Francis Newton Souza (India, 1924-2002) Dravidian King
oil on board, signed and dated '83 centre right, inscribed on the reverse with the title and the date, framed 60.5 x 51 cm.
Provenance: Private UK collection: acquired directly from the artist.
The Dravidian King represents a descendant of the aboriginal races of central and southern India, who were pushed south by the invading Aryan Indo-Europeans. As a politically charged man who grew up under British rule, Souza protested against racism all his life. This was initially formalised in India, through the founding of the influential Progressive Artists' Group (PAG) in 1947, and through his membership of the Communist Party of India, which encompassed the 'Quit India' doctrine. Souza the artist never hid or sublimated his political charge. While he makes explicit reference at times through 'issue-based' works, there is never a sense of denial, even in his most sublime works. Wild, almost psychedelic and held in bold composition, Souza's Dravidian King explodes with the hues of a diasporic people of colour.
This Head is an eighties version of The Elder, an archetype that Souza revisited throughout his life. Souza claimed to be the only artist, after the death of Picasso, to have developed a new iconography beyond Picasso's total 'redrawing of the face [...] When you examine the face, the morphology, I am the only artist to have taken it a step further.' (Speaking in an interview with Y. Dalmia in Mumbai, 1991). The mentoring wisdom of The Elders dates back to ancient times and ancient cultures, which according to Jungian psychology form part of our Collective Unconscious in the model of Archetypes. Souza, always the non-conformist, here subverts the notion of 'respect for one's elders'.
This King bears protruding eyes, high in the brow (all the better to see you) and reveals through his unsettling grimace that:
The Grinding of teeth is not in the Day of Resurrection but today (Words and Lines)