K. Laxma Goud
  Early Works
  8th to 31st July, 2003


Year 1972-74. Heady days of visual communication in India. We were the first nation to apply satellite technology to communicate with rural people. The first satellite which would beam its images to select villages on a DTH platform [a technology which is not available even now to the most affluent urban homes in 2003].

For us in SITE [Satellite Instruction Television Experiment] in Doordarshan [it still was AIR then. Doordarshan was not born yet, I think] the times were electric. The feeling that we will embark upon a path of communication history pumped adrenaline up our veins day after day. Base Production Unit, Hyderabad [as Hyderabad Doordarshan was known then] was to cater to six districts, three in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh and three in the North Karnataka area of Karnataka.

Into this atmosphere walked in a short man with long, near shoulder length curly hair whose eyes shone like a pair of diamonds and whose gesture always had an air of impatience about them. We had heard that this was a very bright star on the Indian art firmament. M F Husain had just written a piece in the then prestigious Illustrated Weekly of India in which he had counted this short man among the five most important artists in the country. "This artist" was Laxma Goud from Nizampur Village in Medak District of Telangana, one of the "poorest" regions of Andhra Pradesh and incidentally the prime target of the Indian satellite television.

And this Laxma Goud had walked into the Indian Television scene.

What would he do there? Can his artistic expressions on the small canvas [at that time his canvases were really really small] fit easily into the small canvas of the Television frame? Or will the wide and wild vision of this artist become too hot for the staid state owned television to handle?

It took next two decades for the answers to emerge.

Laxma would sit in his spacious white cabin for a major part of these two decades, half hunched over the plates scratching out his zinc/iron plates with the sharp iron etching tool and then put them to burn in the acid troughs. In a sense, he had sublimated his inner violence through the process of etching and burning the hard plates of zinc and copper. The erotic and often violent images that he had gifted outside world through his repertoire of prints, etchings and drawings were completely absent from his body of television work. His copulating couples, the erect penises of men and beasts, the exposed breasts -- everything had vanished from his television graphics. Instead it was a completely different artist and man who worked for a completely different set of audience, the rural men and women from Telangana who would refuse to be shocked or titillated by these images, unlike his affluent clientele from the fancy art galleries in major metros. In a sense, the rural, wild young man who had a point to score with his urban, elite admirers vibed very differently with his own community of Telangana rural people. His erotica and violence was not what he would like to share with his communities. It was in fact they who had gifted him with these erotic sensibilities through their folk songs, theatre and stories. What is the use of giving it back to them. They would neither appreciate it nor benefit from it. So what should he do?

Probably Laxma found himself humbled before this question. And he went on looking for images that would satisfy this new quest for his roots. Roots that would not shoot up like a wild cacti full of mysterious shapes and thorns but like the ubiquitous neem trees in his native Nizampur which would not only offer shade and timber but also medicine and solace.

Once he cracked this puzzle, images started tumbling out of his drawing pen. Onto the 3' x 4' "aspect rationed" cardboard pieces he would paint myriad images of the same men and women, the same goats and trees, but in a totally different avatar. They all wore decent clothes, sometimes even pretty prints. His women invariably fully bloused and sareed. His goats were more like the goats that farm women took with them to their fields than pieces of erotica meant to decorate a collector's wall.

Of the images that still haunt me, images, which were totally new to Laxma's art and consciousness, are the images of little girls and boys. The tiny little girl with her two little plaits flying in all directions, her eyes wide open with a sense of mystery, her mobile face vibrant with a determination to discover the world around her. This little girl became a leitmotif in graphic after graphic, now with a paper wheel, now with a skipping rope, now with a slate. She gave birth to a new Laxma for whom the time had come to pay back his gratitude for his people -- people who had enriched him with their outstanding culture replete with folk songs, rituals, theatre and millions of images associated with them.

Now that Laxma was working to be in communication or rather in communion with his own Telangana community, a new soft focus began shaping his images. The softness of the focus was not due to the mellowing down of advancing age. It was a specific birth of a new consciousness. A consciousness which repeatedly warned him that his images on television will not be seen by an elite art market but by precisely the same people who populated his prints and drawings sitting in front of their community television sets. This realisation informed the softer lines as against the sharp etches of his earlier prints, greyish tones as against his earlier violent blacks and whites. Into this new soft world of his graphics entered the children in a never before numbers.

And with them grew a new Laxma.

This is the Laxma who can seen in these exhibitis. It is also highly illustrative of the way an artist can engage in purposeful communication when the need for this communication is driven from a shared cultural base with his audiences. This is not an engagement in empty art for society type of political rhetoric. This is where the artist is rooted to his soil along with his community and when the need comes, sows the seed of his art into his own soil. Hoping that many Laxmas can emerge from that soil. Powerful in their images, culturally unpolluted, strong in sensibilities and driven by the desire to share their art with their heritage.

P.V. Satheesh
P.V. Satheesh is a Resource person for SAARC countries and is currently working with Deccan Development Society an NGO.


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