EXHIBITION - F.N. Souza Exhibition (Sep 17-Dec 16, 2008) :


Interview with F.N. Souza - 1994

Saffronart and Grosvenor Gallery thank Srimati Lal for obtaining the 1994 interview reproduced in this catalogue and screened for the duration of the exhibition. Saffronart and Grosvenor Gallery also acknowledge the kind permission of the Estate of F.N. Souza, which holds the rights, for permission to reproduce the interview and its text, and images of the artist's work that appear in the video.

Life, Death and the Supernatural

Do you converse with the supernatural? With goblins? No, no, I'm not a lunatic.

You once wrote that you 'converse with goblins.' What did you mean? When I was a boy, yes. That is quoted from 'Words and Lines', that's when I was a child…. But, science, you see, does not believe in the spiritual world. Everything is matter. That's why when I paint it is materials. Pigment – the colours are solid, and a great painting, actually, has to be very solid – solidly structured, internal anatomy, a framework, scaffolding, and then on top of that, the paint. So it's totally in the round, although it's a twodimensional surface. But, from the mind, one thinks of it in the round. It is no place for spirits and goblins and fairies.

You had written that your grandparents were alcoholics; can you tell me something about your grandfather?
Yes, well I don't know much about my grandfather except that he was the principal of a school in Assolna. He started that school actually. Goa produced, and still does, a lot of country liquor. It was under the Portuguese, and they used to import a lot of wines and hard liquor from Europe. The country liquor, and the whiskies, and the port wine from Europe, produced a lot of drunkenness in Goa; a lot of alcoholism. Alcoholism is something that can be transmitted genetically and it has also been classified as a disease. My grandparents from my father's side were noted for their alcoholism. Not my mother's side; oddly enough they are all teetotallers. But from my father's side…my father of course died very young at 24, but he never drank. Then the thing struck me, particularly in London. I started drinking heavily in Soho, with other painters like Francis Bacon, and then the writers, and Dom Moraes was a great friend of mine. A whole bunch of alcoholics were in London – Soho – you see. I used to drink heavily in Paris also. I used to go to Spain, only to drink. It was to paint. Somehow the booze was connected to art for some strange reason. I suppose like poets, painters connect alcohol with their literary efforts. I have now come to the conclusion that it is no good. It's not an aid at all to the creative process. In fact, when you are very clear in your mind, and you can concentrate much more accurately and precisely, the work has much more endurance.

Can you say something more about your father and your mother? My father started teaching when he was a teenager, actually, in the same school that my grandfather had started. Then he came from Assolna which is thousands of miles away, to Saligaon which is another district. And there, by the strange quirks of destiny, he met my mother, and they got married. He started teaching at a major school which was quite known, Mater Dei School, the 'Mother of God' it was called. And then in a couple of years, he had two children. My sister, who also died, and then I was the last. My mother was very terrified that I would also go off in the same way. But somehow I survived through all sorts of childhood diseases; smallpox and everything.

Your father died within three months of your birth?

Your sister died within one year of your birth?

You have written that your mother preferred that the boy had died,to let the girl live. How did that make you feel?
I used to feel that life was very tragic. My mother brought me from Goa to Bombay. In the building where I was staying, there were continuously funerals passing by; Hindus, Muslims, Christians; and it was quite disturbing. I was about 10 years old or so. The feeling of death and of desperation was quite overwhelming. And then, being a Christian, my mother started getting commissions. She was very good at making embroidery. She started getting commissions from the churches; there are a number of churches in Bombay and all of the major schools are run by Jesuits, nuns, convents and so forth; St. Xavier's, etc. So she started making these vestments, you know, fully embroidered with gold and silver threads and so forth. And I used to see those ornamental designs, and they had some sort of influence on my own view of art. And I do use ornamental backgrounds and so forth.

What do you think about death?
I mean, there are all sorts of views like transmigration, reincarnation and resurrection and so forth. But I have come to the conclusion that death is finality. In fact, after I die, I will not even know that I was ever living. It is as ultimate as that.

