Like a blithe child colouring on the walls despite protests, nothing deterred F.N. Souza (b. 1924) from asserting his art. His art, whose first impact is to shock, elicits a childlike element of uninhibited honesty with no filter, unafraid, and almost oblivious to those offended. His unrestrained and thought-provoking body of work makes one wonder about the power of art and its hold over the human psyche. Broad and bold lines jump out of the canvas attacking with speed, deeming him an eternal rebel.
The only time I have seen M. F. Husain in person was at his exhibition in honour of singer M. S. Subbulakshmi at a gallery in Chennai (Madras) in 2004. Wearing no footwear, except for thick black socks, and wielding a massive paintbrush in one hand, Husain was surrounded by a group of Chennai’s socialites. I was patiently waiting behind them to meet Husain when he suddenly popped out and said, “Hello”. I was giddy with excitement and asked him to autograph the invitation card I had in my hand. He did so and quickly moved on to greet the next visitor. Husain was as excited to meet unknown gallery visitors as they were to meet him—the energy was amazing for a man who, at that time, was 91 years old. A year or so later, Husain left India, never to return.
Stated below is the text of the second catalogue of the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group in collaboration with the Calcutta Group. Gobardhan Ash's works were exhibited in the joint show of the Calcutta Group and Progressive Artists’ Group alongside masters such as K.H. Ara, Francis Newton Souza, Maqbool Fida Husain, S.H. Raza, H.A. Gade, and S.K. Bakre at Calcutta in 1950. This document is indeed a historically prominent yet lesser-known artistic discovery in the world of modern Indian art.
A silent, dedicated artist content amidst the walls of paintings stacked in his Begampur mud house stirred a quiet revolution against the preconceived notions of artistic expression. No wonder Gobardhan Ash (b.1907) carved a niche for himself as an individualistic artist who fearlessly explored diverse artistic styles and techniques.
Post-Independence India was a new revolution in India’s history. As the struggle for freedom was finally achieved, new mindsets were formed. The new free India respected and worshiped humanity at its best along with promoting freedom of expression. At this point, a group of supreme artists came together who shared a common art type: modern art for the new free India and called themselves the Bombay Progressives Art Group!