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A Kaleidoscopic Palette

A Kaleidoscopic Palette

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David Buckman speaks to art consultant Samira Sheth about the life and art of the late painter Lancelot Ribeiro.

While Goa celebrates artist Francis Newton Souza for his stupendous success in the art world, it barely acknowledges his half-brother Lancelot Ribeiro, who died four years ago. A prolific and versatile artist, Ribeiro has only now begun to claim his place in the limelight following the efforts of British writer David Buckman who was in Goa recently to release his monograph ‘Lancelot Ribeiro, an Artist in India and Europe’. The book was released at the opening of a select exhibition, supported by Grosvenor Gallery, London, Tata and SaffronArt, of Ribeiro’s works at the Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts.

Your book is the first comprehensive biography of Lancelot Ribeiro. Tell us a little more about him. Why is he such a unique artist?

Ribeiro was born in 1933 and died at the end of 2010 aged 77. During his long working life he changed his style constantly, whereas many artists tend to stick to one or two themes. When an exhibition was held in London in 2013 as a memorial tribute, it was titled ‘Restless Ribeiro’, and that sums up the man, ceaselessly exploring new ideas, not only on paper and canvas but in the form of constructivist sculpture and pottery. He was also a notable poet. He had a scientific turn of mind and is responsible for one of the great technical breakthroughs for painters in the last century: the development of acrylic paint, enabling him to work at speed. The monograph chronicles the fascinating story of how he came to do this.

Lancelot lived with his half-brother Souza in London and seemed to have always been in the latter’s shadow. How is Lancelot’s work different from Souza’s?

Early on, because the half-brothers were close, and because Souza was already an established artist, I suppose it was inevitable that his strong and distinctive work influenced Ribeiro. But eventually, especially after the development of acrylic, Ribeiro’s work becomes his own and cannot be mistaken for Souza’s.

Why should art collectors be interested in Lancelot Ribeiro?

First, because he makes a unique contribution and secondly because if one is interested in art of the second half of the 20th century and especially in that group of overseas artists who settled in Britain in that period, Ribeiro’s work cannot be overlooked.

What do you think is Ribeiro’s most significant contribution to the art scene?

Well, of course, one cannot overlook from the practical point of view his development of acrylic. But as far as his own work is concerned, there is the exciting series of images that developed over the years from the early work associated with his family background in Goa and the inevitable religious influences through other developments such as his townscapes, weirdly distorted faces, the ‘faceless faces’, small figurative drawings in pen and ink and watercolours and his psychedelic man series as well as the later collage type work on paper. It is an amazingly kaleidoscopic output.

What do you think is the most important thing readers should take away from your book?

It illustrates, I think, how an enormously inventive and prolific artist, who made a unique contribution to the art of his time, can be neglected but eventually rediscovered.

Lancelot Ribeiro an Artist in India and Europe (Published in 2014 by Francis Boutle, London) is available at Saffronart in Delhi and Mumbai, and in Goa from Sunaparanta Centre for the Arts as well as a number of independent bookshops in India.

Article first published in Timeline GOA Magazine: Issue 1 Vol. 1 (Page 34)
PHOTO: Untitled (Goan Landscape with church) Oil on Canvas 1964

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