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Dhoomimal Gallery pays ode to FN Souza on 100th b'day

Uday Jain, owner of Dhoomimal Art Gallery, has spent his childhood with artist Francis Newton Souza. On the occasion of the artist’s 100th birthday celebrations, Jain showcased a collection of Souza's artworks as a tribute, and shared how he bonded with uncle Souza.

Dhoomimal Gallery of Art recently showcased a collection of artist Francis Newton Souza (aka FN Souza) as part of the artist’s 100th birth anniversary celebrations. The artworks were a part of the gallery’s private collection and featured nudes, still life, landscapes and portrait artworks.


The showcased pieces included artworks made in ink, charcoal as well as oils and also showcased chemical paintings (a style where portraits are made behind magazine pages), some dating back to 1940s and 1950s. Souza’s style included creating distorted facial features.


Yashodhra Dalmia, the show’s curator, explained that this style enabled Souza to show humans’ inner personality and emotions.


“The way he made men and women made me realise that this is what real art is all about – it reflects reality and creates forms, which further lead to more forms in art. Sometimes his works showcased eyes on forehead. The nose flickering up and down. It is these forms that showed us the psyche of a person,” she said.


A major part of Souza’s collection feature nudes. Though Souza was fond of showcasing nudity in art, it was not well received by critiques. Udit claims that he was made an easy target of negative reviews.


“I feel nudes is where he expressed himself the most in terms of the colours. People criticised Souza because they felt that he did disrespectful towards women. But I feel that he made his women powerful through his nudes. Though they looked distorted, but they were given the authority and power by making them larger than life,” he clarified.


Jain also explains that Souza’s inspiration also came from miniature and temple art of India.


“Though people say Souza broke tradition by painting nudes, he also used tradition in a positive way to influence art. There is openness in nudity that India taught to the world but due to the colonisation, we have become regressive instead of becoming progressive. We have become shy of our heritage, which was very forward looking at one time. That’s why these pieces are relevant even in today’s times,” he explains.


Friendship with uncle Souza

Though Uday is now behind the show as the owner of Dhoomimal Art Gallery, while growing up he knew the legendary artist as uncle Souza. Jain claims that Souza was the one who introduced him to the world of art.


He recalls, “As a child, I learnt a lot about art from Souza. He told me about Kala Mela, which was something similar to the India Art Fair. The only disparity being that the mela was a platform for younger artists and senior artists were reluctant to showcase as they felt it was too casual. However, Souza, being the sport he was, was not shy to exhibit at the mela. He had a stall where he painted live.”


Since Jain was also present in the stall, he asked uncle Souza to add different colours to the painting, oblivious of the latter’s acclaim. Souza willingly accepted Jain’s requests and used the suggested colours in the painting. Souza later gifted the 6X10 painting to Jain, which became one of the first collections of the gallery.


As years went by, their friendship strengthened. Jain recalled uncle Souza’s love for actress Kajol.


“He was at our home one day and I was a teenager then and he opened up to me about his fascination for Kajol (Kajol Devgn). He wanted to see some of her films as he found her pretty. I was not a fan of the actress then and I abruptly told him that. But he instantly said: wait till you reach my age,” shares Jain, says with a smile.

Souza had exhibitions at the gallery from 1960 to late 1990s. As a founding member of the progressive artists group in Bombay, the Modern Indian Art artist broke traditional art boundaries and embraced a new style of thinking and painting, inspiring generations to embrace art as an important medium of expression. His self-portraits, depicting his scars and emotions, and his struggle between ego and acceptance were quite evident in his work.


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