Amit Ambalal, born in Ahmedabad in 1943, has had no formal training in an art school, but has had the guidance of the veteran artist and teacher Chhaganlal Jadhav. Qualified in Arts, Commerce and Law, he has been a businessman prior to taking up painting full-time since 1979.
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.
Ambalal held the first solo exhibition of his work at the Hutlheesing Visual Arts Centre, Ahmedabad in 1980, and has had, fourteen, solo shows in Ahmedabad Baroda, Bombay, Calcutta and New Delhi since then. His work has also been represented in several group exhibitions in India and abroad, including the Sixth Triemale - India, 1986, and the Bharat Bhavan Biennale, 1990. His work has also been shown in Amsterdam, Harvard and Perth.
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-m-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.