Any attempt to explore Sunil Padwal's work as an artist has to revolve around the man and his relationship with his ‘protagonist.'
His ability in the world of graphics is there for all to see. Here he is sure and clear, confident in his line and himself. This comes from his ability to match what his mind's eye sees with what his hand does. It is a gift. Add to that painstaking detail, the dexterous use of which gives finishing touches to the broader picture he initially creates.
But this is only the external picture. To be an artist this obvious gift needs to be married with the psyche of the man. For not only is he creating a picture, he is also imbuing it with life. This life has to be breathed into the work by gifting it with a part of himself. Hence, as all Padwal's work is now channeled through his protagonist, the exploration talked about earlier is necessary.
His protagonist, he says, is an urban man, anywhere in the world, a man hemmed in by the uncaring world in which he lives. He epitomizes the injustices of all systems, where they touch either the mass of the common people or just a single person. He is an individual, faceless, voiceless, one who is unrecognized, undistinguished from those he represents.
This figure, full of pain, is enchained like an eyeless, lock-shorn Samson, by his own doubts in this Philistine world. Sometimes, he has been seen as a small figure overwhelmed by the enormous canvas of the city. He makes faces, grimaces, demands attention but cannot get it. Or in his moments of doubt and grief, we see him, head within his arms, face turned away. He cannot cry out – he has no mouth, no voice. No eyes, he wants not to see. The use of colour depicts moods and depths of despair. And yet there is no specific object to fear or to hate. It is only his damaged psyche to be depicted. There have been vertical streaks raining down the canvas. Tears? Prison bars? Bars created by inequality, tears of anguish? Or frustration? Or rage?
Sunil has said, when asked about his need for the protagonist,”...What am I then? An artist without a brush?” So the protagonist is not just a vehicle for the artist, he is his alter ego and, if Sunil will accept it, the very core of himself.
And since Sunil Padwal's work is to project a complex set of emotions of a psyche beset, there is no story to tell. So, his work will be judged by his ability to convey what we would like to call his inner self. And by the depth and emotional interpretation that he is able to portray.
In this series, we see great use of mood creating colours. He has moved further away from the flat background. But the protagonist is there, still brooding, enigmatic, imbued within stillness and yet there is vibrancy, a nervous tension and energy waiting to burst forth.