You have said that God made you a fearful person. Did these two deaths intensify the fear; the death of your father and your sister?
Well, being a child, because I only heard all of this - I didn't see my father's death, I was young - it didn't register. Nor with my sister. In fact, throughout my life; my growth from youth to young man, to my stay in Europe and in America, you would be surprised - I have never seen a dead body. And by that, I mean I have not seen somebody die who has been close to me, a relative or somebody. In America, if somebody dies, they are just carted away from the hospital. Nobody sees it. And I have not had a close friend who died, that I was in the proximity so I could attend the funeral. It never happened.

Mothers, Patrons and Relocations

You were born Newton Souza and then your mother named you after St. Francis?
No, no. On my birth certificate, there is the name Francis Newton Souza. When she came to Bombay, she was making clothes; dresses for European and American women who were residing in Bombay at the time. She went by the name of Mrs. Newton and in class, I was known as Francis Newton. Even at the J.J. School of Art, I was known as Newton. Some of my early works are signed Newton.

At the age of 15 you were sent to a Jesuit school. Were you hoping to become a priest?
[Laughing] I was never a priest, but that was my mother's vow. When I got smallpox, she promised to St. Francis Xavier, who is incidentally the patron saint of Goa. His body is supposedly uncorrupted in the basilica in Goa. I never thought of being a priest. There is a concept of celibacy and so forth that never appealed to me.

Then you joined the J.J. School of Art (Jamshedjee Jeejebhoy School of Art), and you were expelled yet again. What went wrong?
J.J. School of art was administered by the British. The director was an Englishman and a Royal Academician, Charles Gerard. Then came the Quit India movement – Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress and all that – huge processions, a very moving scene of political unrest. Curiously, at that time, although India was a kind of… there was a tension between the Muslims and the Hindus, and the Christians and the Parsis were on the periphery. It was very strange scenery. In the streets of Bombay, for instance, you could tell the religion of each person by the type of clothes he wore. The Parsis wore a particular kind of clothes, and the Hindus wore the dhoti and the cap and so forth, and the Muslims had the fez cap, and the Christians had western clothes. In fact, the three leaders had appropriate kinds of clothes; Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah. Gandhi had Hindu clothes, Nehru had the Muslim clothes and Jinnah had the Englishman's clothes. They wore clothes which depicted their religion. Of course today India has broadened out. You can't recognize somebody's religion by the clothes he wears. When I was a boy, though, this was very obvious.

Why did they expel you from the J.J. School of Art?
So, the Quit India movement came and I was with a group of friends. There always used to be a British Union Jack on the mast of the school of art. Together with a group of politically conscious friends, we removed that flag and put up the Gandhi flag, which was green, white and orange with the spinning wheel on it. The current flag had not yet risen at that time. Having found the culprits – myself and some others – the principal Charles Gerard expelled all of us. The other guys were also expelled, too. The home minister had rescinded the expulsion orders after the facts were known. They were readmitted into the school, but I didn't go back. I went to Goa and I painted a lot of landscapes and the people of Goa.

The day you were expelled, you started painting in oil, tempera... The Blue Lady.
Yes. Later, together with that Blue Lady and the painting I had done in Goa, I put up a show at the Bombay Art Society. The Blue Lady was then bought by the Baroda Art Museum. And that first show of mine attracted a number of the artists there.

Could you say something about the Communist Party of India?
When I was about 17 years old I got involved with some radical friends of mine, and through them I got interested in the Soviet Union, the communist movement. It was a dream that the movement would be worldwide. And I began reading Marx, Engels and Lenin and so forth, and all of the socialist literature, and I read quite a lot of that, though I never joined the Communist Party.

You were not a member?
No, I could have become one, but it never worked out that way. Oddly enough it was perhaps fate that kept me from being a regular member of the party – because had I been a member of the party.… When I went to America, there was a clause which said, "Have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" I said no, which was a fact, it was true. Had I been a member, it would have been difficult to get a permanent visa in America.

