Monday, March 4, 2019

Souza in The 40s

When the exhibition ‘Souza in The 40s’ arrived at Sunaparanta Gallery, Goa (Dec 2019), my research on the artist had been underway for a couple of years. The exhibition, a mega event curated by Conor Macklin was held simultaneously at two other venues, Saffronart Delhi and Grosvenor Gallery London. It showcased FN Souza in the first decade of his artistic career (1940-1949), up to when he packed his bags to go to London.

I went to see the exhibition with a clear context, wanting to see the mind of an exceptionally brilliant young Souza from when he was just 16 years old to when he turned 26. And what I saw in the exhibition validated my research, as well sent me on new pathways to decipher Souza’s vision as a young artist.

Undoubtedly, with his first strokes on the canvas, Souza at sixteen had set out to study nature in its vast magnificence. Besides natural surroundings, his endeavor to comprehend nature through the human body showcased an exceptional quality, a fascination which moored him for life, that mastery of haptic quality of drawing dissecting the nature of human form. But what was utterly riveting was the truly remarkable, in a definite class of its own, the avant-garde portrayal of women by a boy artist just 16, 17 ....18 years of age. 

His nudes in the gallery sketched with admirable adroitness made me stop short. Women erotic and sensual, echoing the susurrations of symbolists yet in complete command of their bodies ; utterly unselfconscious voluptuous women laughing singing and running on the beach in swimwear, or at their toilet beside a flowing stream, with one of them playfully kicking a stone on the river bank. These were magnificent human beings, absolutely natural and earthy as if he had conspired with nature to bring together beauty and mystery in harmony with the universal laws governing life and matter. In a cultural context of two millennia human civilization, these completely as ease women in these artworks in the 40s’ executed by a young mind are no doubt outstanding. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

FN Souza : Art India

My piece on FN Souza's Figurative Art in Art India, Jan 2019
                                       The Female Nude: Picture of Self-Possession 

........‘the return to tradition’ in post-independence period re-establishes forms and conventions colonialism had disrupted and that this restoration (or should be), the most significant event in modern Indian art both in itself and as the instrument of cultural decolonization. The aforementioned move is best exemplified by the rebirth of Female Nude in FN Souza's art. Drawing from global art practice beginning with prehistoric art, he carved her 'Bold & Beautiful', and this representation lies coded a social revolution for contemporary human society.  

  That Souza’s art contains various possibilities of redemption is yet to be understood. If society is to become free, the answer lies with liberated men and women, the ultimate egoists. Contrary to her jaded erotic image, in Souza’s work, this nude is not exposed and vulnerable, but assertive and powerful. She is emphatically nude, not naked. Beneath the compelling line of Souza’s female forms lies his artistic vision that needs to be fully comprehended.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

FN Souza - A Life of the Mind

I had walked in one day because I had seen the golden nude through the rose-tinted 
window glass of the exhibition gallery. That was weird, I thought, seeing 'Myself', in a striking
nonchalant pose on a canvas, where one might have expected the guilt-ridden, bashful
Venus Pudica types, with a perpetual blush marking her countenance or the prevalent supine,
spreadeagled 'SHE' forms. They told me the famous and in other ways not so famous artist,
FN Souza was dead.
I was reborn with my contemplation on flesh and its fall, and it's resurrection in FN's art,
'till I shone again with the light of first sight' 

Great art remains alive because of its power to evoke a response in the viewer. The prevalent thrust in my writing towards 'critic as an artist' births new perspectives of existing ways of seeing. That Souza’s art contains the greatest social possibility is yet to be understood. An interdisciplinary lens on Souza's work opens portals to alternative perspectives, generating new dialogue on his artistic legacy.

Souza was definitely an outlier. Shaking pedestals of propriety, he rebelled to render radical art. 
Despite his innovative disposition, the priggish Indian sensibility disregarded him with Pecksniffian relish for his sexually overt portraiture, and racism and western supremacy pigeonholed him abroad. That this art legacy at par with Bacon and Picasso is still to find its place in the world art canon, propels his scholars and critics to work towards that goal. 

My endeavour is an extension of my personal journey and a deep connect to FN Souza's art. I bring my strength of an open mind, interdisciplinary reading and a totally fresh look at Souza's art and mind.

There is no denying, it's definitely an impressionist take, a Florilegia dedicated to FN.

The first essay is an introductory essay. The next four are based on his most controversial work in figurative art - 'The Female Nude'. Thereafter the essays focus on his Self-portraits, Passion series and other themes in his artistic oeuvre. I have completed 10 essays and I plan to write 15 essays in all.  

I thought it best to go with a florilegium so far. I was going against the grain ( established viewpoint of Souza's figurative art)  and building an argument towards a more feminist frame -  how a shift in my own consciousness made me see those emancipated women in his figurative art, an altered perception that unraveled a whole novel and radical definition of his art practice. 

Now that I am midway through, hereafter my essays will incorporate short story formats and an ekphrastic style. 

I also gave a talk on Souza at Fundacao Oriente, The Story of Space Festival, 2017 and the Goa Pavilion, Serendipity Art festival, 2017. 
I am gearing up to present my essay at Panjim 175, SAF  15th - 22nd Dec 2018          


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

In conversation with writer, CEO Infosys Foundation, Sudha Murty

Dignity- Gravity Personified!
Penguin invited me to be in conversation with Sudha Murty. writer,chairperson of Infosys Foundation, at the launch of her book :
Three Thousand Stitches : Anthology of short stories based on her experience, work and human nature, rendered in a lucid, conversational tone!
The first story from which the book gets its title; 3000 rehabilitated devdasis presented her a metaphorical quilt, embroidering their stories of life!
Highly inspiring and humbling to be in dialogue with a woman who is redefining social work in India working with prostitutes, alcoholics.......
Not CHARITY, but social responsibility which leads to social cohesion, social development and social change. Work based on justice, human rights and an acceptance of diversity! Sudha is also a part of the health care in Gates Foundation!
Narayan Murty sat through the whole event; spot him in the audience behind Baljit!
Packed house, interactive session, audience (children to adults) all ears !

Monday, February 5, 2018

Literature Post Bob Dylan's Nobel !

Panel Discussion : Literature in contemporary times post Bob Dylan's Nobel in Literature 
With Vivek Menezes, Wendell Rodricks, Jose Lourenco, Alice D' Cruz and Prema Rocha & Ibha 
St Xavier College, Goa
Don't miss fashion designer Wendell's footwear!
We rapped Shakespearean & Dylan poetry to hip hop beat!