Oil on canvas
66 x 82 1/2 in. (167.8 x 208.8 cm.)
Signed and dated 'Souza 90' upper right
'Souza is a painter of cityscapes and religious themes. While in the latter he is loaded with a troubled presentiment, in the former he is singularly devoid of emotive inhibitions. Unlike the cityscapes of Ram Kumar which ooze a silent melancholy and flare warmly from amidst the gloomy shadows of all consuming time, Souza's cityscapes are the congealed visions of a mysterious world. Whether standing solidly in enamelled petrification or delineated in thin colour with calligraphic intonations, the cityscapes of Souza are purely plastic entities with no reference to memories or mirrors.' (Jagdish Swaminathan, 'Souza's Exhibition', Lalit Kala Contemporary 40, New Delhi, March 1995, p. 31)
In the 1962 review of Souza's solo exhibition at the Kumar Art Gallery in Delhi, Swaminathan makes a distinction between the artistic inspiration for Souza's two most popular themes, his figurative works and his cityscapes. Within Souza's figurative works, Swaminathan perceives the 'trauma of a soul in torment over the eternal conflict of good and evil', whereas in his cityscapes he sees that artist working in a more liberated manner, less concerned with religious debate, and more involved with the process of painting itself. As Swaminathan quips in the article, even though Souza claims to hate the smell of oil paint, 'he has a nose for it all right!'
The distinction of course is blurred in many of Souza's most famous paintings, such as Two Saints in a Landscape, because the artist intentionally places religious figures within his cityscapes. But even here, the distinct treatment of the two subjects is notable. There is a 'formal clarity' in the figures, whilst a visual confusion within the structure of the city remains. After his most austere landscapes of the 1950s, there is, in fact, an evolving chaos within his cityscapes, where buildings appear on the point of imminent collapse.
Edwin Mullins states that Souza has 'succeeded in creating images which are entirely personal, yet recognisable at the same time. They are often distorted to the point of destruction - houses no more than lopsided cubes...but they never threaten to dissolve into formalised abstract shapes. The violence and speed with which they were executed keep these images, however distorted, in touch with the painter's vision of what they really are.' (Edwin Mullins, Souza, London, 1962, p. 37)
The chaos, or the implied imminent collapse within many of his landscapes, may hint at a more subtle artistic dialogue contained within these paintings. Unlike his figurative works that blatantly question the morality of religious leaders and the nature of sainthood, within Souza's landscapes Man, Religion and Nature collide. The genre, therefore, falls at the very heart of his oeuvre. His cityscapes seem to question the fabric of the Church, highlight its foreseeable decay and hint at its inevitable final collapse. In the current painting, as with many of his earlier cityscapes, church spires emerge from amongst the building blocks of these imagined cities, as symbols of the imminent destruction of the Church, not God or Spirituality. By this stage in Souza's career, Religion was not understood in terms of Dogma, but rather in terms of Man's relationship with the universe. Here the glowing sun reigns supreme over the tumbling creations of Man.
'My religion is Nature. Nature is the sole principle, beginningless and endless. Nature is the creator of God in Man's mind. Not only God but gods, goddesses, devils angels 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, reprinted in the Foreword to the 2nd edition, Words and Lines, New Delhi, 1997, p. 4)
The current painting belongs to a small number of paintings produced in the early 1990s where Souza has inserted a ' ' symbol between his signature and the date. According to the lady who sold the painting to Masanori Fukuoka, who both knew Souza intimately at this period in the artist's career and was one of his dealers, the paintings inscribed with the ' ' sign, are the works that Souza most admired, and felt were particularly good quality. Such a system follows the method adopted by George Chinnery (1774-1852), a British artist, who frequently annotated his works with his own shorthand, in this instance using the ' ' sign to denote a sketch he would like to use in future paintings.
# Import duty at 11% will be charged on the hammer price and GST will be applicable on the total amount of the hammer price plus the import duty.
About The Artist:
FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA (1924-2002)