Prabhakar Kolte (born Nerurpar, 1946) belongs to a phalanx of distinguished Indian abstractionists that includes Laxman Shreshtha, Ram Kumar and Mehlli Gobhai. An alumnus of Mumbai’s Sir J J School of Art and an influential pedagogue at that legendary institution, Kolte was a protégé of Shankar Palshiker, who emphasised the significance of abstraction while also attempting to combine the principles of rasa, the Sanskrit theory of aesthetic experience, with the ideas of the pioneering European abstractionists Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Under Palshiker’s tutelage and in consonance with his own temperament, Kolte renounced the figure and its personal and social associations, instead devoting himself to the non-representational, non-objective picture surface.
In Walter Pater’s memorable phrase, abstractionists of Kolte’s intense dedication believe that art, at its highest, “aspires to the condition of music”. With colour, line and the occasional vestige of form as his basic vocabulary, Kolte has elaborated a lifelong music of allusion, half-glimpsed order and an elusive beauty. Are his works reminiscent of walls, stained and weathered? Are his paintings symbolic records of the natural and human cycles of use, neglect and resilience? Using forms to propose a reality that is beyond forms, he must struggle with the fundamental contradiction of abstract art: that it must rely on the materiality of brush, pigment and surface to relay its wager on the immaterial. Additionally, the abstractionist, like other modernists whose belief system is founded on the primacy of newness, is confronted with a key paradox: Is he uncovering a reality beyond forms that was always present, or is he creating a new kind of form? And how will abstraction, which denies the viewer any grip on the recognisable, communicate its truths unaided? Resolving and dissolving themselves in a constant rhythm of play, Kolte’s images remain committed to these questions. Group Exhibitions with Art Musings include Threads in the Labyrinth, 2019; The 20th, 2019; Troika, 2017; As Within, So Without, 2005. The artist lives and works in Mumbai.