The first painting you sold (see facing page) to a Portuguese girl, named Maria – was it a coincidence that she later became your wife?
Not a coincidence. I was intrigued by the fact that she was interested in art and painting to the extent that she used her salary and bought a painting. Then I started dating her and she left her job and started working for my mother. She was in the dress making thing, also. And it went fine. In fact, her photograph has been put by Alkazi in the showcase there.

What was it that prompted you to leave India permanently?
I went to London, to Paris, to Europe to Italy and so forth, to see the museums. I wanted to enlarge my experience in the aesthetic field and painting, to see paintings, to see sculpture. European museums are all packed with antiquities as well as the art of the renaissance. Modern art, as it is known today, was not fully blown out in the 40's. I left in 1949.

Why did you go?
Some friends of mine were already in London, and they began writing to me saying, ''why don't you come over?'' And I had this urge to expand my own intellect as well as knowledge.

When you reached London did you reach the Promised Land? The promised land of the artist?
No. Whatever promises were there were in the museums. But the people, and the grimness of London, were quite horrifying. One immediately thought, "What?" These people used to rule India, you know? It was unbelievable. When I went to London, England still had rationing. It was post-war – they were still smarting from the aftermath of the war. There was rationing of utilities, curtailment in all fields, but the one thing that really was quite remarkable, as far as my destiny, is that nothing ever prevented me from painting. I continued painting through thick and thin. I never took a job for wages or salary. Even when the circumstances were meagre, they allowed for me to buy my paint, and to paint.

What did Ezra Pound say you were?
Ezra Pound said, "Souza is a great man, but I think he knows it". As you know, T.S. Eliot dedicated his 'Wasteland' to Ezra Pound, and I said, "How apt". Because, you see, Ezra Pound himself was a vast wasteland. Have you gone through his scandals? It was endless, beginningless and endless! But anyway, he was quite…I asked him about being a fascist and anti-Semitic, but he said, ''No, no I have never been anti-Semitic. All I dislike and detest is 'usury', lending money and getting an interest, etc.'' The implication is that all banks and so forth are run by Jews. Anyway, it's a very touchy problem and I think he was then put away in a mental asylum.

Krishna Menon was in London.
Yes. He was one of m earliest and strongest backers and supporters. He helped me a lot. I had my first one man exhibition, a very large one; all the work I did getting to England; plus some of the works which I had brought with me from India, from Bombay, and he put them up in India House. That was my first show and I met a number of people from it.

He offered you a job?
He offered me a job but I didn't take it.

Because I had a job, my job is that of a painter.

Stephen Spender helped you a lot.
The next great assistance I got was from Stephen Spender. I sent an article I had written, an autobiographical article ('The Nirvana of the Maggot'), and he wrote back to me. He said, "I like your writing and I want to publish it in 'Encounter'." He phoned me – I didn't have a telephone then – and said phone me back and we will get together for lunch and asked to get together for lunch. The deal was closed then. And I got famous with that.

You were a sensation in London?
Yes, an overnight sensation.

Which was your first successful exhibition in London?
1955, the same year that the 'Encounter' article was published – at the same time in fact, they coincided. I had left India in '49, by '55 I was quite on my own feet, making a living. In fact, other artists, well known painters and sculptors like Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland were teaching at art schools, whereas I was living on my own painting.

You were put through such hardships in the first few years.
Yes. But, it was not a hardship in such a way that I had to leave what I was doing, which was my art, and take on some sort of job whether it was clerical or menial job. It never converged to that point, where, by force, I had to work.

