PROPERTY OF A FRIEND OF THE ARTIST
Oil on board
31 1/2 x 27 1/2 in. (80 x 69.9 cm.)
Signed and dated 'Souza 63' lower right and inscribed and dated 'F.N. SOUZA / FLOWERS / 1963 / OIL ON BOARD' on reverse
'Comedy is funny, religion is not. Religion is dead serious. But those entrusted with it are clowns! Not a single scientist has ever defined God. They use the scriptures. Even Einstein and Hawking kept mum. My religion is nature. Nature is the sole principle, beginning-less and endless. Nature is the creator of God in man's mind. Not only God, but gods, goddesses, devils and spirits. They are all living in the minds of men and women all over the world! Their creator is none other than the forces of nature. Nature is the creator of everything. I am using energy from the same universal source which men used to write the Vedas and the scriptures! ... Have fun guys and dolls! Today, tomorrow and always...' (F. N. Souza, Foreword to the 2nd Edition of Words and Lines, New Delhi, 1997, p. 4)
The foreword to the second edition of Words and Lines was written by Souza in 1997. In his now characteristic style, full of wordplay and mischief, he set outs his own theory of the creative principle. He states that Nature is the universal source of all creation, under which logic he proposes that his creative drive as an artist can be subsumed under the same guiding principal as the creation of the Hindu Vedas or the Christian scriptures. For the artist, this is not mere wordplay to elevate himself to the role of a saint. Instead, his aim is to trace the creative process whether that of a painter, writer, or any scientific process, or natural phenomena, to the same fundamental starting point; that of the primary energy of the cosmos, Nature itself. This theory forms part of the artist's own philosophical approach to life which evolved as he matured, moving away from his initial theological concerns about Christianity to more universal questions about mankind as a whole.
The evolution of Souza's thinking appears to run parallel to the changes in his artistic approaches as a painter, which also evolved decade by decade. Geeta Kapur identifies this change in artistic language as the artist 'devising an appropriate language of forms.' (Geeta Kapur, Contemporary Indian Artists, New Delhi, 1979, p. 33) For Kapur, the question is whether Souza could develop appropriate artistic languages for his changing subjects, but in fact, of greater concern, to the artist himself, was whether he could devise a painterly process that reflected his understanding of the more universal creative process of Nature itself. The point is perhaps one and the same, for it is in the depiction of Nature, in his landscapes, and in the vibrant flower filled vases of his still life paintings, that we confront Souza's evolution at its earliest stage of his painterly style.
In the current painting, as with the landscapes of the late 1950s, we see a frenzied disruption of the painted surface, where riotous colours emerge from the black void of the background, their forms defined by a collection of dots and looping circles. Unlike the geometric forms of line, square and circle witnessed in Souza's paintings from the previous decade, which themselves appear to have some philosophical underpinning in the yantras or cosmological diagrams of the Hindu scriptures, here we see forms based upon scientific principles such as the proton, atom, cell and nucleus. This change in Souza's theoretical underpinning of the creative process allows for a more gestural fluid approach to his painting, which bursts through in joyful ebullience in the early 1960s, of which the current painting is a magnificent example.
About The Artist:
FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA (1924-2002)