While the works of Indian artists like MF Husain, Tayeb Mehta and SH Raza became popular worldwide, little is known about their Mumbai-based contemporary Abdul Aziz Raiba. The now-91-year-old artist’s works fell into obscurity over the years. The Colaba art gallery, Clarks House Initiative, brought Raiba’s work back into focus by displaying four of his paintings last year. Now, with a special retrospective curated at the JJ School of Arts, they hope to study more of his paintings and sketches, bringing out his artistic style and inspirations.
The 41 works on display include pieces from Raiba’s student days at JJ and those created during his stay in Kashmir. Sumesh Sharma, who has curated the exhibition, says the task of pulling out Raiba’s paintings from various locations (in India and abroad) was tough. “Private collectors of Raiba’s work were glad to help. Galleries were more difficult to deal with. Unfortunately, a large collection of Raiba's important work is with a gallery to which we have no access,” says Sharma.
Raiba was a member of the illustrious Bombay Progressive Art Group, which was instrumental in the development of modern art in the ’50s. So, how did someone with such potential go into obscurity for years? Sharma explains, “Our knowledge of the art history of the modernist period is largely governed by catalogues written for auction houses, which often ignores those who aren’t successful within the larger art market, even though they have made important contributions to art history.”
The retrospective Miniature to Monumentalism is on display at the JJ School of Art, Fort, till April 6. Timings 10 am to 6 pm
Know the artist
Raiba is known for his use of jute as a medium. He adopted it at a time when canvas was less available and more expensive.
He began as a miniaturist at JJ School of Art, after which, he spent time in Kashmir where he began experimenting with landscapes, collecting references from folk motifs in the Kangra Hills.
He used thick lines in charcoal to draw figures akin to Cloisonnism style, similar to works of Paul Gauguin.