Maria worked?
Maria had a job doing dress-making. She and I pulled together. And then I had a child, and it was a bit hard. It was more difficult. Have you got some interesting anecdotes of that period? The interest was only as far as… looking back now… as how human beings can go through very difficult times, with a baby and so forth, and yet there's a resilience, an urge, and Maria knew that I had this fire going on in me that I had to paint. She didn't bug me or say, "what are you doing" or say anything of the sort – that she was the sole breadwinner. We never had that sort of antagonism. I used to look after the child when she used to go to her dressmaking place. In fact, I used to hold the child in one hand and paint with the other. So we did go thorough all of that, but what I am saying is that it wasn't really desperate in the sense that I had to drop everything and look out for employment. In that case I would have come back to India. My friend, Nissim Ezekiel, who was a poet, he returned to India on a ship scrubbing floors because he didn't have the fare to get back. So all sorts of possibilities were there. If my condition was too desperate I would have returned to India but fate held me on. There was another move to be made and from London. I went to New York.

In 1956, you found your big patron?
Yes, Harold Kovner.


1956 - this was the period you had you had taken to alcoholism?
Yes, by '56, I had been to Stockholm, Sweden and also to Germany. You know, boozing and drinking was quite common there. And the Swedes of course are very suicidal. So I find myself saying, "hail, fellow comrades" and that sort of thing. By that time I had left communism, it didn't appeal to me anymore because of their attitude towards literature and art. There were some tiny-minded people in the politburo in the Kremlin who were trying to control the creative impulse.

Now you are a teetotaller?


What do you think of Anish Kapoor? His installations and such?
I don't know if he does installations, but anyway installations by themselves don't have much relevance to me. I am not really interested. [Gestures to room] this is an installation you see here. It will be taken down soon, you see. You could put this whole thing in a museum and people would wonder what it is, why is it there. Anything can be an installation. You have such people who called themselves artists, people who were actually standing, themselves, on a platform.

Have you ever met Picasso?
Yes, we met. In fact, Padamsee, Raza and myself. In Paris we went to a woman called Madame Couturie – she was a collector, who was a friend of Picasso. While were chatting, looking at her collection, Picasso dropped in. It was very exciting.

Who is the greatest artist after Picasso?
I don't think there is one. It was not only Picasso but the whole of the school of Paris. There were a number of great artists; Braque, and before that Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin; and then comes Picasso, Braque and several of the cubists, then Soutine, Kokoschka…you know, a whole list of them.

How do you locate yourself in this list?
Myself? I just paint for the sake of it. I get an urge. As soon as I get an urge to paint… my painting comes in fits and starts. It starts ok and fits ok to. I just paint because I have to.

Were you inspired by Catalonian art?
Yes, it is pre-renaissance art and really marvellous. In my view, it is something very great; Romanesque painting. I had seen those first in the church itself, in cathedrals in Barcelona. Later on I was amazed to know that they had removed those things from the wall, those frescos, and laid it out on canvas. The technology of that was so marvellous.

What are your other influences apart from Catalonia?
Well, Goa of course influenced me a lot. My mother used to have this dressmaking business; she had a number of women ordering dresses from her. They would try the dresses on and I used to peep through and see their bodies. That inspired me a lot because that's how I studied the human anatomy.

Yes, Khajuraho was another. An artist can get his inspiration from two sources; from art itself – previous art – and from reality. It can come from nature, from trees and landscape and from human beings. So there are two sources; one abstract, which is art, and the other which is concrete.

Do you think that sculptures of Khajuraho are different from Western erotic art?
Oh yeah, sure. A person who is Western and with Christianity, with Christ a virgin and his mother – it was never exhibited publicly in the churches or outside. But in India, these were put on temples – not only in the north – when I went to the south there was a tremendous amount of erotic sculptures all around the temple. I saw a number of miniature erotic paintings in which the copulation… the woman and the man are engaged in a sexual act and there are children around. So it is taken as something quite natural.

Women and Philosophy

Are all of your paintings erotic?
I have done a lot of very erotic paintings. That's why the police were after me in Bombay. But after that incident in Bombay I have never had any problems. In fact there are a lot of collectors who buy erotic art.It has been said that your humans look like "well-fed cats." Well-fed cats? Who said this?

