Art Chamber
Galeria de Belas Artes

Installations Alma e Vida

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"Half-tones of the soul's consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are" - Fernando Pessoa (Book of Disquiet)

To be Goan in 2016 is to live with insecurity, disquiet, and overwhelming feelings of powerlessness and loss. This is especially true for Yolanda de Sousa, whose unerring intuition and deep compassion resonates throughout 'A Alma E A Vida', the 22nd omnibus solo exhibition of an artist at the height of her faculties. These paintings comprise what Susan Sontag called "an archive of longings", replete with saudades and anguish tempered by stirrings of hope.

Yolanda is multiple rarity in Goa's storied modern and contemporary art history. Born in 1954, she can recall when the Emissora de Goa still defiantly broadcast 'Aqui e Portugal'. But just a few years later, she wore India's football colours (she's the first woman to score a hat-trick for the country). Then, Yolanda was one of the first to dedicate herself to practice in Goa. Resulting, hard-won career success presages succeeding generations who have grown in her shadow.

When Yolanda first started painting seriously in Goa, tourism was still considered a dodgy bet. Charter flights were just beginning to connect Dabolim to Europe. Indians weren't yet interested in beachside holidays. Agriculture still flourished. The coastlines and countryside shimmered pristine, endless beauty. But then - before anyone really knew what was happening - unplanned, ill-advised, often illegal so-called development crashed heavily across India's smallest state. A tsunami of concrete. At her easel - very close to Ground Zero of the devastation - Yolanda has seen it happen close-up.

The transformation of coastline Goa has been radical, comprehensive, and intensely traumatic to witness. Coconut groves overnight replaced by egregiously hideous hotels, malls and holiday-home complexes. Highly evolved social fabric rent threadbare, then torn apart. Dunes erased, the ocean irredeemably polluted. Hungry migrants stream in, while natives silently file papers to fly away with only memories. All this pervades Yolanda de Sousa's paintings, intense chords of anger, contempt, and disquiet. They are what Susan Sontag called "an archive of longings."

But there is also nuance, a rooted and substantial sense of self which cannot be blown to pieces so easily. That is all Yolanda: clear-eyed mastery, cool perspective, and strong-minded refusal to abandon compassion. These characteristics imbue the superb suites of paintings in 'A Alma E A Vida' with layers of meaning, blazoning a path forward for the entirety of Goa's family of artists. This important exhibition marks another big step in Yolanda de Sousa's emergence as leader, and cultural icon. We have a moment to celebrate.

by Vivek Menezes