SAYED HAIDER RAZA: A Memoir

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Part-2

Sayed Haider Raza, commonly known as S.H. Raza was one of India’s most renowned and eminent artists from the 20th century. His contribution has marked its footprint in the field of Indian Art forms and cultures.

Style of Paintings:

Sayed Haider Raza, being one of the most legendary Indian artists, marked his name in the visual arts landscape. Initially Sir S.H. Raza was fond of landscape paintings in watercolor as he spent his childhood surrounded by nature. He really believed that the life of an individual is formed in the very beginning of its existence which was clearly applicable for him.

Remembering the place where he spent his childhood days, near Narmada river and in the Centre of dense forest, he stated that, ” The most tenacious memory of my childhood is the fear and fascination of Indian forest.” During daytime the village was full of color like a fairyland under the bright beam of sun and then came the night again. This imagination of him can be clearly visible in his landscape paintings. One of such paintings where he has perfectly depicted his childhood thoughts and imaginations is Village en Fête, 1964.

Village en Fete,1964

Gradually with time, we notice a vast transition in his style of paintings which include the abstract ones. Later, he started moving towards abstraction. His strive for gaining in depth
meaning to find an insight of vision that could reflect universal truths which he believed in led to the invention of sublime and archetypal geometric patterns which are mostly familiar to us in today’s world.


Some of his well known paintings include:

1. Panchtatva

This painting depicts the 5 greatest Universal truths symbolically on canvas,- sky, air, water, fire and Earth. Panchatatva means these five elements. It is believed that all the things in the universe are made up of these five elements.

It is visible that there is a big Bindu located in the centre of the painting, which reminds of the same energy from which these five elements are generated. So, the source of these five elements is also the Bindu. The five elements that are visible on the right side of the painting are shown by five different Bindus. This signifies that these five elements are complete and independent.

Panchtatva by SH Raza

2. Bindu – Conversion of Illumination :

The re-discovery of Bindu by Sir S.H. Raza can be traced back to the village school in Mandla where his education began. In a particular event during his elementary school days his teacher asked him to focus on a single dot on the black board after he was found having difficulties with his concentration. By remembering it, he had finally found the perfect element to invest knowledge and energies and bring everything into sync.

Bindu has a significant role in Hinduism and scholars regard it as a source of creation and existence. Moreover it is also the symbol of Indian Art, aesthetics and awareness of life. The Bindu was first seen in Raza’s work in 1980 and depicted his newly found vision and interest in ethnography. Raza stated that, ” Bindu is a source of energy, source of life. Life begins here, attains infinity here.”

Raza has a habit of including poetry lines in his work, usually in Sanskrit. Bindu series was one of them. This traditional practice is called Chitrakavya (picture-poetry) in India. After the introduction of the Bindu, Raza focused on different metaphysical ideas to add dimensions to his work.

Bindu

In the above picture the black circle signifies the seed – the starting point of creation. The faint lines forming the recurring inverted triangles, and the placement of the seed between them displaying the womb, a sign of female fertility, evoking the budding of a plant from the seed.

Bindu

This is another greatest piece of work from his renowned “Bindu Series”.

3. Immanence

Immanence is the piece of work in black and white in comparison to the other vibrant and colorful work created by Raza. Here the large black Bindu against the white diagonal square, reflects the geometrical forms of Raza’s vocabulary from the 1980s, which indicate the earth and the sky. Raza has infused lines from Mahatma Gandhi in this iconic artwork.

Immanence by SH Raza

4. Kundalini

In Hinduism, it is believed that there are seven chakras inside the human body. One of them is kundalini. It is the feminine energy that resides below the navel. In this composition of
Raza, if we look carefully, then we come to know that in this painting two snakes are sitting quilling each other, Whose head can be seen in the center of the painting and the tail can be seen on the outer surface. The circular loops made in the painting distinctly signifies the kundalini energy.

Kundalini by SH Raza

5. Asto Maa

Asto Maa reflects the Indian style and philosophy and tries to explain his modesty towards the greatness of mother nature. Though it looks simple, it is way more beautiful. Here Raza has beautifully interpreted the colour combinations between the shades of White, black and grey. The artwork has three lines in Sanskrit known as three Pavamana-


MantrasAstomaa sadgamaya,
tamasoma jyotirgamaya,
mrtyormamrtamgamaya.

Translation:
Lead me from falsehood to truth,
Lead me from darkness to light,
Lead me from death to immortality.

Here, all three sentences of the Mantra implies the same meaning, i.e., ‘make me immortal’.

Asto Maa by SH Raza

An artist is a sea of creativity and Sayed Haider Raza was no exception. In this blog we have presented a small collection of his works among his many others.

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