Geeta Kapur.
Well-fed cats – I am not aroused by a well-fed cat. To be erotic, anything that is erotic including a real woman or a drawing of a woman, there must be something which arouses one's passions.

Why are they overly erotic?
Overly!? Why Not!

Some people assert that your work is pornographic.
Pornography was a word used by the stoics and the cynics in Greece. It is a completely misapplied word because it is connected with prostitutes. If you look up the meaning, it is used quite wrong actually. I don't look at any art as pornographic or evil or bad or simple. It's all nonsense; if you go in that direction it's a cul-de-sac. There is no answer to that.

Why do you choose to place so much focus on breasts?
Yes why not, the breast gives you a feeling of nourishment and abundance. So the basic thing I must say is that life is self-sustaining, sustained, and it wants to be sustained. The survival of the fittest depends on nutrition and you've got to fight for it. The woman supplies this you see, and as I have said the women is the most attractive figure in the universe for a virile man. Somebody who hasn't got the balls will say that it's sinful and so forth. No. You need virility. You need force; you need strength, that's what makes life interesting. Life is the joy because of women.

As the saying goes, ''sex keeps you young.''
What keeps you young? Do I look that young? I am 72 years old but I am still interested in sex and I shall be as long as I live, I suppose. But then sex is not the only thing I am interested in. I am interested in words, I am interested in colours. I am interested in flowers and the beauty of nature, the skies, clouds, rough seas; all of this is very exciting. It tingles my blood.

Does the sensuality in your work serve any purpose? Do you think your views on women are sexist, eccentric?
You know there is a pleasure in eating nuts, and a pleasure in kissing girls. I live for joy, for enjoyment, and art is in fact entertainment. The artist who doesn't understand this fact… a picture should entertain. It is a law, a crucial necessity. Art must entertain. The communists had a completely absurd idea that it should educate. No. Great art is entertainment.

What motivates your art?
It is the capacity, the calibre; the intensity comes from the premise of what you are doing. The motive for art… it should excite, it should transmit the force with which the artist is putting on the surface. The force should be transmitted to the observer.

Are women snobbish?
If I answer that I'll have the feminist league on my neck. The feminist movement will follow me like a ton of bricks. I should stay away from that.

Is Nietzsche an influence on your work?
Nietzsche, yes. I have not met Nietzsche but his books are there. He had this terrific Go about him. I preach the Superman! Superman was originally 'uberman,' a German word, translated by Bernard Shaw into Superman. He was one of the authors I had read completely as a young man. And then I found it childish, schoolboy, 'Bernard Shaw.' But he did influence me a lot. And he was a Nietzschian. Then I went, of course, through Nietzsche. And these existentialists took up Nietzsche, but they did not understand him. They were constantly on this "angst," ''life is a drag,'' and that sort of thing. I don't buy that. I don't dig that. Life is not a drag, life is full of enjoyment. It's amazing. All you have to do is to go out and take a deep breath of fresh air and you'll say, ''Oh, I'm glad I'm living.''

Were your thoughts at all conflicted due to Nietzsche's support of evil?
Nietzsche supported evil? Unfortunately his writings were tampered by his sister, Elizabeth, and she put in all these anti-Semitic, good vs. evil things. She interpolated his writing. She was really a psychotic woman.

"Only strong personalities can endure history, the weak ones are extinguished by it."
Well, why not. The weak are not supposed to be admired.

You use lots of Christian iconography in your work. How does this contradict with the Nietzsche philosophy?
It depends who, for instance…Alkazi has only taken that part of my output. I have painted lots of kinds of pictures, a lot with Indian mythology. There is a lot of Indian mythology in my work. It doesn't appear much here, in this show, but I have done that. And incidentally, I have also done a lot of Greek mythology.

You had lots of Christian influence from your childhood?
Yes, influence means you know if your grandmother tells you a story, you think about it. I have never really been influenced by anything by which I have lost my own…. I have resisted all influences.

