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Amit Ambalal

Born in 1943, Ahmedabad, Amit Ambalal was a businessman, until he became a full-time painter in 1979. So taken in was he by his passion of becoming a renowned painter- his childhood dream -- that he sold off his family owned business in 1977 to pursue this passion. Amit was a 57-year-old young man at that time.

Coming from a business family, art wasn't quite appreciated by all the members of his family and he was forced to pursue a formal education. Ambalal eventually graduated from the Ahmedabad University with a BA, B.Com. and LL.B. He soon joined his father's business and took over as the Managing Director. Even as the MD of a company, Ambalal saved his Sundays for the paint and easel and worked with his guru, Chhaganlal Jadav.

His interests in the arts extend to historical research, documentation and collection, and to organizational activities in the contemporary scene. He is especially interested in the Nathdwara School of painting. His book on the subject, Krishna as Shrinathji - Rajasthani Paintings from Nathdwara was published by Mapin in 1987, followed in 1989 by an exhibition of Nathdwara paintings from his collection organized by the CMC Gallery, New Delhi. 

His work can basically be divided into two categories. One has a contemporary approach to tradition via the popular religious traditions. And the other is the historical Rajasthani Nathdwara devotional paintings he has been creating for the last 14 years now. Part of his work also revolves around human drama. 

A prosperous society embedded in a destitute society is thus oft the focus of his work. His portraits of India are simple and a direct means of him coming to terms with the horror he sees around him. He has a unique ability of perceiving quirks and flaws in human behavior and making them part of his great pictorial scheme on canvas. Its often been noticed in his canvases that where his faces, body and gestures are devices of his irony, it's the color, design and texture that gives his paintings the light and easy mood.

Ambalal's paintings give evidence of an important tendency in contemporary Indian art - that of a contemporary approach to tradition via the 'degenerate' forms of the popular religious traditions. His painting in this sense makes an interesting interface with his passion for the art history of devotional pictures from Nathdwara. While on the one hand there is the historian's aesthetic interest, there is equally the critical comment of the irreverent humorist m his work. In some senses his work parallels that of his Baroda contemporary Bhupen Khakhar. Ambalal is interested in teasing out the manifestation of the irrational in the seemingly mundane, in exposing the frailty of measures of nomu-Alcy and sanity through the tongue-n-cheek representation of the everyday and the divine. His work has a directness of appeal which gives it a hard-hitting quality, a no-nonsense double-take on a nonsensical universe populated by the beautifully contorted and attenuated bodies of his idiosyncratic protagonists, human and otherwise. His practice of figuration seems to enjoy a rare freedom perhaps not available to those with the weight of academic training in their shoulders. Yet it is not out of naivete that ambalal draws in his characteristic manner. Rather, it is a carefully devised figuration that he makes use of, the deceptive looseness of line in his recent work is perhaps matched only by the tautness of his terse commentary. Form in his work is indivisible from meaning, in fact, the two often are the same, welded together in a language that has been expressly designed to convey his satirical examination.

Be it historical or contemporary, his work is paired with the critical, irreverent humorist creating a satirical representation of the everyday and the divine, filled with eccentric human and animal protagonists.

A large part of Amit's work is in watercolors and this he explains by his fondness for the medium, says he, "Watercolors have a knack of telling you when the painting is complete, apart from its luminosity and transparency which is not seen in other mediums." Amit is known to work with pure colors and let them mingle on the paper rather than his color palette.

Ambalal's first solo exhibition was in Ahmedabad in 1980. Since then he has had several shows around India, and in several group exhibitions abroad. Even after a track record of over 40 solo and group shows, he still considers himself to be a student. "After a show is over, I feel I have something more to learn," he says.

Amit Ambalal Lives and works in Ahmedabad.

Artwork for Sale

Apsara I
by Amit Ambalal


30 X 36 inches

Bee + Buss = Panda
by Amit Ambalal


21 X 29 inches

Sound of Leela
by Amit Ambalal


25 X 18 inches

by Amit Ambalal


20 X 30 inches