Goud as witness: An Inner Retrospective of the veteran artist
The artist Laxma Goud, at the age of 77, retains a biting, and even lacerating sense of humour. “Nowa-days (in art), there is so much of style, a lot of it is so put-on. There are so many things we have in mind, but often, we’re not even able to frame a proper sentence,” he remarks, in a trademark caustic tone, over the phone from his home, a few days before the opening of An Inner Retrospective, a massive solo show, at the Lalit Kala Academy in Chennai.
An Inner Retrospective presents an exhaustive collection of Goud’s etches, drawings, paintings and bronze sculptures, tracing his prolific career. The show of the same name, with a slightly smaller collection, was hosted by Gallery Sumukha in Bengaluru, in July last year. “It takes a long time to arrive at the point of a retrospective,” reflects Goud. “It speaks about the early days, to where I am today — and I am privileged,” says the artist, on a more mellow note.
Yet, you’d do well to know exactly what you’re speaking of with a senior artist like Goud. For one, you can’t afford to make the mistake of mixing up one form for another. “There’s a lot of difference between sketches and drawings,” he explains, by way of offering a lesson on art fundaments.
For artists across ages, Goud’s primal works from the early-1970s have proven to be spell-binding, and enduringly inspirational. Notably, his earliest etchings identify a raw manner of sexuality, entwined in bestial and animalistic overtones, while being rooted in the natural working of the world.
“I’ve grown, and I’m growing,” says the artist, when asked about the evidently virile and sexually charged themes of works from his formative years. “When you’re young, you can walk a 100 km, but later in life, you can’t do that. It is very simple — I was once 18, then I was 25, and now I have 76 years behind me.”
A sense of life
Those early works determined much of Goud’s ouvre, identifying him as a leading artist of his generation — well ahead of his time. A Padma Shri awardee in 2016, Goud hails from Nizampur village in Medak district of the estwhile princely state of Hyderabad (present-day Telangana).
In his earliest works, Goud made his first impressions with compositions that drip sexuality, populated by beasts straddling multiple phallic heads, female figures with feathered wings, among other incredible creatures. The erotic aspect, significantly, is cloaked in pastoral folklore from surroundings of his childhood. Noticeably, a recurring motif in his works is that of a goat — urging comparisons with Pan, the Greek god of the fields and shepherds.
“It’s all natural phenomena,” offers the artist, reflecting on his early works. “You have to argue for your own sense of life,” he asserts. Yet, individuality can only be a part of a larger ecosystem, he affirms. “Have you seen how a tree grows?” queries Goud, offering a crude analogy. “At the beginning it is vertical, then it turns horizontal, then it becomes a canopy like an umbrella — that’s life. It doesn’t go straight, it doesn’t go wide. There is a system to it: the seed you sowed, the soil, its capabilities and characteristics — they start to take form.”
Goud goes on to explain, “When I made those drawings, I was young, and I wanted to have an identity of myself, to be noticed — not as an exhibitionist, but as an individual, to carve out my own space in contemporary Indian art.” He adds, “And it was a deadly challenge for me to remain as an artist, to stand up there with a nib and ink, making small format drawings of that nature — against the commercialised art world of galleries, with artists painting large canvases in colour.”
Pen and ink forever
Still, in his considerable body of work, Goud did manage to experiment extensively. At the show, viewers will also get to see his murals of assembled teakwood panels. “I work with every possible medium as an artist,” maintains Goud, adding, “There is nothing to rave about mediums — being an artist first is most important, the medium and techniques are not important.”
The murals are a result of his most recent works with clay in Jaipur, at a friend’s foundry. “I don’t make installations,” clarifies Goud, “But I trained in mural design in Baroda, many many years back,” he adds, with a chuckle. All said, the journey unto here has been memorable. “I had to slog through lanes and bylanes of darkness, leading me nowhere,” says Goud. “But that didn’t matter to me. Through tunnels of strength and confidence, I held that pen dearer to me — I still draw, I still print, I still paint. That’s it!”
An Inner Retrospective is at Lalit Kala Academy until November 21, noon to 8 pm. Details: 2829-1692.