Could you talk the architecture of Roman Catholic churches?
Well it was all around me in Goa, even in Bombay. If you look at Victoria Terminus, it looked like a Gothic Cathedral. The people in the West don't know what kind of architecture they will find in India. It's amazing, some of the structures here in India are even better than what exists in Europe. The churches in old Goa are huge and magnificent.

Would you like to say something about processions?
They are sort of stirring, you know, they make you feel good. Yes, they make you feel that there must be some other power. But I have gotten over all that, I'm not interested. I'm interested in the power that I am living in. I'm not at all interested in the supernatural and I've defined what the supernatural is. There is no such thing as the supernatural because there is no 'seam' to show where the natural ends and the supernatural begins. So there is no such thing as the supernatural. It's all natural. Nature is infinite.

Goan church murals were a lasting influence?
I had an Italian government scholarship, and I stayed in Rome for a long time. The thing is, all the 'Christology'; heavens and what not; it isn't true. Where is heaven where is hell? All this scatology about 'after-death' and 'after-life' and so on, it's just not true. And that which is not true is nonsense.

Critics have said that your painting is without tradition.
No, that's what John Berger said about my art. "Souza straddles several traditions but serves none." And I think that he got it, in the sense that he saw that I am not really influenced by anybody.

Do you revel in disturbing human faces?
Yeah, I have described modern art as being a distortion and incongruous colours. Distorted anatomy, incongruous colours, distorted perspective, and when you look at all this together, you say, "Voila! modern art." Abracadabra!"

Do you show symbols of truth or fact?
In fact, art which is not true is not art. It must have the conviction. The artist has his conviction and he puts his conviction on the surface, and that conviction is again transmitted to the observer. And the observer is convinced, that "yes, there is something to this."

Redshift theory is important to you?
In 1980, in the 'New York Times', the Redmond theory appeared and it altered my whole view of what I had previously learnt from the greatest minds like Socrates or Plato, or whatever. The Redshift theory enlarges the universe to infinity. Mind you, even Einstein believed that the universe was finite. But in the Redshift theory believes the universe is infinite. In fact, it reflects on the early concepts of Indian thought. Santya has said that nature is the sole principle. Procurity is the sole principle (sic). And that principal – what is the measurement of that principle? In science you must give measurements. When Einstein said the universe was finite, what was the measurement of that? He doesn't give the measurement. But the Redshift theory gives the measurement of the universe. It says that the universe is beginningless and endless, measuring from infinity to infinity, ubiquitously. Everywhere

Does this affect your art?
It allows my own thinking, you see. Obviously if your brain is enlarged, you will expand it to whatever you do, whatever you think. Everything that I now hear from other people, or if I go to a library…I can't stand those books which are utter rubbish – a little bit from here a little bit from there, a bit from Shakespeare, from the Bible, a hodgepodge. It is all nonsense.

Proces and Iconography

Why do you paint?
Where do I paint? [Laughing] I paint where I hang my hat, although I don't wear a hat. Oh, why do I paint? It is a compulsion. It is an impulse. Though, I don't have a routine. I don't have a timetable that I must paint between this hour and that hour. But it is a compulsion.

How do you get your ideas?
Some ideas come into my head and then suddenly I get an unbearable feeling that I must put it down on paper or canvas.

Does the smell of painting make you nauseous?
Yes. But that was with turpentine, with oil paint. With the advent of acrylics, it's much better. I don't get that nausea.

When you stop painting, what do you think of?
Are you wanting me to quote from 'Words and Lines' that I think of cars and girls? That was a long time ago. Now I don't need to think of cars. I can buy a car, and girls I've got. No need to think about them. It's a question of driving or feeling.

Do you feel limited in what you can paint?
No no no, of course not. I paint trees, bees, breeze, whatever… women, vaginas, I do anything. With an artist he is like god. He can do anything. You must worry that society will reject your more outlandish works. I don't care about society. Society must be afraid of the artist.

