In an age where contemporary art has changed in mediums and language, scope and intent, this book weighs in on the moodiness, methodology, efforts, mental blitzkriegs and inner workings of modern master of art Syed Haider Raza.
Living now in Delhi, Raza is going through a revolution in which he is bringing back his past in his works—he is ploughing the depths of past trends in his use of colour fields, in contextualizing genres in his journey of the ‘Bindu’ and explaining intuitive strategies that reflect his journeys. Looking at Raza’s art is an intimate act of prolonged engagement. The Bindu too has transformed through decades—it signifies a different tenor in a world torn by terrorism and death.
In tone and technique Raza is meticulous, historically informative, and has a sensitive yet straight-eyed approach that often takes the form of a discourse that invites cogent considerations; his reflections of spirituality and his favourite poets Rilke and Kabir build up into a flashback tinted in-your-face reflection that might involve the desire to dig deeper into his quotations.
Nevertheless, in his own specific way, Raza brings to his own works that essential recipe of criticism illustrated in essence with his own brand of expertise and taste. When he discusses his works done over the past two years, he travels through verbal and visual dynamics, and gives us a set of references and details that define his sensibility that brims to an inner core of intellectual and aesthetic insignias. In his twilight years, Syed Haider Raza unravels as a modern master who comes through more like a sage who swims in the fervour and ferment of thoughts shaped by 60 years in Paris as well as formative years in India.
[read more=”+ Read more” less=”- Read less”]For long one of the primary concerns of Raza in his art has been to be in constant communion with the cosmic. The universe of Raza’s art is, in artifice and spirit, a cosmos of colours and shapes, of remembrances and resonances, of assurance and celebration, indeed of affirmation in which the humans and the divine flow ceaselessly into each other. Deeply meditative, vibrantly luminious, masterly colourful and richly intense here is an art which demands both attention and reflection. It has an elegance which the most beautiful always has. Its spiritual complexity emanates from its apparent simplicity and competently handled geometry.
Life and art are both constant-nirantar so is Raza in the wonderfully integrated domain of his life and art. It is this ‘nirantarta’, this constancy, as it were, which his latest shows bring forth so powerfully and undeniably. Neither life nor the art of Raza pause or flaunder or stop. They are so movingly almost breathtakingly nirantar full of energy and desire to resonate the cosmos itself. A series of three shows one each in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai is yet another occasion to savour in humility the latest works of a master. His relentless quest for form, colour and vision remains both a matter of deep joy and genuine aesthetic excitement.
He is a maker of symbols that carry us across the disruptions of contemporary living, towards an appreciation of the contemplative continuities that can restore us to wholeness. Constantly, he refashions for us archetypal reminders of our relationship to the larger framing contexts of our lives; he presents us with evocations of the life-force and the elements from which it gathers dynamic impetus, of time and of eternity. Raza’s paintings are dramatic foci, intended to heal our fragmented attention and our broken faculties of cognition, and endow them with coherence.
No matter where he lived, Raza was never separated from his homeland and his memories were deep-rooted. The dense dark nights of his boyhood years remained within and ever so often his mind’s eye would see the sinuous shapes of the tribal dancers dancing to the beat of an unheard melody. The flaming red hibiscus adorning the dancer’s braid, the green of the Saal leaves and patches of blue skies found their way to his canvas and his compositions but it was he alone who heard the music and remembered the colours.
To use a turn of phrase, so long as his hand was firm he handled the white tremble of blanks in his paintings well. Now his hand trembles but his paintings are free of their tremble. Now the tremble of his empty lines has moved to his fingers and the density of his memories in his spaces, his colours.
Now he himself and his paintings, both are firm. Now his paintings are in the new youth of their experience. The sum total of these paintings surprises. They are unbelievable. Earlier his paintings were full of his self-confidence, now they are full of his self. Now the line between whether he makes the paintings or the paintings get executed through him, has vanished. Currently, our art world will take its own sweet time to understand his capacity.
“Long ago, when I began, I stated that abstraction is rooted in tribhanga. The three primary colours form a definition of nature’s identity. Tribhanga is tradition. Colour for me is expression, colour for me is the essence of tradition. Tradition has two parts—the root and the spirit of its ideology. If we have to continue along the path of tradition then it must be continued with a root and ideology that is alive. When tradition is uprooted and left without its root and spirit, it becomes an anchorless emptiness— a void without any inner meaning. As artists we have the responsibility of creating new traditions… (in my works that I’m doing these days) I employ and recreate themes of my past—ranging from the intense colours of the forests of Madhya Pradesh to the Bindu which I believe is the essence of all life—I am always wanting to reach back into the past to recall the connection of our ancient history with the patterns of the present. I work with primary colours— red, blue, yellow.”
S H Raza [/read]