As the eminent artist Syed Haider Raza celebrates the ongoing exhibition of his most recent work Bindu Vistaar in London. Subuhi Parvez talks to the Padma Bhushan awardee about his journey, life and work. The show features fourteen new paintings by the artist, all executed in 2011 and 2012 and painted especially for the exhibition.
Hindustan Times: How does it feel that it is your first ever solo exhibition in London?
SH Raza: I have shown in London before, but this is the first time I've gone solo. This is an important exhibition by Vadehra art gallery and Grosvenor gallery. It is important because after my exhibition in Delhi presented by Arun Vadehra, he decided to take the exhibition to London. Now, Indian contemporary art has come to a standard which is very serious and meaningful and it feels good that some of our artists are conducting their exhibitions in international cities. I was happy that this happened in London.
Why couldn't you make it to the exhibition?
Well, they had invited me and everything was fixed for me there. I had a place to stay, I had my visa but I couldn't make it possible because of my health. I am very unwell.
Hindustan Times: It is highly commendable that you are still painting. And this exhibition shows your recent work. How comfortable are you even today when it comes to paint?
SH Raza: Well, I prefer working. This exhibition is one of my recent works. Indian contemporary artists have not come to this standard. So I feel happy that I could present something to them. My work has a different meaning and something like this has never been done by any other Indian artist.
Hindustan Times: How do you react to the vandalism of art works? Recently, Picasso's work was spray painted in a US museum.
SH Raza: People are jealous. Instead of doing their own work...they like to intervene in an illegal manner, which is really sad. I feel sad about it as he was a great painter, a genuis indeed. Government should do something about the security of such art works.
Hindustan Times: What concerns you when it comes to art?
SH Raza: One doesn't look at the quality of work, they see how much it fetches, how it earns. That's a sad thing. Money is not the criteria of art. Art or love is not a question of money. One should percieve these things at a different level.
Also, there are people who are making fakes of my work. I feel sad about it. I have told various organisation in France and other places to bring out my book which will have all the collection of my work, so that fakes could be avaoided. These are secondary things.
Hindustan Times: You are regarded as one of the founders of modern art movement in India. What's your take on that?
SH Raza: I feel happy that I could be considered so but I can't say more. It is normal that I have done something significant and so have other artists. I have taken my work in such a way that it has been a success. But that is not the only thing which matters you see...it's the work which matters.
Can you tell us something about Bindu Vistaar?
For me, Bindu is a point where I concentrate, my energy, my mind. It has become like Bhagvat Gita, Swadharm and all that. You have to fix your energy on one thing and not ten things. If you go to ten directions, it's distraction of energy. I think one woman is enough (laughs).
If you say Ram Ram Ram and Allah Allah Allah, you will get confused. So one god is enough. For me Bindu has never done the same thing. There is logic in every abstract form that I make. My work is like poetry and it should create a different atmosphere for the visitor. Poetry, literaturea and art seem simple but it is very difficult to understand it.
Coming back to the exhibition, this kind of initiative is to show what Indian artists are doing and the international audience might understand our work. It might mean something to them or it might not mean anything at all.
What has been the response so far in London?
The greatest thing about this exhibition is the reaction of people. Well, the British museum wants to buy one of my paintings. Already six or seven paintings are sold. There are plenty of people coming...almost 60 people coming everyday to see my work. So I feel happy, there is no doubt about it. I am happy mainly because of the appreciation.
Hindustan Times: Do you think there is freedom of art in India?
SH Raza: Yes, there is a very good climate here in India. The objections are always there but despite that it is a free place.
Hindustan Times: What do you think of the 3D art, installations and the new forms of art?
SH Raza: Installations are usually very mediocre. These new ideas are alright to promote themselves but I think real promotion can be done if they make good paintings or good sculptures.
Hindustan Times: Where do you think Indian art is on the world map?
SH Raza: It doesn't have a significant place as yet. It will have in few years time though. I am confident that Indian paintings would be recognised internationally. It is already being recognised, but it can have a stronger place.
Hindustan Times: It's been a long long journey for you. How does it feel after reaching to this stature?
SH Raza: I tell god that he has been responsible enough. Without him it wouldn't have been possible. Thanks to him I could achieve these heights.