The artistic journey of Maximo Coutinho

06 May 2024  |   04:40am IST

Strokes of devotion: The artistic journey of Maximo Coutinho

The story of Maximo Coutinho from Tropa-Sodiem is one of grit, determination, and the desire to carve a niche for himself
Strokes of devotion: The artistic journey of Maximo Coutinho


SIOLIM: At every step, Maximo claims that he has emerged victorious over circumstances. “I didn’t pursue much education; I had the urge to work and achieve something, so I decided to go to Dubai. As a young, enthusiastic boy, I tried my hand at various trades in Dubai because things were quite different back then. I must have been barely in my teens when I left for Dubai due to our family’s circumstances and my desire to make something of myself,” says Maximo. He spent about 10 years working in Dubai before feeling the pull of his homeland and returning to Goa. Despite having little savings, he took up small jobs in Goa to make ends meet. It was during this time that Maximo managed to buy a small plot of land and build a modest house, all costing just Rs 40,000, a considerable amount in the late seventies and early eighties. Once back in Goa, Maximo pursued different jobs, but his true breakthrough came when he developed an interest in painting statues and church altars.

“I had no formal training or knowledge; I simply began observing senior artists in the field and felt a calling towards it. Once I started, everything seemed to come naturally to me,” informs Maximo. Gradually, he excelled in his craft, receiving requests from numerous priests to paint their altars, statues, and perform 

restoration work. Maximo travelled extensively across Goa, from one church to another, during his prime years, beautifying church interiors. “Communication wasn’t as easy back then as it is now, yet priests preferred my work and eagerly awaited my arrival at their churches to enhance their sacred spaces,” he reminisces.

Maximo wasn’t just a painter but also a sculptor, moulding wood into religious figures before painting them. He would travel to various churches on his scooter to work on-site or, if needed, bring the statues to his home. “I found greater peace and ease working at home, enabling me to give my full attention to the statues. Sometimes, I would even bring home age-old statues for restoration,” he shares.

Although Maximo had tried his hand at various jobs earlier, he never gained as much popularity as he did as a church artist and painter. “Many old statues were in need of painting and restoration, which I would diligently attend to. During that time, the quality of wood available was top-notch, making working with it a pleasure,” he recalls.

 With various artistic works of religious significance to his credit, including photos, wood carvings, and unique paintings, Maximo takes pride in his achievements. “There were only a handful of artists like me back then, and once a priest or church authority appreciated your work, they wouldn’t let you go. That was my story too,” 

he says. Maximo is gratified that many of his works have received recognition beyond India and garnered tremendous feedback.

Despite being nearly 40 years into this religious work, Maximo shows no signs of slowing down. Even at the ripe age of 86, he is ready to undertake painting and restoration assignments. “I have been a workaholic since my youth, so even now, I feel uncomfortable sitting idle. I believe I am perfectly capable of working even now,” he asserts.

Maximo has crafted numerous wood statues for churches in Goa and even overseas. He feels blessed to have received love, appreciation, and motivation from people and priests alike, which he believes cannot be expressed in words. Often converting his entire house into a workshop, filled with statues awaiting his master touch, Maximo considers himself fortunate and blessed to remain active even in his advanced years. “I have devoted my life to painting statues, restoring altars, and I believe I am blessed and ready to continue this work,” he declares.

However, he laments the decline in the quality of available wood. “In the past, I would get the best quality wood, ensuring that my works would stand the test of time. Unfortunately, the quality of wood available today does not match up,” he notes. Nevertheless, he emphasises that his artistic spirit remains undimmed and ready to create until his last breath. “I have been a one-man show throughout my life, and by the grace of God, I still feel I can continue with this work, as it has brought out the creativity within me,” he concludes.

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