Diary: 5 October 1969
I asked Barbara to describe my art in three words: she said; you paint "Sex, Violence and the Mind'!
Matisse said: "I should like any man who is feeling defeated to gain a sense of calm and repose when he looks at my paintings."
I would like my paintings to disturb the calm, the smug - in fact they do and that is why I am described by a German critic as a painter who makes the Expressionists look friendly!
Polarizing the sexual tension between man and woman, perpetually rigorous in debating cutting-edge intellectual and artistic developments throughout his career, Souza painted with a raw, expressionist and highly idiosyncratic style as evidenced in Red Curse A tour de force it was shown at the artist's Gallery One solo exhibition of the same year. Monumental in form and scope, its powerful composition references the artist's interest in notions of biological mutation and potential nuclear threat derived from historical events at that time. Dynamically charged, the dismayed female nude possibly signals the submission of the individual before the anthropomorphic power of Science, unleashed. It is enhanced by the artist's choice of black satin ground which here stands as virtual darkness alongside Souza's absolute surety of execution and mastery of composition. At once an indictment and a warning, Red Curse is also testament to the power and influence of the artist as prophet. A towering masterpiece to be interpreted on multiple levels, it openly presents 'survival of the fittest' with brutal integrity. Harmonizing the tension between force and restraint, the composition is marked by vigorous, exuberant brushstrokes that become virtual traces of imagined sensations.
Important within the artist's oeuvre, Red Curse is an intellectual and critical envisioning of imagined possibility and cultural theory in the early 1960s. As noted by Mu'lins, exploring: "Escapism or catharsis .... On the dark side: the holocaust, horror of the flesh, bodies distorted by fall-out or thalidomide, the weight of sin and evil, sexual longing ... a sense of the ludicrous and the disgusting." (E. Mullins, quoted in The Human and the Divine Predicament: New Paintings by F. N. Souza, exhibition catalogue, Grosvenor Gallery, 1964, unpaginated); and as further highlighted by Alkazi: His [Souza's] fundamental aim is to destroy art as it is commonly understood, and to re-create it in terms of a Black Mass in which the living God is eaten, so that, through this primitive and barbarous rite, man may partake of his eternal spirit and embody in himself its resurrection. (E. Alkazi, Souza's Seasons in Hell, p. 77).