You don't have Bidding Access. Please upload KYC in My Account or contact Astaguru.
S.H. Raza: An Odyssey through his Artistic Progression
By Anandita Bhardwaj
06 Sep 2021
A mention of Indian artist S H Raza spontaneously brings images of his Bindu series to mind, a style of work that is today synonymous with his name. The seed for this evolution of the ‘Bindu,’ was sown somewhere around the middle of the 1970s when Raza, despite scaling artist success, was falling apart with an internal conflict, and a reckoning that his work lacked spirituality.
Looking for this harmony of modernism and Indianness in form, he started to visit India from France frequently. This homecoming to his roots invigorated a new enthusiasm for him and perhaps that’s the late 1970s has often been called one of the most productive phases of his life.
“The aim to construct a "tangible" world receded. In its place, there was a preoccupation with evoking the essence, the mood of places and of people... They were expressed through emotive colours and forms... Memory began to play a role in recalling the experience and mood of a situation. Instead of being constructions, my paintings from the 1970s are more gestural in technique and expression. In terms of colour too, they are expressionistic. The spontaneity was new and compulsive- I let the canvas grow,” he said about the beginning of the change in a conversation with art historian Geeti Sen.
Revisiting childhood memories of life growing up in a small village surrounded by dark forests and lush landscapes, the element of Expressionism in Raza's art was in a heightened state.
One of the works done during this potent phase was ‘L'Orage, (The storm)’ which is a part of the upcoming AstaGuru modern art auction. (Insert Image of Lot NO 13)
Executed in 1973, the painting with its rich dark tones and sporadic brushstrokes testifies to the artists’ devoted preoccupation with expressionism and also signifies his heightened sensibility in regards to the colour combination he adopted.
This was also the time when Raza also started to paint landscapes in an increasingly abstract fashion.
If one looks at his painting Paysage which was done in 1977, the artist counters the immediate visual conflict by giving the surface a sense of tranquillity with green, which he then adorns with expressionist brushstrokes and uneven abstract geometric patterns coloured in a vibrant palette.
While the experimentations continued, Raza's devotion and engagement with landscapes and nature remained unaltered. What also was constant through the artist's different phases is his mastery of tones and colours which he brought down on the canvas in varied rich combinations to depict the metaphysical, the memory, feelings, and moods.
One of the presented lot, titled ‘The Earth,’ comes on the precipice of ‘Bindu’ becoming the central focus in Raza’s work. Reflecting a deep understanding of his motherland, the painting is done in rich colour tones that are similar to the rich topography of central India.
With Bindu, Raza moved into pure geometric abstraction. The evolution could be termed an outcome of his love for nature fused with his inquiry into ‘pure plastic order.’
“Both have converged into a single point and become inseparable. Bindu is full of potential. It is the seed, the very beginning,” the artist once said.
Hereon in artists' work, the Bindu became the meditative centre that symbolised the seen and unseen nature for him. “In the West, one paints that which can be seen by the retina of the eye. I have gone beyond immediate vision, I wish to grasp Prakriti, which is Nature,” said the artist in his book ‘Mandalas.’
'Prakriti,' a profound work from the Bindu phase will also be presented in the modern Indian art auction. With hues of black and green on a blue palette, the painting affirms the evolution of Raza’s art that metamorphosed from west inspired early landscapes to purely geometrical shapes and spiritual concepts.
“Bindu is the centre of my life,” said the artist in a 2010 interview about what has come to become his trademark style and synonym with his name.
"I was till then a French painter. I was not happy. I was looking for an Indian concept, a vision in my painting,” the artist said in an online interview he gave in 2010. After finding inspiration in symbols like the Bindu, I integrated this ethnography, these icons in my work,” he added.
Born in 1922, Sayed Haider Raza grew up in the village of Babaria in Mandla district in Madhya Pradesh.
He started his art education as a student at the J J School of Arts, earning his diploma in 1947. He co-founded the Progressive Artists’ Group with other eminent Indian artists including F N Souza and M F Husain. Inspired by French artists such as Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse and a meeting with Cartier-Bresson who told Raza that he was gifted, the artist moved to France in 1950. He spent the next few years honing his craft at the Ecole de Paris. After living in France for sixty years, Raza moved back to India in 2010. The artist passed away in 2016.