The dancing girl of Mohenjodaro, with one arm on her hip and naked save for the heavy jewellery around her arms and wrist, turned into an iconic image soon after she was discovered in 1926. She is still considered the prototype of Indian feminity. When Laxma Goudís naked ladies, unconcerned about their nudity, sit with their legs spread wide and their pudenda exposed, they hark back to classic representations of the female form in Indian art, from the Mohenjodaro maiden to the women on the torans of Sanchi Stupa. Laxma Goudís women exude a sexiness that is rare in the iconography of contemporary Indian art. A. Ramachandranís women have heaving bosoms and hour-glass waistlines, but they rarely have the impudent come-hither of Goudís women. His exhibition of recent works at Galerie 88 (January 12-31) proved that Laxma Goud has not lost his touch.
Not just women, even the animal world is not spared this randiness. Wordsworth had written about a ďMotion and a spirit, that impels all thinking thingsĒ. For Goud, it is the primordial force of eros that holds sway over a good part of creation, over humans as well as animalkind. Goudís goats are perennially in a state of arousal, and this the artist quite clearly indicates without leaving anything to the imagination in paintings, drawings and in intaglio as well. The Chanticleer-like cockerel is a stylized bird in keeping with Indian motifs of the same, but this fowl has his hackles raised, feathers all aflutter, the very picture of the most aggressive form of machismo.
This image, like those of the goats and some of the naked women and the powerfully-delineated faces, is an intaglio print. It is in acid colours in contrasting shades such as yellow, green, pink and orange. Apart from their compact compositions, what makes these fine prints even more interesting is that the zinc plate from which they were taken was pasted on the opposite side, creating the impression of a mirror image (picture, top). One of the dual images is always a dull grey with engravings in reverse. Goud is a powerful draughtsman, and this is evident even in his simplest drawings, and this talent of his makes his prints rather outstanding.
The mastery with which he depicts the groves of trees as elegant clumps of foliage, or as if erupting in geyser-like plumes from underground, pinched and wrinkled faces and even some decorative motifs is quite brilliant. Goud has an eccentric sense of humour expressed in intaglios like the one of the large bird perched on the back of a donkey of the same size, and the strange seal-like shapes floundering on the ground. One print of a giant brown locust pressing down on a naked man in red lines against a background of green is quite unlike his other works. It is darkly menacing, and the viewer may feel the critter weighing down on him.
His glass paintings are gaudy in comparison. Brightly hued like the works of another artist from the South, these are mainly decorative portraits of women accoutred with shiny gold shreds. Their strong lines notwithstanding, these are oppressively ornamental with their abundance of gold.
This exhibition also displayed the terracotta figures fired in high temperature produced at a workshop organized sometime ago by this gallery itself in which artists from all over India had participated (picture, bottom). These were mainly portraits of women, broad of feature, wearing rather barbaric head dresses reminiscent of some early relief sculptures from temples and stupas in our country.
Like much of Laxma Goudís works, these too have a strong decorative element. The clay in pastel shades of blues and browns and red was rolled out and arranged in strips, or was shaped like pantile to form the exaggerated headgear or maquillage of a Kathakali artist. Laxma Goud is, no doubt, an artist in the classical mould for whom the formal qualities of a composition are of primary importance. This itself can work as a straitjacket. Viewers can, at times, gasp for fresh air.