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Camden New Journal, 2015

David Coombs, ArtNewsLetter, April 2015 - Restless and talented, relentlessly prolific, personally chaotic, endlessly inventive and utterly charming with a poet’s mind, Lancelot Ribeiro was born in Bombay in 1933 where he began his studies as an artist. At the urging of his half-brother F. N. Souza, already a practising artist, Lance came to London, where he eventually settled with his wife and raised a family. Nothing was to prevent the younger man pursuing his own vocation which he was to achieve despite multiple setbacks, often self-inflicted.

In India Lancelot’s qualities became widely recognized notably by J.R.D.Tata chairman of the eponymous industrial empire. In London Ribeiro’s work, forcefully painted and expressionistic in style, was included in group shows at The Piccadilly Gallery for Godfrey Pilkington and in Paris at the Galerie Lambert. Later, Lance was exhibited at galleries in San Francisco and Chicago. In London, Lance’s work was shown by the unconventional art dealer Nicholas Treadwell and by Charles Moore at The Grosvenor Gallery; he work was also sold by the auctioneers Bonhams. Eventually he was given a one man exhibition by Mary Burkett at the Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal and then a retrospective show at the Leicestershire Museum and Art Gallery curated by Patrick Boylan. It was to be at the always independent-minded German galleries, notably in Frankfurt and Heidelberg, that Lance achieved his last commercial successes. Critical acclaim finally followed with a large exhibition at London’s Asia House Gallery in 2013 - after Lance’s death three years before.

This rather breathless if unashamedly enthusiastic and imperfect précis, derives entirely from a new book by the British author and journalist, David Buckman, who not only writes like a dream but uses his professional skills to bring order to the whole story: a story impossible to tell “without the tireless help of the artist’s daughter Marsha.” One especially notable section is devoted to Lancelot Ribeiro’s lengthy experiments with acrylic paint, so successful that it is his (unacknowledged) invention that these days is to be found on the palette of many a painter, amateur and professional alike.

Rani Singh, ‘Leading Lights’, Asian Voice, June 2013 - The most striking effect ...is that it gives the impression that the work on display is the product of different individuals.

Victor Rangel-Ribeiro, ‘An apocalyptic portrayal of the end of the world by a painter who is one of our own’, Navhind Times, May 2013 - the paintings and drawings that had been culled were truly outstanding... another group of small watercolours took my breath away. Called 'Flying Landscapes' they showed towns as a thin layer of houses hugging the ground, while above them soaring skies were filled with gigantic geometric shapes and fragments of houses and entire neighbourhoods hurtling along, as though propelled by a gigantic invisible wind. The tiny frames could not contain the immensity of the subject matter ...

Paromita Chakrabarti, The Indian Express, ‘An artist in flux’, May 2013 – What set Ribeiro apart was his versatility … The similarity between his early landscapes … and Souza’s works ended when he veered towards abstraction, into a style both softer and distinctive, with elements of graphic art creeping into it.

Kailas Elmer, Trebuchet, ‘Restless Ribeiro: An Indian artist in Britain’, May 2013 “For the first time in 25 years the public have a chance to witness the breadth of Lance Ribeiro’s (1933-2010) work first-hand … during the 60s and 70s, he was considered THE leading Indian artist resident in the UK…. Elevated into popular consciousness equally by his advocates and detractors Ribeiro produced a large number of works quickly over a wide field of schools and influences. Kandinsky, Braque, Abstract Expressionism all figure across the gamut of his work, but one sees that, like the post-colonial experience itself, these signposts were tools in Ribeiro’s more personal expression to tropes of home, Catholicism, agency and most probably – his artistic family ... noted for being the first major artist to use polyvinyl paints … in his own work these paints are used to strong effect and his use of alternating lines of fluid colour are some of his most expressive.

John Russell Taylor, ‘Little brother’, The Times, May 2013 - The surprising thing about the earliest paintings in the memorial show at Asia House, which date from 1959, is how little they resemble what Souza was doing at the time. Souza painted people while Ribeiro concentrated largely on townscapes, rendered in intense and brooding colours. In 1963 he painted a relatively conventional portrait of his wife almost, one feels, to show he could … In the early he moved on to whimsical pictures of people in interiors or in the streets. In the 1970s he painted a lot more or less conventionalized, mask-like heads, and in the early 1980s he went through a brief but expressive period of abstraction. The title … ‘Restless Ribeiro’ is fully justified. But it should not be assumed that his development is incoherent or arbitrary: his work always looks more like a Ribeiro than anyone else.

