Updated February 22nd, 2024 at 18:42 IST

Reminiscing Souza - An Iconoclast Vision

Uday Jain, the Director of Dhoomimal Gallery, offers an insightful exploration into Souza's oeuvre.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Reminiscing Souza - An Iconoclast Vision | Image:Republic
Advertisement

New Delhi: The year 2024 commemorates the centennial of F.N. Souza, an artist of international acclaim from India. Uday Jain, the Director of Dhoomimal Gallery, offers an insightful exploration into Souza's oeuvre. As a cornerstone in the promotion and preservation of Indian contemporary art, Dhoomimal Gallery's collection is an extensive repository that covers several generations. It boasts works by eminent artists such as F.N. Souza, J. Swaminathan, H.A. Gade, Bimal Das Gupta, Jamini Roy, Sailoz Mookherjea, Anjolie Ela Menon, Krishen Khanna, among others, showcasing the rich diversity and depth of Indian artistry.

What inspired you to delve into the life and work of F.N. Souza?

Advertisement

F.N. Souza was closely associated with and represented by Dhoomimal Gallery for over four decades, holding exhibitions from the 1960s to the late 1990s.

How would you describe F.N. Souza's impact on the art world, and why do you find his work significant?

Advertisement

As a founding member of the Progressive Artists' Group in Bombay in the 1940s, Souza famously remarked, "I started painting on the walls of my mother's womb." He broke all boundaries and traditions associated with art in India up to that point, whether it be Victorian school influences or the old Bengal school. Despite being greatly inspired by traditional and miniature art, he advocated for a new style of thinking and painting, which paved the way for a new art movement and inspired many generations to embrace art as a vital medium of expression.

In your opinion, what makes F.N. Souza's artistic style stand out among his contemporaries?

Advertisement

In the early stages of his career, Souza was often criticized for making his art too personal and critics felt it might hinder his objectivity. However, I believe this personal approach became his greatest attribute, setting him apart from his contemporaries. Whether he was painting a head, landscape, still life, or figures, each was an extension of his inner self. His faces, often self-portraits, displayed his scars and were distorted to show true, albeit unpleasant, emotions. The women, buildings, and landscapes in his works were drawn from his life, reflecting changes in his surroundings and relationships. This intense and timeless approach, along with his mastery of lines, bold color use, and experimentation with mediums like chemical alterations on paper, makes his art relevant across all boundaries.

Were there any challenges or surprises you encountered while exploring F.N. Souza's life and art?

Advertisement

Souza's art took a long time to be accepted in India, despite his recognition in Europe as one of the best painters of the 1960s. His bold and sometimes controversial subjects were hard for the Indian audience to accept. He was always in pursuit of innovation, never content with his art or personal life.

What role do you believe F.N. Souza played in shaping the art scene during his time?

Advertisement

Souza broke all conventions, in terms of both artistic practices and thinking. He removed all inhibitions, inspiring future generations of artists to use art as a medium of expression.

How has your understanding of F.N. Souza's work evolved throughout your research and exploration?

Advertisement

Souza's art leaves an undeniable impact, whether through his strong, free-flowing lines, bold use of colors, or the distortion in his faces and figures. Delving deeper, one also realizes Souza's profound appreciation for learning, whether in mythology, religion, science, or socio-political movements. His works reflect a belief that an artist's work will remember the world of his time.

What do you hope readers or viewers take away from your exploration of F.N. Souza's life and art?

Advertisement

The most important takeaway from Souza's art is the freedom of expression. He envisioned a society that would openly express all emotions, not just pleasant ones. Through his works, Souza expressed anger, resentment, jealousy, and happiness, famously remarking, "Renaissance painters painted

angels and gods for people to see how they look; I painted for the angels to show them what men and women are like."

Advertisement

An extraordinary exhibition titled ‘Reminiscing Souza - An Iconoclast Vision’ by renowned curator Yashodhara Dalmiyawas being showcased at Lalit Kala Academi. This grand celebration  kicked off with a major exhibition featuring an impressive array of Souza's works sourced from various collections, including pieces from Pete Muller, Erica Plate, Vikram Rajadhyaksha, Rohit Singh, Pankaj Sahni, and others. 
 

 

Advertisement

Published February 22nd, 2024 at 18:42 IST