FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA
1924 - 2002
Francis Newton Souza the founder of the Progressive Artist's Group in 1947 is best known for his inventive human forms particularly the heads. Souza, who was born and brought up in a catholic family in Goa, opposed church and its hypocrisy and authoritarian structure. He left for London in 1949 where he had several shows and his career was on a rise. The next two decades discerned his dehumanized heads where the morphology of the face had changed and new forms were invented. In looking at Souza's work the most important thing is not that we understand what the painting shows us, but what he shows us forces us in turn to see visions within ourselves, visions of our shared humanity. Souza's themes rides the waves of our human concerns, errant but able, containing and embrocating all the aspects of life, from his political affiliations to Christian overtones, from his Greek relatives to Hindu philosophy. Souza's contemplative energy is vitalized, revitalized and deposed with such and organized disorder that exposes and yet conceals the designs of our psyche. His thinking was a medley of diverse influences: the folk art of native Goa, the upbeat stance of the Catholic church, the grandiose portraiture of Renaissance Europe and the landscape art of the 18th and 19th century. He kept track of the writings of Einstein, Darwin and Hawking, and mixed science and art to create canvases peopled with largely disturbing, powerful images. His strong, bold lines delineated the head in a distinctive way where it was virtually re-invented the circles, hatchings and crosses.
Souza is an image-maker whose subjects ranged form representation of landscape, women, to still life and portraits, bearing an uncanny metaphysical force as in the medieval occidental art forms. The brute force of his images cuts through the fabric of social norms and conventions, unveiling the latter’s underlying tensions, suppressed violence and animal urges. In Souza’s work, Christian icons are imbued with an aura of cruelty, they are revealed as instruments of torture, imprisoning and repressive in the fear they evoke. Souza’s nudes exhibit bold and unrestrained sexuality, they stare directly at the viewer unashamed by the nakedness of her flesh. Its monumentality demonstrates Souza’s ability to transform the nude into both a sublime image of idealized beauty and a virulent icon of sexual power. His landscapes enhance a pictorial image of desolation with agony and transforms visual perception into significant form. Lyrical within their architectonic forms, his landscapes comprise a color palette of pristine shades of green outlined by sketchy black. His landscapes demonstrate the inherent tension between nature and civilization. Few most evident tendencies of his paintings from later phase consist of thick bounding line, distortion and dislocation. The most interesting aspect of Souza’s work is the infuriating aspect of his aesthetics. His own words describe his works more explicitly than anything else“I express myself freely in paint, in order to exist.”