Lancelot Ribeiro was a prolific artist who experimented with a diverse range of styles and mediums over the course of his career. The present exhibition gives a taste of both his longevity and the breadth of his creativity, featuring one oil from the late 1950s, a number of drawings and paintings from his heyday in the 1960s, a series of small format watercolours from the 1980s, and larger semi-abstract pieces from the 1990s which involve collage.
Born in colonial Bombay in 1933, Ribeiro moved to London in his late teens and returned to India for a few years before settling down for good in England in the 1960s. He established a reputation in both nations through a series of successful solo displays. Although he never replicated those early triumphs, he continued to exhibit regularly and found new opportunities in continental Europe later in his career. Following his death in 2010, his daughter Marsha has spearheaded a successful effort to bring renewed focus on his achievements, cementing his place in the history of Indian and British Asian art.
No analysis of Ribeiro’s work would be complete without mention of F.N. Souza, his elder half-brother whose influence is apparent even in drawings dating from Ribeiro’s schooldays. Ribeiro’s townscapes, heads and still lifes of the 1960s all bear Souza’s imprint in choice of subject as well as some aspects of form. However, the younger half-brother quickly developed his own distinct voice, one less acerbic than Souza’s and more inclined to undulating lines, unusual colour combinations and abstraction. He was in the forefront of experiments with alternatives to oils like Polyvinyl Acetate, a quick drying medium that facilitated rapidity of execution.
The mood of his 60s landscapes varies from calm to ominous, as does the tenor of his later work. The ‘compositional townscapes’ seem airy and optimistic while the collages of the following decade are brooding and intense. The pictures dating from the 1990s combine aspects of landscape, still life, figure depiction and abstraction within gestural, expressionist mixed media works which demonstrate how Ribeiro never lost his zest for striking out in new directions.