I hate writing tributes of any artist or artiste – for it means one more life that spent his or her entire life to create is no more. It is all the more terrible in the case of dancers or theatre artistes for theirs is a live art and their body embodies the art. But even in the case of a musician or an artist whose work can be heard or seen, somehow loses its soul.
S.H. Raza, an artist who was one of our finest abstractionists, whose influence can be seen in an entire generation especially of artists from Bhopal, and one of the eclectic artists of the original Progressive Group that strived to break free from the influences of European realism in Indian art and bring Indian inner vision (antargyan) into their work.
In the case of Raza, from the hauntingly gaunt landscapes of Europe to the seemingly simple style of the Bindu series or the Aakar Prakar series, his work managed to touch a cord in the cognoscenti as well as the uninitiated.
One incident that I often quote is how once my maid looked at a painting of Raza in my house and recounted how a fellow artist down the lane too had a similar painting – that was his appeal and brand recall.
I have often wondered about the reason of his choice of such vibrant and lively colours and instinctively understood that for someone who lived away from his roots for long – he lived in France for many decades – this was perhaps his way of capturing the colours and smells of his homeland. He not only understood the logic of art, he also understood the science and mathematics of it.
The precision of aesthetics he brought to the labyrinth of circles amidst the plethora of triangles set in a perfect square yet keeping the art intact is not as simple as it looks. After the introduction of 'Bindu' (a point or the source of energy), he added newer dimensions to his thematic oeuvre in the following decades, with the inclusion of themes around the Tribhuj (Triangle), which bolstered Indian concepts of space and time, as well as that of 'prakriti-purusha' (the female and the male energy), his transformation from an expressionist to a master of abstraction was complete.
A gentle and generous man from the old school, his geniality and soft heartedness was legendry. He was a man of varied interests, poetry always managed to touch a cord in him always as did music.
The writer is a curator and artist...