Lancelot Ribeiro

The Warlord (Psychedelic Man Series)

1966

Not on display

Artist
Lancelot Ribeiro 1933 – 2010
Medium
Oil-based alkyd paint, polyvinyl acetate paint and string on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 609 × 479 mm
frame: 630 × 501 × 28 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Marsha Ribeiro 2021
Reference
T15684

Summary

The Warlord (Psychedelic Man series) 1966 is a small, distorted portrait of an unidentifiable person set against a white textural background. The figure has been rendered with very loose and thickly applied paint set atop a green underlayer. String has also been added into the mix to add to the texture of the work. The dominant colour is shiny black, in some areas pooling and mixing with oranges, reds and purples to create a marbled effect. Small repetitive lines occasionally emerge from and within the central figure, suggesting spiky hair or violent cuts. The Warlord was the artist’s favourite painting and he often posed for photographs in front of it. Although the painting was exhibited several times during the artist’s lifetime, he always specified that it was not for sale and kept it in his possession throughout his lifetime. It was included in Four Indian Painters, an exhibition organised by the Commonwealth Institute and held at The Grange, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery in 1973.

Portraits are a recurring subject for Ribeiro throughout his career, always painted from the front and often twisted into dark and grotesque forms as here. The art critic Eunice de Souza linked The Warlord directly to ‘American aggressiveness in Vietnam’ (Buckman 2014, p.83), while other critics have read Ribeiro’s portraits as icons that refer to his Goan Catholic upbringing in Mumbai (Hazell 2013, p.38). The artist himself mentioned this, stating that ‘my first influences … were the churches and statuary of the Catholic church in Goa along with the symbolic ritual that went with it. The other and perhaps the strongest influence were the paintings of my brother, ten years senior.’ (Quoted in Hazell 2013, p.17.) Ribeiro refers here to his half-brother, the artist Francis Newton Souza (1924–2002, Tate T06776, T13899, T00725). Ribeiro worked for Souza as a studio assistant as well as living with him in London at various points after first arriving there from Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1950. He attended life drawing classes at St Martin’s School of Art from 1951–3, before he was conscripted into National Service. He thereafter left London for several years for Bombay, where he began painting and exhibiting widely, before moving permanently back to London in in 1962. He created a large body of figurative and abstract work over his lifetime.

Together with fellow painters Gajanan D. Bhagwat, Yashwant Mali and Ibrahim Wagh (all previously members of the Bombay Art Society), Ribeiro co-founded the Indian Painters Collective, a group of young Indian artists living and working in London who organised exhibitions of South Asian artists throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Further reading
David Buckman, Lancelot Ribeiro: An Indian Artist in India and Europe, London.
Katriana Hazell (ed.), Restless Ribeiro: An Indian Artist in Britain, exhibition catalogue, Asia House, London, 2013, reproduced p.46.

Laura Castagnini
August 2020

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