Selma Carvalho, ‘Emerging from the Shadows’, E Heraldo, April 2013 - [His] framed canvases of his art, capturing the haunting despair of endless streets on dark and weary nights, lit by homes suffused by an eerie, yellowy light…I feel a sudden stab of outrage that an artist co-opted by the galleries of Bond Street and Piccadilly, by European collectors and museums, a man who has had more than fifty individual and group shows, toured extensively … commissioned by Tata … remains largely unknown to us Goans. It is almost impossible not to compare his early work with that of Souza; the same broad brush strokes and palette of matt vivid colours. Yet, Lancelot brings to his work the complexity of architectural detail of the rectangular houses and spires strewn along London’s canals.

David Buckman, 'Artist in the vanguard of the influx of Indian artists to Britain', The Independent, April 2011 - Over half a century Ribeiro produced a huge body of figurative and abstract work ... There was no decline in his desire to innovate in either style or medium. His largely unrecognised pigment experiments from the early 1960s led to works of peculiar brilliance and transparency...Read in full

John Russell Taylor, 'Acclaimed Indian artist who pioneered the use of acrylics in the 1960s, producing a brilliancy of colour in his expressionist works', The Times, January 2011 - The result of his experiments in his own work was a unique brilliance of colouring along with remarkable durability and transparency, which enabled him to build up the surfaces of his paintings until they became virtually indistinguishable from enamel. He even found a way to combine these plastics with water-based paints. But his work in this area had a more general application: at first when he urged the companies he dealt with to produce these PVA compounds to sell for artistic use they held back, saying that they doubted if the quantities required would be commercially viable. But soon they recognised that there was a large potential interest, and so Ribeiro became the godfather of generations of artists using acrylics as an alternative to oils...Read in full

(Translated from German) Heiner Schmid, 1998 - ...while the throng of the newly changed voices clamour in togetherness, there are of course the few few who will always be exclusive to the fold. Lance Ribeiro is one who has consistently kept apart from these deviant trendy streams of subservient affectation. He hammers at our susceptibility and knowing senses. A painter whose iconoclasm is boundless...He demolishes aspects or notions only to rebuild them again elsewhere. The spectator is chanced to hold a view and no sooner acquiesces, is forced out of it while a new one, or none at all, blank the spaces.

Helmut Orpel, Der Kunsthandel, June 1994 - ...He develops his work through an interplay between the search for shape and its dissolution...Colour and style are central to their intense effects, and it is exactly in this intensity that the secret of this enormous expressive power lies... Read in full (in German)

Patrick Boylan, Arts Review, May 1986 - I feel there must be something seriously wrong with the London gallery system when an artist of the stature, importance and quality of Lancelot Ribeiro has had only three London shows in the past 19 years, and all of them in small and 'off-Broadway' venues...

Richard Walker, Art Review, April 1974 - His paintings grow from rhythm, from a line which, while dynamic and intricate, never descends to easy virtuosity, but remains always tense and disciplined. Ribeiro's work reflects his Indian background in its philosophical, and in the widest sense religious orientation, but not in its subject matter or general style or use of colour. Stylistically, most of it lies in the realm between figurative expressionism and an abstraction which, being based on line and not on form as such, is used very effectively to suggest, as I read it, the hidden communication, the ordinary invisible links which bind all creation, a suggestion which is all the more impressive in not having been striven for.

'A Goan painter comes home', Navhind Times, January 1969 - "The Monk with Cat-O-Nine Tails" with its gory arabesque and poly-chromatic blues is monumental and dominates the show. The concept of a masochist is thought-provoking rather than illustrative. In "Juggernaut City" the artist has conceived another vision of mass masochism...The evolution of the artist towards a more distinct personal form and an artistic identity are best seen in "Job" (No. 23), "Him" (No. 24), "Father and Son" (No. 19), and "In Flight" (No. 17). The austerity of line and colour are significant and successful. Despite their facelessness they are more omnipresent and omniscient.

Alexander Elliot, 'London galleries', Art in America, September 1969 - ...much of the best work now being done...is not at the galleries...take the case of Lancelot Ribeiro...who stays away from the art whirl to compose the most horrendous faceless icons in his Belsize Park studio. Read in full

Extract from an essay on ‘Ribeiro the Painter’ by Max Sequeira, January 1968 - He paints not only landscapes but Icon-like figures that could tenant his landscapes of old. Intense, cryptic faceless Gods that time has metamorphosed and the artist has celebrated. His mystique having much to do with his past Goan and Catholic environment…It would be hard to draw a line between an Icon-maker and an iconoclast. The artist remains non-committal. The viewer may perhaps find an answer in the faceless figures and depending on his predilection and deliberation decides if the faceless faces are really faceless or self-effacing or mutations of our scientific age!

