In his career that spans over seven decades, celebrated artist and Padma Bhushan recipient, 90-year-old Syed Haider Raza counts his latest exhibition, Vistaar, to be close to his heart. The reason: he is showcasing in the city where his artistic journey began.
The exhibition opens to the public at Jehangir Art Gallery for a week (so, a larger section of the public can view it) before moving to Art Musings gallery space for a month. Leading us in on the highlights of Vistaar, Raza says, “This body of work is vital, as these are concepts I have explored over several years.
It is a show that features 30 odd works done after I returned to India for good, about two years ago. It highlights, if at all, the creativity of a man 90 years of age! Select earlier paintings from collectors are also on display. Vistaar is an expansion of my themes, which I have been pursuing for decades. I do not, hopefully, repeat myself, I only explore.”
Explore the canvas
Vistaar sees Raza exhibiting in the city after a gap of six years (the artist has spent a major part of his life living and working in France). Aside from his most recent abstract in oil and acrylic artworks, the exhibition will also include a dedicated retrospective section, offering a rare glimpse into the early works by the artist alongside his most recent works.
After painting for several decades, Raza remains non-committal about the evolution of his art over time. “I have, perhaps, a better command over plasticity, over colour and lines. Evolution is a complex matter. An artist evolves as long as he or she continues to explore. It is for others to discover whether I have evolved,” he states.
While he admits that he loves each work, he also observes that there isn’t a specific message in his art: “If at all, the message is that life and art remains full of mystery and possibilities, of beauty and significance.”
His works are known to convey his earliest memories of landscape and cosmic expanse, language and silence. The symbol of the bindu (circle) with his sacred connotations occupies a focal part in his artworks.
For Raza, who equates painting with japa or repetition of a mantra until it transforms into a pathway for energy, the bindu, which can stand for the seed, inner eye, focal point or the cosmic tree, has been a sort of pictorial japa. “I believe and feel that one is under the grace of higher powers while creating. I paint with all the love of colours and zest for life, but want to touch the invisible, the ineffable,” he observes.
The exhibition at Art Musings will also see the launch of a coffee table book, which documents Raza’s works spanning his career. “It includes a lot of reproductions of my works from each decade and two important essays by Ranjit Hoskote and Ashok Vajpeyi,” he concludes.
at Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda (till December 3); Art Musings, Colaba Cross Lane (December 4 to January 10, 2013)