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Wormhole to Goud’s universe

Sujatha Shankar Kumar | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on November 17, 2017
Indelible mark: Padma Shri awardee Laxma Goud dabbles in several mediums but credits printmaking, which he took up in the 1970s, for establishing his success. Photo: C V Subrahmanyam

Indelible mark: Padma Shri awardee Laxma Goud dabbles in several mediums but credits printmaking, which he took up in the 1970s, for establishing his success. Photo: C V Subrahmanyam   -  The Hindu

Seeing through the mind’s eye of K Laxma Goud, the master of endearing rural portraits and unfettered erotic lines

‘An Inner Retrospective’, presented by Gallery Sumukha, is a selection of paintings, drawings and sculptures of prolific artist K Laxma Goud dating from 1959 to the present. Born in 1940 in rural Nizampur, now in Telangana, the Padma Shri winner was mentored by the incomparable KG Subramanyan, developing mural techniques and printmaking at the Baroda School.

Goud is known for his frank and endearing portraits of rural people, uninhibited expression of the erotic and a spot-on typology of character through gestures, clothing, ornaments and animals. He has experimented with a variety of materials — pen and ink, pencil, watercolour, printmaking, glass painting, ceramic, clay and gouache, evolving his artistry over time in response to his inner perspectives. BLink catches up with the radical-minded artist ahead of his show in Chennai.

Did you feel you had something special as a child?

I was no good at school, very playful. But my father possibly noticed an organised activity even in play, as moulding with clay. I was the fourth among five brothers. My father was a village munsif (judicial collector). I liked sitting close by when he wrote with a crow quill nib and ink, imitating his beautiful handwriting. After school, I was accepted at Government College for Arts, Hyderabad. In my first year, I stood first. My father was so happy. He died in my second year and my older brother looked after me. My good skills and drawing ability got me a State scholarship to the Baroda School.

How did your relationship with your mentor KG Subramanyan develop in Baroda?

I was 22 and Mani da was also young, in his 30s. Because of my rural background, he was not convinced I knew enough about art. He introduced me lovingly to the library, to the art movements and designed a special programme for me. I learned Indian fresco, Italian fresco. I made toys he designed. I used to ornament a lot and he explained that the modelling gets lost. “I don’t mean to say that you don’t ornament, but not all over,” he said, and took a brush and painted out portions of my drawing, which I did not like!

Most of the time, I just listened to him, the way he spoke about the meaning of drawing, volume, materials and technique, choosing what you do when you are given a commission. I was very raw, primitive and aggressive; he took out all my minuses and made me meaningful, purposeful... Mani da shaped me.

It is extremely fortunate that you found such a wonderful mentor...

I’ve always been fortunate, 40 to 45 years, with the responses to my art. When KCS Paniker set up Cholamandal (artists’ village near Chennai) — I don’t know how he knew of me — he invited me to come over.

I stayed in (Paris) Vishwanadhan’s hut and came to know all the artists — SG Vasudev, K Jayapal Panicker, V Arnawaz, all my age group. Everywhere I was affectionately received — “Oh, you are with Mani da.”

You had many shows abroad right from 1973. Can you share any memorable experiences?

Jagdish Mittal ji, collector and painter, introduced my early etchings to Griffei Kunst in Hamburg. They jumped at my work and asked me to send six copper plates — they would take care of printing. Max Mueller Bhavan helped to transport the plates. The Kunst made 300 to 400 in each edition, which is a large number — and these were presold to their club members (1975-76). It was a major acknowledgement for my work.

Chester Herwitz’s collection at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts includes MF Husain, KG Subramanyan, SH Raza, Tyeb Mehta, K Ramanujam and my work.

Looking back, how did your work develop in different media?

I have evolved around the element of drawing and ink drawing, and etching came to me naturally. In the 1970s, I took to printmaking and it helped me establish myself. People know me as a printmaker. Even now, every day I print with a plate. Later, I also did ceramic, large murals and held artists’ camps at Jaipur for 10 years.

Your work has always been feted for its powerful eroticism.

Art is a peep into the life of the artist. I come from a rural background, where earthy connections between a man and a woman are seen in gestures. There is an organic rhythm. The farmer in the bullock cart sings about the woman walking ahead, praising her hips as they move sensuously under the garment as “mouthwatering as tamarind”. It is poetic and philosophic, as the tamarind tree has a great significance in the village. All these experiences are in my subconscious and conscious.

Many of your early pen and ink drawings have surrealistic overtones — hybrid creatures, women confronted by beasts and birds. Over the years, has your motivation changed?

There is a flow from my dream world — a stark universe. Each medium demands a different proposition and you need to justify employing that medium for your expression.

Sometimes people say, ‘you have become softer, you have lost that edge’. But do you mean to say I have to hang on to that? After all, there is a long span of time. I am not trying to advocate anything. This is what I do. They can accept that or not.

‘An Inner Retrospective’ is on view at Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai, till November 21

S ujatha Shankar Kumar is a writer and visualiser based in Chennai

Published on November 17, 2017
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