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Laugh with him, not at him

K S Shekhawat  |  New Delhi 

They couldn't be more alike, yet there couldn't be more dissimilarities in their work. Hyderabad-based got there faster, perhaps, than T Vaikuntam, but even a fleeting glance will reveal that the richness of content on both artists' canvases owes much to their local Telengana landscape and lifestyle.
People, livestock and foliage form the bulk of their repertoire. But that's where the similarities end. Vaikuntam's work has developed into an almost classic mould, grown into portraits of lush women and (yes, it must be agreed) equally macho men.
Laxma Goud's, on the other hand, are almost developed into caricatures, at once laughing within (through an inward gaze) as at their presentation on canvas.
Laxma Goud, born in Andhra Pradesh, a student of the Government School of Art, (and later a teacher in the University of Hyderabad's art department), has been considered by most of his peers as a master draughtsman.
Others view him as a consummate storyteller, for that's what he uses his pencil and brush to great effect for. Picture him then in his studio, straddling the floor, his paints spread about him, as he pencils, then colours, his man and woman and goat and bird and tree, fixing them with an everyday eroticism.
This exercise of the libido is a little more articulated when it comes to his female subjects, but it is also tinged with street humour.
If one were to follow his career laterally, after his post-graduation from MS University in Baroda, it would involve his early, almost-monochromatic experiments (foliage and people being his chief occupation) that was followed by a more Surrealistic phase in which animals and birds morphed into semi-humans or assumed shapes that were larger than life.
Through all this, a fecund sexuality defined his work, at once unselfconscious and unromantic, carnal almost rather than romantic.
Eventually, the work turned more decorative, and the libidinous eroticism was scaled down, though his faces became more abstracted.
In this, his current phase, he is no longer an "embarrassment" for drawing room collectors, and buoyed by the market created by Vaikuntam's popularity, there is a surge in his own reputation.
Already, galleries have begun to push up Goud's prices, and the year will see more of his work on display than was earlier seen.
His amazing skill with the pencil is still his best bet, but eventually his gentle humour is best illustrated in the pastel washes of his work. At sub-Rs 10 lakh prices, they're still a considerable steal.

First Published: Sat, June 17 2006. 00:00 IST