EXHIBITION - Souza-Baiju Exhibition (Feb 01-24, 2002) : F.N. Souza

Francis Newton Souza's unrestrained and graphic style creates thought provoking and powerful images. His repertoire of subjects covers still life, landscape, nudes and icons of Christianity, rendered boldly in a frenzied distortion of form. Souza's paintings express defiance and impatience with convention and with the banality of everyday life.

Souza's works have reflected the influence of various schools of art: the folk art of his native Goa, the full-blooded paintings of the Renaissance, the religious fervor of the Catholic Church, the landscapes of the 18th and 19th century Europe and the path-breaking paintings of the moderns. A recurrent theme in his works is the conflict in a man - woman relationship, with an emphasis on sexual tension and friction. 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.

Born in Saligao, Goa in 1924, Souza was expelled for participating in the Quit India Movement while studying at the Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai. He founded Progressive Artist's Movement along with S.H. Raza and K.H. Ara, among others, in 1947. Soon after independence, he left for Britain, and then for New York, where he received the Guggenheim International Award. His works are in the collections of the Tate Gallery, London and the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi. His works were exhibited at the Gallery Creuze, Paris in 1954, at Arts 38, in London, in 1975 and 1976, and at the Bose Pacia Modern, in New York, in 1998.

Souza on his Experience at the Exhibition and the Residency Program

"The experience of my stint at Laguna Beach, living in an artists' abode called Seven Degrees was a most memorable event n my life. The girls, the food, fun, painting, coffee, booze (I don't drink), the art, talks about art – but for art, man would die of boredom!

Baiju and I shared the program with adjoining studios.

"Baiju is decades younger than me and he seemed to have got on very well with me. I think that this is because he is very intelligent, very thoughtful about his work. The first time we had a talk, he got up in a huff but later told me he was taken with the idea of the "damn it school of thought". This is my Philosophy that at any aggravating situation, a man simply says, "damn it!" At this point I began calling him "By Jove" instead of Baiju and began a friendship, where we spent hours in discussion."

In a land where Indians were associated with cowboys, and so close to Hollywood, promoting Indian Art was a significant feat. After all, Christopher Columbus, upon landing, thought that he was in India! We showed the Californians what art is - for there's no doubt that modern Indian art is the best in the world today! The colors, draughtmanship, spacing, composition & vision seen in modern Indian art is unique. The review in the LA Times says it all!"

During our residence the events of September 11th shook us out of reverie. " This historical event, which almost shattered people's peace of mind was nonetheless motivated by a religious fervor: Americans praying to their God and Islam claiming that Allah helped them to demolish the twin towers in New York. This catastrophe was sensation never experienced by New Yorkers or for that matter, anyone in the world who saw it in the media.

However, this did not effect my work at this time. Let's take a parallel – there were two world wars that took place in Europe but they didn't affect the subject matter which preoccupied each artist at the time. Art is a totally separate preoccupation from day to day events. The cosmic is what influence the artist. I draw from nature … from the core. It's a very simple: Aesthetics and wars don't mix."

- Francis Newton Souza

Souza on his work "Last Supper"

Leonardo da Vinci was looking for a model to pose as Christ for his painting, THE LAST SUPPER. At last he found an innocent, angelic-looking, uncorrupted and beautiful young man, in a church in Milan, and hired him to pose as Jesus.

Two years passed. Leonardo then needed to pose for him as Judas Iscariot: the apostle who betrayed Jesus! The artist scoured the streets of Milan again, and finally found the appropriate model for Judas, inside a brothel! The man appeared dissipate, inebriated, ill and decadent enough. Leonardo hired him.

When the man entered the Leonardo's studio, upon seeing his painting of Christ, he said, aghast: "I posed for that painting for you, two years ago!"

…A fine Model is very, very rare. I had no such luck with my LAST SUPPER: I painted all the thirteen figures straight out of my head!
- Francis Newton Souza
  January 2002