Legendary artist SH Raza says he lives to paint and paints to live. The 94-year-old artist’s latest creations stay true to his passion for geometric motifs
SH Raza’s latest exhibition is titled ‘Nirantar’, a term denoting that which is incessant or ceaseless. It’s an apt term to describe Raza’s creative oeuvre as well. The 25 works currently on display in the city were made between 2011 and 2016. More of his works will also be simultaneously showcased in Delhi and Kolkata.
Raza, who grew up in a small village in Madhya Pradesh, went on to study at the Sir JJ School of Art and founded the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group (1947), which challenged the existing art establishment. “I grew up as an artist in Bombay before going to Paris. I lived there for 60 years. I have been living in Delhi since 2011. They’ve all been my homes,” he says, adding, “It has been a long journey, full of anxieties and exhilarations. I started as a landscape painter, a colourist. But soon, I turned to metaphysical ideas and the essence of life.”
His work is instantly recognisable thanks to the geometric motifs that feature in it. He has explored themes of prakriti (nature), kundalini (primal energy), tribhuj (triangle) and bindu (circle/dot).
His paintings have sold for record prices — Saurashtra, which sold for Rs 15.9 crore, and La Terre, which sold for Rs 18.8 crore — count among the most expensive paintings sold at an auction. But the artist remains unfazed by the attention. “What matters is value, not price,” he states.
For Raza, the process of painting is one of perennial search, almost akin to a spiritual quest: “Art is meditation; it meditates through colours. The bindu provides you with a focus, a locus (position) to concentrate on.”
Interestingly, Raza’s interest in the bindu stems from his childhood days. His primary school teacher asked him to stare at a dot on the wall to calm his distracted mind; the dot would go on to influence the course of his life. “Bindu is a source of energy, a still centre, a point of radiation. It has immense visual possibilities,” he explains.
About his latest body of work, Raza says that Nirantar happened to him almost spontaneously. Going strong at 94, the artist has no plans to slow down: “I paint almost every day, health permitting. I continue to explore the world and colours constantly. I wish to remain a painter — to be able to express the love and lure of life and art through colours. I, as my friend and poet Ashok Vajpeyi says, ‘live to paint and paint to live’.”
Nirantar by SH Raza is on display till April 30.
At Art Musings, Admiralty Building, Colaba Cross Lane
Call 2216 3339
Along with the exhibition, the gallery is also releasing a coffee table book, titled Nirantar. It is co-authored by Ranjit Hoskote and Ashok Vajpeyi and published by Afterimage Publishing. It’s available at the gallery. Cost: Rs 2,500