The historical development of Goa has dictated the
predominance of different art forms and the diverse influence of
Greco-Latin art and the indigenous Goan culture has found a combined
expression in the paintings of contemporary artists from Goa.
The most important artist
is unquestionably Francis Newton Souza. In his essay titled
The Significance and Originality of Goan Art Jose Pereira
comments on the achievements of Souza. The first he says is an
artistic formulation of Goan life; and the second is the
discovery of the functional expressiveness of color.
Souza was born in a
Portuguese-Catholic colony in Goa in 1924. And although he had a
miserable childhood, the influence of his native land stayed with him
in the years to come. He joined the Sir J.J. School of Art in Bombay
only to be expelled four years later. This did not stop him from
holding one man shows and being recognized for his work. In 1947 he
founded the Progressive Art Group as a platform for new liberal
views. Two years later he was accused of painting obscene
pictures which were seized from his residence in Bombay. Souza has
traveled much since then physically and politically and
is today respected as a serious contributor to modern art in India.
challenge to the staid vision of the old order found expression in
his technique of painting and choice of colour and images. Bright,
striking colours, strong, bold brushstrokes, and a studied lack of
detail, lends his canvases a freshness and vibrancy whose first
impact is to shock Nudes and self portraits are brutally candid. The
frankness communicates in the direct manner of a child in the
manner of an individual close to nature, and to himself. The message
is an agitation of creative energies.
The influence of Goan
culture has found its place in Souzas work in a number of ways.
Natives of Goa, fisherwomen, children, priests have all been subjects
in his paintings. The churches and homes of Goa in his landscapes. On
a different plane, primitive Goan traditions and beliefs have been
used as symbols to express a spiritual conflict. The conflict between
Christian beliefs and the contradictions of city life where the
priest is powerless against the forces of evil.
with form have been a primary concern through his career. His work is
a medium of experience rather than a record of event, and yet
simultaneously becomes a critics comment of social concerns.
Laxman Pai belongs
to the same early period of modern Indian and Goan art as Souza. But
as an artist he traveled a very different path.
Born in 1926 in Goa, Pai
attended Sri J.J. School of Art around the same time as Souza. Even
in the early period of his career, he stayed off the mainstream
developments, charting a staunchly independent course. It anything,
he probably discovered the miniature style of painting, which was a
topic of great interest among his teachers and contemporaries. It
gave him a language in which to develop his own personal dialect.
Pais style showed
no preoccupation with colour, form on structure. Conflicts in
traditional forms of expression did not overly concern him. His
response to life and its experiences, its richness, is spontaneous
and he expresses it is an elaborate, imaginative way stamping it with
a very personal signature of style. Fancy and creative draughtsman
ship have played an important part in his initial decorative detailed
style. Images are graphic and representative of his fantastic
excursions. His style reveals a whimsical yet eclectic and serious
character of his works.
Pai is strongly attached
to his environment. He finds in nature and its creation a perennial
source of inspiration. Goa, its verdant landscapes, its joyful,
fun-loving people, its culture of colorful festivals have probably
spoken through his cheerful carefree style. He constantly returns to
his native land for symbols of expression.
In his early career the
simple life of his native land became subjects of his work. Though he
spent a decade in Europe, Western ideologies do not seem to have
influenced him significantly. However, they probable did redefine his
earlier style, giving it a stylized discipline with greater attention
to geometry and ornate details. The imagery, however, continued to be
His initial interest in
costume and details has evolved to pristine forms in a larger world
of nature, indicating a spiritual evolution of the artist himself. He
carries the Hindu metaphor of purush-prakriti to new
imaginative horizons in his rending of creation. Here parts of the
human body find their continued existence in aspects of nature
eyelashes in tender springs, and bosoms in blossoms.
While in Paris, in the
mid 1950s, Pai took to working seriously with oils. And painting
Jawaharlal Nehrus portrait, he adopted a new stain and
blob technique. This has become a major aspect of his work.
Having stayed away from
academic preoccupation, Pai exercised his freedom in executing his
integration of various themes. A folio of etchings on the life of
Buddha, a series of oil paintings inspired by Jaydevs Gita
Govind and later, in the 60s, a series on Kalidasas Ritu
Samhara showed his fascination with Hindu mythology and
literature. Pai has also painted a series on the Indian raga
interpreting his fondness for song and dance into a graphic form,
emphasizing moods in individual ways, using colour and brush strokes
to catch the tempo and movement.
Both Souza and Pai have,
thus, in their own way brought the spirit of their native soil into
modern Indian art.