, has adhered to his own style, fine-tuning it over many years as he spiritually moved towards “the heart of nature”.
Early in his career, Kolte was compared to Swiss painter Paul Klee, a master colourist and abstract painter of the early 20th century. “I was deeply influenced by him,” Kolte says, “but only in my technique, similar to many other artists of that time all over the world, who looked up to him.” A painter born and brought up in Mumbai, he says these recent works are perhaps crisper and sharper in line and more subtle in colour compared to his early works. But his style has remained almost the same.
Kolte’s association with the Pundole gallery goes back a long way. Says Dadiba Pundole, the owner: “We’ve had many shows of Kolte—watercolours and canvas. About 20 years ago, he tried his hand at sculpture, and we had a show of his sculpture works, but he soon returned to his early style.” The artist says the reason he dabbled with the 3D form was because he wanted to break out of the Western expressionist style of the 60s that he had imbibed. “But the two-dimensional canvas was where I could be myself. I have moved from oil to watercolours to acrylic and each phase reflected my state of mind,” Kolte says.
At a Sotheby’s auction of Indian miniatures and paintings in New York on 22 March 2007, three untitled works of Kolte, in acrylic on canvas, on gouache and on paperboard, fetched Rs12 lakh, Rs16 lakh and Rs9 lakh, respectively. The artist says he is unfazed by fluctuating prices: “Whatever is happening is positive, but perhaps the euphoria will crash, just as it built up all of a sudden.”
Prabhakar Kolte’s works are on display at the Pundole Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai, from 26 June to 14 July.
Sanjukta Sharma firstname.lastname@example.org