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Early Drawings of F. N. Souza and K. Laxma Goud

A suit of early drawings of F. N. Souza and K. Laxma Goud are on display at The Guild. The works show how the two masters used line with economy, while still capturing fine detail in their forms.

The suite of drawings By Souza on display is mostly from the early 1960s. A few works date from the preceding decade. The seventeen drawings are asides from Souza's studio, memoranda drafted along the painter's route. Some capture fragile moments of delight, such as the dancing strokes that hint at an excited animal or a gymnast in motion (1960). In his drawings, he uses line with economy, while still managing to capture fine detail in his forms; or he uses a profusion of crosshatched strokes that make up the overall structure of his subject.

F.N. Souza joined the Sir JJ School of art, Mumbai in 1940. In 1947 he was awarded first prize in the Bombay art society annual exhibition. He founded the progressive art group along with K.H. Ara, S.K. Bakre, H.A. Gade, M.F. Husain, and S.H. Raza. When his pictures were shown at Burlington House a year later, Souza decided to make his home in England. In 1949 he settled in London. In 1955 his first show sold out. A successful career followed.

"It is natural that a sheaf of preparatory drawings, doodles and analytic sketches should give the impression of being somehow less than cogent," mentions Ranjit Hoskote in an accompanying note that analyzes Souza's early works. "On the other hand, it is this very absence of cogency, this unpremeditated juxtaposition of diverse elements, which invests such a collation of images with the quality of surprise," he adds.

Over the years his subject matter remained consistent - crucifixes, last suppers, erotic nudes, the mother and child, still lives and landscapes rendered boldly in a frenzied distortion of form. His works have reflected the influence of various schools of art: the folk art of his native state Goa, the full-blooded paintings of the Renaissance, and the religious fervor of the Catholic Church.

Souza's paintings express defiance and impatience with convention and with the banality of everyday life. In later years he developed the 'chemical works', a transfer process in which he could combine printed imagery with drawing and painting. His unrestrained and graphic style creates thought provoking and powerful images. He is best known for his inventive human forms particularly the heads. Another recurrent theme in his works is the conflict in a man - woman relationship, with an emphasis on sexual tension and friction, all of which can be seen in the exhibition.

Another painter on view is K. Laxma Goud. A master draftsman, he displays his versatility over a range of mediums, from etching, gouache and pastels, to glass paintings. Over the years he has moved from one medium to another with ease.

His early works on display show how his characters have undergone a metamorphosis. They are dramatically deposed and gesturing to begin with. By the late'70s, his figures seem to have softened and to have become more direct as well as more evocative in their somewhat subdued look.

When he started, his work was mainly done with pencil. The reason being, he found it economical and convenient to acquire the fine detailing in his work with pencil. His early black & white pencil portraits of men and women were based on childhood memories. His fascination with erotic subjects presented itself in his works and by the late 1960s he evolved a distinct style in his etchings that portrayed a pan-natural sexuality seen in terms of impulsive, aggressive passions rather than those of fertility.

His portraits of men and women represent the dynamic Indian ethos rather than particular individual identities. The power of his lines in black and white or in color is eloquent in its expression. In his world, the tree spirits and those of the animal kingdom amalgamate to create a new fantasy. As art critic Nancy Adajania states: "Goud has always exhibited a devilish irreverence for hierarchies, whether in art or in life. It is reflected in his small-format ink drawings, which affect a monochrome palette but, in actuality, bleed the paper to ambiguous shades of grey.

His images suggest a universe centred on the phallus; they mount an attack on the senses by brute strength. Yet his protagonists puzzle you with their hesitations, their vulnerabilities, the fortitude with which they hold a wound, the tattoos of oppression with which they adorn their bodies and minds."

A recurrent theme with Goud is that of the erotic, treated as an active and powerful aspect of male and female sexuality. His works are marked by an eroticised, ambivalent violence, like the 1968 drawing of a naked couple etched in thickly packed black strokes. His lovelorn characters are raw and vivacious in their appeal. Most of his works are on the smaller format. His recent lush landscapes in vivid colors are too miniatures. This is another aspect important to the artist's style, brought out in the show at Guild.

View Laxma Goud's works
View F N Souza's works

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