Bettina Wadia, Arts Review, June 1965 - Primaeval Landscape for example, in which the flat solidity of facades has disintegrated into a maze of black, arrow-like lines against a background of deep or muted colour. A romantic view of reality has been replaced by an expressionistic vision...with its frightening complexity, a labyrinth of streets and buildings where there is no human life to give a meaning to empty, collapsed form. They are deeply felt paintings and it is more than likely that the sensibility behind them has yet to produce its most significant work.

Essay by Richard Bartholomew - All these buildings are sanctuaries of silence. There is neither ghost nor God, nor the breaker of bread browsing over heads buried in supper. The warm world of colour reflected into each other, the peopleless streets, the lone lamp, the stairways that never really search or stretch into the interior - all this is a vivid prelude to something powerful to come hereafter.

Barbara Wright, Arts Review, November 1964 - His heavily lined portraits and especially the townscapes are sombre and disturbing, their dark backgrounds and crazy involved lines of the buildings are like a nightmare vision of the modern city.

Barbara Wright, Arts Review, July 1964 - Lancelot Ribeiro is immensely positive, as always, and his free, generous expressionistic style has great impact while at the same time suggesting a dream-like fantasy.

Toni Diniz, 'New Goan artist', Cultural New Delhi, May 1962 - He paints with certainty and prodigiosity which is a sign of greatness.

Richard Bartholomew (extract from an essay 1962) - The element of surprise is cardinal in the art of Ribeiro, surprising, these houses so aesthetic in their structure… For the one picture that is behind all these pictures is the picture of this entire display dovetailed as the kind of drama that will be Ribeiro the painter.

Dr J P Correa, Hindustan Times, 'Artist of Promise’, April 1962 - This highly sensitive and perceptive artist...has, with his blazing display of 23 oils which he produced during a three-month stay in the capital, been the talk of cognoscenti of the art world...in his hands an urgent energy compels our attention and engages the emotions.

Charles Fabri, 'Creators of image and non-image', The Statesman, New Delhi, April 1962 - He has a splendid way of making point and counterpoint...and is particularly able to give you a townscape in which sharp houses and sharper roofs and towers raise their heads into clear skies. These are admirable works, attractive, often unforgettable...the contrast is deliberate and most successful.

The Hindustan Times, 'A Cubist Painter’, April 1962 - He builds his forms – mostly views of buildings – with cubes of prismatic triangles, outlined in clear, bold lines, enclosing areas of bright colour, giving a feel of stained glass… Some of the paintings are no doubt pleasant diagramatic (sic.) decorations, but even here Ribeiro brings an element of the romantic into geometry, chiefly by the use of colour and the soaring spire, with the clear, almost barren sky.

From artist's own journal, Review of Jehanghir Art Gallery Show 1962 - Lancelot Ribeiro, the younger brother of the celebrated Francis Newton Souza, is definitately making a bold bid...

Rudi Von Leyden, Eves Weekly, November 1961 - Lancelot Ribeiro has a fine sense and quality of colour. His pictures have an impressive strength and great emotional power. He is a painter to be understood and studied.

'Rare & strange landscapes', Times of India, September 1961 - He has become a full-time painter concentrating on gthe creation of highly indivualistic landscapes. His are rare and strange landscapes, with gaunt, deserted buildings, spiky trees and black swirling suns. Several of them could be used as illustrations for the stories of Edgar Allan Poe... But more than his painterly qualities, his vision is important. And, it is this particular quality of his work that is going to take him forward, provided he does not allow staleness to enter his vision.

Design, May 1961 - He has certainly and perhaps unwittingly summed up with adequacy his debut into the field of painting, for though it is not possible to predict the heights to which Ribeiro as a painter will rise, his art at this stage is of the stature which cannot be passed unnoticed.

Nissim Ezekiel, 'Promise and Power', Arts and Events, May 1961 - It is obvious that he is no amateur testing his wings but one who has taken the initial leap towards mature expression, proving without any doubt that he is here to stay... Ribeiro constructs each painting with paint itself and does not fill paint into areas created by drawings. This is always a good indication of a painter's understanding of his medium. It leads to strength of structure and solidity in formal organisation. When these flow from a clear conception controlled by discipline, the effect is impressive.

Times of India, April 1961 - Ribeiro knows what he wants and goes all out for it.

'Youth and Sadness’, Times of India, April 1961- There are landscapes, portraits and nature morte to be seen. All of them are painted in a stark, cubistic style which is fairly rampant, the one distinguishing feature being the free use of a black dipped in varnish, mainly for outlines.

The landscapes are of two kinds: bathed in fantasy […] having a touch of Buffet about them, and those more prosaic.

 
 

O Heraldo, 2015
 

'London Galleries'
Art in America, 1969
 
   

'Verfuhrung zum Dialog'
Der Kunst Handel, June 1994
Read in full (in German)
 
   

'Lancelot Ribeiro'
Arts Review, May 1986
 
   
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