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Artist Profile3
Fathoming the core of Sunil Pawal’s thought processes and practice
Sensitive, albeit subtle in his portrayal of both real and imagined realms, Sunil Pawal’s canvases express the feelings he harbors deep inside on personal as well as social aspects - politics, religion, human relations, and responses to current situations. His immaculate work prompts you to pause, think and reflect. Akin to a sculptor who adds and subtracts upon the surface of a piece of art, layers of color are built and also scratched out.

The human figure recurring in his paintings arrive in a similar mode - building it in & out of the surface. Sans any superfluous details, they involve elaborate and dramatic usage of materials. The frames of his canvases are not mere defining boundaries, but rather integral elements of the overall work. In fact, it’s the frame or the found object, which inspires him at times to paint. The artist is constantly looking to evolve new forms of expressions and add fresh perspective or dimension - a form of twisted metal, an old signboard, an unusual curved surface, a molded back etc. Always keen to experiment, he has also painted books made of wood with hand-painted cover, leaving the subject matter open to interpretation.

Sunil Padwal worked on line drawings during his formative years. (He only recently started showing them.) Initially, illustration was his forte. He excelled in his professional stints as a visualizer, a graphic designer, and as an illustrator. The diverse roles he played came in handy when he finally took up art full-time. Spotted by ardent art loving businessman Harsh Goenka for his unconventional style, the young and talented practitioner’s first solo drew critical acclaim. There was no looking back after that as he gradually established himself as an artist wit sensitivity and versatility.

Born in Mumbai in 1968, he did his Bachelor of Fine Arts (Applied Art) from Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art. Apart from several solo shows, his work has been featured in many group exhibitions, including 'At Walden Pond', Gallery Beyond, Mumbai (2011); 'Paper Tongues', Exhibit 320, Delhi (2011); 'Public Enemy Number 1', Exhibit 320, Delhi (2010-11); 'The Way We Are', Mon Art Gallerie, Kolkata (2010); 'Deep In Black', Galerie Muller and Plate, Munich (2009); 'A Sorrowful Mystery-Jesus Christ', NGMA, Mumbai (2000); 'Indian Contemporary', Visual Arts Centre, Hong Kong (2000); 'Flashback, Flashforward', a RPG show in Mumbai (1999); 'Fifty Years of Freedom', NGMA, Mumbai (1997).

Among his select participations are 'Master’s Corner', Jehangir Gallery, Mumbai; India International Art Fair, Delhi; ‘Contemporary Printmaking In India' courtesy Priyasri Gallery; 'Evolve’, Tao Gallery, Mumbai (all in 2010), and 'Harmony Show', Nehru Centre, Mumbai (1996-2000). A recipient of the Communication Artist's Guild (CAG) Award (1990), he was also the Emerging Artist of the Year at the Harmony show in 1998. ‘Soliloquies: Notes from the drawing book’, a thought-provoking body of works just hosted at the Mumbai-based Gallery BMB, depicted the chaos, confusion and complexity of urban life. His latest suite of works, incorporating five different drawing series is his spontaneous reaction to the ostensible ‘progress’ and its impact on our lives as well as immediate surroundings. Apparently upset by the nagging reality, he moans the sorry state of affairs after more than six decades of independence.

Elaborating on the concept, an accompanying note stated: “The hypocrisies of present day society in the name of development, the ancient social & religious cruelties, the never ending corruption, the fanaticism and the various other turpitudes; one just cannot escape from reality of our everyday life. This is an attempt to bring a form to all that unsettles you, all the fragmented expressions - affected by hundreds of questions. This particular feeling of your own observation of reality you want to express in some ways- is a kind of a monologue or rather soliloquy.” These drawings – a way of questioning and looking at the reality of the noisy polluted fragile life of ours - were culmination of those layers of expressions intended to give the illusion of unspoken reflections.

Although inspired by reality, they were semi-abstract and fictional -a metaphoric imagery letting way for hundreds of overlapping thoughts. His series was a curious blend of memory, our changing cityscape, and contrasting turpitudes of modern society. The combination of all the hidden and complex layers made them semi abstract. Done over a time period of two years, it marked a departure from his earlier style - he employed a Rotring Pen for carving out the most intricate and meticulous, subtly experimenting with an array of base materials like glass, metal and mirrors.

Sunil Pawal strives to challenge himself so as to avoid falling into a pattern, reinvent his technique, and set new parameters of creative excellence. He seeks inspiration from every aspect of everyday life, all that is even mundane - work in progress, pollution everywhere, fast changing skyline, noisy traffic, homeless people and animals stuck in today’s concrete jungle. The social schism makes him restless and prompts him to probe further and pose pointed questions in a continuous quest of convincing and lasting solutions to our lingering problems. His peculiar protagonist is a universal character, cutting across physical boundaries, an urban man hemmed in by the unemotional world. He epitomizes the gross injustice of all systems ironically devised for the common people and seldom raises a murmur of protest.

However, these faceless and voiceless figures now resurface as proactive participants, validating their presence in the composition, revealing the mystery of their form. Through them, the sensitive artist channelizes his angst at social injustices and ills on canvases that he describes as a monologue, an intense and personal commentary on everyday sufferings of our lives.