Posted on:August 9, 2017
“Sometimes it is impossible to know where we are headed without reflecting on where we came from. Understanding our heritage, our roots and our ancestry is an important part of carving out our future”- Jesus Gil Hernandez
These veracious words, remind me of Sayed Haider Raza, a ground-breaking Indian artist who promulgated Indian Art, style and iconography globally, as long as he was alive and left us with an impressive legacy to modern art.
On 22nd February 1922, S.H. Raza was born in the family of Deputy Forest Ranger of Narsinghpur district in Madhya Pradesh, to Sayed Mohammed Razi and Tahira Begum. Raza’s tryst with painting began at a tender age, so after completing his high school education, he went to Nagpur school of art in 1939, followed by a Sir J.J school of art in Bombay. His works gained a positive reception for the first time in 1946, when he inaugurated his first solo exhibition at Bombay Art Society Salon. His collection was extraordinarily influenced by his childhood memories; themes based on forests of his native land in M.P.
Foundation of Bombay Progressive Artists' Group:
In 1947, Raza established the revolutionary Bombay Progressive Artists' Group along with his artist comrades Krishnaji Howlaji Ara and Francis Newton Souza. This group was anticipated to bring the correct form of Indian art in practice and take away the influence of European realism on Indian art schools. In the same year, he was poleaxed by sudden demise of his mother and father in the following year. After death of his parents, his brothers and sister migrated to Pakistan.
Seeing his passion for art, in 1950 the France govt. endowed him a scholarship and offered him to study Fine Art at a reputed college in Paris. This change had a great influence on Raza’s art style. The themes he painted were still landscapes but now the center of attention was dominant colors, their reference to memory and mood rather than lines or detailing. The new-fangled series of paintings focused more on emotions stimulated by situates rather than their palpable aspects. Over the course of his artistic career in Paris, he moved from expressionist landscapes to geometric abstractions that brought him to the acme of his success as an artist.
After reaching out to great heights, Raza also turned out to be a spokesperson at the University of California, USA. Later, his advanced creations involved wide gestural brushstrokes and impasto-ed application of paint that captures bucolic countryside of France, and antiquated village constructions.
Introduction to ‘The Bindu’: A representation of his inner experience and source of energy
In 1970s, as a result of his inquisitive nature and persistence, he abandoned from his conventional art style what he called the 'plastic art’ and came up with an innovative style- ‘The Bindu’ which was an outcome of the deeper study of awe-inspiring Indian art, culture and belief. In order to be acquainted with the culture more closely, he planned a number of excursions to caves of Ajanta and Ellora, and other places like Rajasthan, Gujarat etc. which showed him Indian Art and culture in its true sense of the word. The Bindu- was not solely his brainchild; one of his elementary school teachers also had his contribution in this revolutionary idea. The Bindu was enthused from his memoir of childhood, when he was found lacking concentration in class, his teacher drew a dot on the chalkboard and asked him to focus on it. After pioneering this new idea, he adorned it by incorporating more geometric dimensions to it, particularly shape of concentric circles and triangles. This transformed him from an expressionist painter to a legend of abstraction.
Raza once said that, “my work is my own inner experience and involvement with the mysteries of nature and form which is expressed in colour, line, space and light".
Establishment of Raza foundation:
In year 2001, Raza foundation was set up with an intention to promote Indian art, poetry and music, among the youth. In the present time, this immensely popular art foundation not only organizes events, workshops and exhibitions, it also offers resources to individuals who are dedicated towards art and culture.
Raza passed away at the age of 94, in 2016 after a prolonged illness but his contribution to Indian art remains luminous and undiminished.