Do you feel that society places too much responsibility on artists?
No not at all, because if the artist is responsible he looses his freedom and art is nothing but freedom.

…Don't you think that you are an outsider?
Outside of society? No. I have said that society must adapt to the outsiders, the outsider being the artist. Society must adapt to the artist.

Was it you who asked Husain to join the Progressives?
Yes. I met Husain and I invited him to join the Progressive Artist Group. He had come to see my exhibition; the first exhibition I had; and we hit it off. He asked me to see his work and I liked his work. I introduced him to some of my collectors and from then I invited him to join the Progressive Artist Group, which is the most influential group ever, in India.

It has been said that the PAG did irreparable damage to Indian Art.
That is an absurd statement from someone who knows nothing about art or the Progressive Artist Group.

It was Satish Gujral
Yes and his own art is absurd. So I should not answer absurd points of views.

Are there any critics that you like? Do you think that there are any good art critics?
Yes, there are some. In fact one of the best critics, perhaps the best, was Srimati Lal. She doesn't write much now because she herself paints very good pictures and she is going to exhibit her work shortly. But she has done a lot of very incisive art criticism.

Anybody else?
No, I can't think of anyone else. There was Geeta Kapur of course, she was very good up to 1978 but we have moved a long way from 1978. That was when her book appeared on contemporary Indian artists.

You are an ex-communist and an ex-Roman Catholic.
Yeah, and I like 'X' movies

Are you obsessed by anti-hero figures?
No I'm not interested in the anti-hero. You see, I don't look at heroes either. I understand that there is a hierarchy in nature you see. The hierarchy is the general law of nature, it's a pyramid and everywhere you see hierarchies: in a house, in a home, the father and mother. In an office, the boss and the workers. So there is hierarchy, there is no such thing as hero; the hero one day can be a coward the next day. But there is a hierarchy.

If You're good you'll be recognised!

Your art has been called decadent. Do you believe that art must be decadent?
No. Baudelaire was a great artist in that he was a great poet, and although he is sometimes referred to as a decadent poet, I refuse to accept that older form of the meaning of decadence. Decadence by itself is a very beautiful product of the creative imagination, and the more decadent one is, the greater the artist is. If you look at all the great works of art, for example Rembrandt, as he grew older his art became more and more decadent. With Michelangelo, as he grew older he became more and more decadent. It became fulfilling, you see, so the word decadent has to have a new meaning. As I have said, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. It is in the cultivated eye, and that aesthetics goes beyond beauty. So the decadent artist or poet knows exactly what aesthetics means and Baudelaire was a very great aesthetician.

What do you think is the role of art?
The role? Why should it have a role, everything has a purpose and yet when you look for the purpose it disappears. When you look for origins of anything, it becomes a mystery.

Is figurative art finished?.
Not at all, I think whoever thinks that is a fool and not correct. There are critics who have been saying that figurative art is dead, but there are more figurative artists coming up. In fact, in India….modern Indian art is the best in the world and most of it is figurative.

You have written three books? You enjoy writing poetry?

Tell us one of your poems. Recite lines.
No no, I don't remember any of the lines, but the book I wrote was read by a girl and she said, ''Francis you must dedicate this to women,'' so I did. I dedicated it to women. And another women wrote a review of it, saying, ''How dare he dedicate this nasty book to women!''

What do you think about the relationship between men and women? Is there a conflict?
Well women are necessary, man couldn't live without a woman and women couldn't procreate mankind without a man, it's a composite. So where is the conflict?

When you were living in New York, what did you think of the American Art scene?
Oh it's dreadful, it's nonsense you see. It's terrible; it's the worst scene going on. It doesn't mean a thing.

Are the white artists superior to the Indian artists?
No, because their art has declined. After the school of Paris there is no art in Europe or America.

Is there still discrimination against Indian art generally?
No, no. I don't think so. You see, if you're good you'll be recognised.