Beyond the Bindu
For the first time New Delhi witnesses Syed Haider Raza's works in small format.
RIOT OF COLOUR Raza's Naga on view at Shridharani Art Gallery
Long back, at a time when not many people were painting abstract Syed Haider Raza tried to make a feat out of it. Even only a couple of years ago, Raza was not as popular, especially in India, as M.F. Husain.
Many find his absence from India as one of the reasons for this and many regard his abstract works, which didn't find many takers in a country that always looked for a tale on the canvas, the cause. Born in 1922 in Bhopal, Raza left for Paris in 1950 on a French Government scholarship though he kept mounting shows before leaving India.
He also kept visiting India between 1955 and 1985, but he made Paris his home and place of work.
Raza is known for his use of the bindu, which for him is the "seed/the source of energy".
The bindu brought fortune in its wake when in 2004 one of his biggest canvases, Bindu Bija Mantra, sold for over Rs.67.9 lakhs (approximately 158,000 dollars) at an Indian art auction, Saffronart, considered the biggest ever online art auctions.
Earlier, however, Raza had topped the rupee one-crore mark with his geometric work Rajasthan at Christie's in New York in September 2002.
But those who want to know about Raza beyond his bindu works can have a treat, courtesy Sharan Apparao, the eminent art curator who has brought together some 40-odd works of the master in an exhibition titled Raza at New Delhi's Shridharani art gallery till October 17.
The works in small format, which trace his artistic journey from bright colours to black and white, include Raza's landscapes, and the forests of Madhya Pradesh where he was born and lived till the age of 13. Paintings include Naga, Rajasthan, Desert, Head of a Man.
The bindu, a miniscule point or bija that gave birth to a series of paintings, also finds a place. Interestingly, most of his works are accompanied by Raza's own view on them, which Sharan has managed to extract from mainly two books titled
"The Bindu" by Geeti Sen and "An Anthology on Raza" by a gallery in Mumbai. These works span the period from 1955 to 2005.
Behind the process
"Most of these works are from private collections. The exhibition becomes all the more important because people know his bigger works and are not mostly aware of his smaller works and also as his bigger paintings have fetched bigger prices in the market. I wanted to make people know what went behind the process of reaching the bindu, how his bindu got simplified over decades of work," says Sharan.
Today as we see the ever-shooting prices of artworks on both the national and international markets, many do question whether the works that are selling for several lakhs and crores of rupees are worth the price. Sharan points out, "The contents of the work have nothing to do with the price. It has to do with its critique and aesthetics by the art buyer/lover and the willingness of the market, hence an individual is nobody to question it. That art prices have appreciated is a very important development in itself." Raza's work became famous because he presented his skill in his defence, adds Sharan.
And if a man like Raza, awarded the Padma Shri in 1981 and elected a Fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1983, besides receiving the Kalidas Samman from the Government of Madhya Pradesh, sells for a fortune internationally, there is little to question.
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