It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of one of South Asia’s eminent artists, Akbar Padamsee.
One of the primary figures of Indian art, he made a career defined by free-thinking, experimentation and individuality. He worked on a wide variety of media but focused on a few chosen genres including prophets, heads, couples, still-life, grey works, metascapes and mirror images.
In his passing, he left behind a stellar legacy of masterpieces from his almost seven-decade long career. But shall always be remembered as one of the greats who put Indian art into the world stage and shattered preconceived notions of what Indian art should be and could be.
Relentless and dedicated to his craft until the end, he candidly said in one of his last interviews, “It is not possible to master the art of painting in such a short lifetime. I have been a painter in my past births and I am continuing the tradition.”
The current lot is reminiscent of the artist’s ‘Figures in Landscape, Freeport, Bahamas’ which was painted in 1971 and evokes the feeling of enjoying under the sun and lazing on the beach. F.N. Souza used bright sunlit colors to portray a sense of lightness that is so dissimilar from his usual and dark palette choices. Aside from the uncharacteristic palette choice, the picture appears to have been executed perfunctorily without much attention to details of the figure.
F.N. Souza routinely came back to his favorite motifs throughout his career. A recurrent theme of his works was the conflicts in man-woman relationships with an emphasis on sexual tension and friction, as seen in the current image executed in 1974.
In the drawing, he was able to maintain an excellent economy on his use of line while still managing to capture fine details. He employed an abundance of detailing, which made up the overall structure of his subjects. Disfigured and malformed, this image of a couple was part of the ‘mutant’ studies that Souza did in conjecture with nuclear warfare in what he predicted as the eventual downfall of man.
After F.N. Souza left London in 1967, he lived in New York, where he continued to experiment with new ways of creating landscapes and figurative works. His painting in the following decades included uniquely rendered chemical drawings that demonstrate color palettes of vivid hues, as seen in the current image.
Souza’s women were frankly sexual and shockingly exposed themselves. In each of his works, they become more and more voluptuous, and all the more revealing and sordid. Conversely, his women are awe-inspiring in their unabashed display and ownership of their sexuality, yet on the flip side is Souza’s belief in women as objects of sexual gratification.
The genre of the landscape was a cornerstone of F.N. Souza’s oeuvres as much as his scathing portraits and nudes. Like many of his works, he articulates his particular brand of imagery in them exhibiting an uncompromising commitment to his inner muse.
The present lot, painted in 1993, two decades after his move from London to New York, encapsulates a particularly joyful period in the life of the artist. Souza’s painting style from previous decades evolved, becoming looser, slightly abstracted, and full of bright colors. He produced works depicting nature and flowery images using colorful pigments that evoke a carefree and light atmosphere. Repeatedly emphasizing nature being the sole principle – a tenet of “Redmonism,” the colors that he concocted seem almost to rival those of life itself. Here, the limits of the picture plane are disregarded; the leaves break off into a sea of green, and branches like vines appear in the foreground as a means to create perspective.
Souza’s landscapes are ultimately lyrical with unrestrained enthusiasm in the application of colors. The effects of the vibrant and gestural color schemes belong to a world of memories captured in the richness of Souza’s vision.
Religion may be the root and theme of many of F.N. Souza’s work, but it was also his compulsion. It played an integral part in his art, along with another of his obsession, which was female nudity. The fact that Souza was so bitterly critical of the Catholic Church yet so obsessed with making dozens of images around biblical themes was so indicative of the tremendous mental anguish he endured.
A true iconoclast, he paid no reverence in the depiction of Jesus, the core of the Christian religion; instead, he portrayed him just using his signature strong blacklines without any colors, embellishments, pomp, or details associated with religious establishments. Even the expression reflected is that of sadness or hardship, basing from Souza’s whole theological position and convictions of suffering without redemption.
Souza made his mark as a profound artist by producing visually intense and often disturbing works. With his exceptional skills, he disturbed accepted notions of aesthetics and jolted stereotypical perceptions about religion, sin, and oppressive political orders, which he depicted in many of his art.
Francis Newton Souza was the most vocal and controversial among the modern Indian masters. Following censorship and police raids on his exhibitions, he left India for London, where he initially struggled to establish himself in the post-war art and literary circle. He later found patronage and acclaim by the end of the 1950s, a period considered as the peak of his artistic prowess. The present lot painted in 1964 represents this critical stage in Souza’s career. Leading art writer Mervyn Levy described him as “one of the most vigorously stimulating and committed painters of our time.”1
Closely attuned with sociopolitical and scientific developments, Souza was deeply affected by the wars from years prior and was profoundly agitated over issues facing humanity, especially the development of nuclear weapons. He frequently portrays the subject in his works resulting in portrait studies of ‘mutant’ heads depicting the images of a man after a nuclear war. These studies became more vivid and frighteningly distorted as he felt civilization draws closer to destruction.
Here, he depicted the head profuse with facial features. Souza used a plethora of eyes and noses, with a gaping mouth placed haphazardly within the face making it look more of a monster than a man. This ability to disorganize and distort the human face without resorting to total abstraction or losing a vital aspect of the portraiture demonstrates Souza’s masterly skill as a draughtsman and his highly distinctive style. He explained, “I started using more than two eyes, many eyes and fingers on my paintings and drawings of human figures when I realized what it meant to have the superfluous and do not need the necessary.[…] I have everything to use at my disposal. I have never counted the number of teeth I’ve drawn in grinning mouths. So what of few extra eyes, fingers, etc.?”2 By consciously abandoning naturalism, Souza imbues his figures with enormous potency while liberating himself from objective representation.
Text References: 1 F.N. Souza: The human and the Divine, Studio International Art, April 1964, p. 134 2 F.N. Souza, Exhibition Catalogue, Gallery One, London, 1961, unpaginated
Dubai – ARTIANA Auction House announces a single-owner sale of affordable works on paper by Francis Newton Souza from the personal collection of Ravi and Uma Jain on 5 – 9 December 2019.
A combined total of 50 works will be offered across the five days sale featuring eminent artist Francis Newton Souza’s early sketches, landscapes, chemical-alterations, and still-life from the 1940s through the 1990s. Featuring memorable and personal drawings acquired from the artist — many of which are offered at accessible price points, the sale presents a unique opportunity for new and seasoned collectors to acquire works by one of the founder members of The Progressive Artists’ Group with stellar provenance.
The collection will be sold through an online auction at www.artiana.com from 5 December (6:00 pm) through 9 December (7:00 – 9:00 pm) UAE time with a No Buyer’s Premium policy, which is a unique ‘What You Bid Is What You Pay’ format in such auctions. FlexiPay, which allows buyers to ‘Bid Now Pay Later,’ will also be available for eligible clients. (FlexiPay scheme details are available on their website.)
The catalogue can be viewed online. Collectors may place bids at ARTIANA’s website, or through the mobile app available on Google Play for Android and the App Store for Apple devices. For information on how to register and bid, visit their website at www.artiana.com; For assistance and inquiries, call Artiana’s Help Desk at +971 55 815 3030 or write to [email protected].