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Sayed Haider Raza

Indian Modern Artist
Born 1922, Babariya, Madhya Pradesh, India
Lives and works in New Delhi

Sayed Haider Raza has worked extensively in painting throughout his career spanning more than 7 decades. One of his main concerns as an artist for several decades became the symbolic Bindu, which the artist has kept alive in his large body of work. He invokes several Indic elements like nature, Vedic texts, spirituality, and the oneness of mind and body.

Education

1953

Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris

1947

Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai

1943

Nagpur School of Art, Nagpur, India

 

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LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Sayed Haider Raza

As a core artist in the Progressive Artist's Group, a new wave of modern art was created

He was among the core artists who formed the Progressive Artist’s group in Bombay in the 40s. This group laid the foundation to create a new era of the moderns in the legacy of Indian Art. The idea was to move away from the Bengal School of Art, and Haider particularly comes to form a lineage of abstract art, under the Moderns.

This gave an impetus to create a distinction from the earlier Bengal school and revisit a more formalistic body of work, distinguishing itself from the Indian patronage of painting style and structure. Not only did subjects begin to transform, the palette changed along with the audience it tried to address. It was in a different phase of nationalism, the one farthest from the Bengal School, trying to establish itself as a more ‘radical’ notion of art.

An early photograph of the Bombay Progressives Artist Group.

Works with geometrical forms and spiritual notion of natural elements

Much of his work was and still continues to be with geometric patterns. One of the focuses of his four decades worth of works is the exploration of the bindu. The Bindu is symbolic of several meanings, all of which stem from Indian philosophical sources. The sources can be traced to his childhood and much of his schooling, all of which were a part of his much secular upbringing, something that his work and his life reflect upon.

Germination Blue, 2004, cumulates geometric lines and the symbolic bindu. The title suggests an inherent connection with seminality, and together with the bindu, they tie together a great collection of spiritual exploration. This kind of work which has the qualitative structure embodying a universal phenomenon of evolution aligns itself to Raza’s fundamental philosophy of his works.

Sources
Genesis of the Image, SH Raza and Geeti Sen, India International Centre Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 1, IMAGES (March 1986), pp. 5-26.

Sayed Haider Raza, Germination Blue, 2004, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 40”.

Personal memory constructs a cultural identity in Raza

Raza in the span of his career, stayed for over 65 years in Europe, only to return and settle here in India by the winter of 2010. He is influenced by a broad range of European art schools, his primary source of inspiration stems from his Indian origins. In an interview with curator Geeti Sen, Raza comments, “And I would like to say, it is impossible to undo an Indian! Our whole mode of thinking derives from our childhood, from our families, from our tradition. It comes from years, perhaps even centuries earlier. Happily some of us have so imbibed this tradition that we try to retain what seems to be extremely important.”

This kind of affinity to his cultural roots can be seen throughout his works, illustrated in the Bindu series. The bindu has been employed in his works for over four decades now. The bindu is connoted to have various symbolic meaning; ornamenting a woman’s forehead, a spiritual form of abstraction in Vedic traditions has been rendered tirelessly throughout his works.

Sayed Haider Raza, Bindu Panchatatva, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 41 x 39.5”.

Evokes natural elements through dark palette colours

Raza’s work is highly reflective of the natural environment. Several of his paintings are titled, Prakriti, as well. He focusses the colour palette as juxtaposition with the geometrical forms in his canvas to create a symmetrical metaphorical and symbolic meaning. Five colours dominate his work-yellow, white, red, blue and black. It is often connoted to the five elements of nature that form the cosmos of his work.

In Vallee De Gorbio, 1962, the artist depicts a landscape of Gorbio in the South of France; in keeping with his expressionist brush strokes he highlights the water bodies surrounding the landscape with a luminous blue. Traces of yellow and red are incorporated as tiny stretches of land. Here the colours highlight the natural elements in a literal sense.

The best illustration of this point can be observed in the work Les Quatre Horizons, 1969.The canvas is divided into four quarters, and every quarter is highly illustrative of his use of colours, from two quarters painted individually with red and blue respectively, to the bottom two quarters, leaping with interplay of several amalgamations of other primary colours in an abstract form.

Sayed Haider Raza, Vallee De Gorbio, 1962, oil on canvas, 36.5 x 28”.

Sayed Haider Raza, Les Quatre Horizons, 1969, acrylic on canvas, 39.5 x 31.75”.

Bibliography