Growing up in Mandla, a small village in Madhya Pradesh where wild forests dominated the landscape, SH Raza recalls having led a simple life. The renowned Modernist painter, who is known for his avant-garde works, says he was a wide-eyed child when he took up the brush to translate this wilderness into his paintings at the age of 12. Today, at the age of 90, life has come full circle, and he will be exhibiting 30 paintings created over two years specifically for Vistaar.
His excitement is obvious. “I have not shown here for five to six years. It is good to be back where you started more than six decades ago. Mumbai has been an art-responsive city for long.”’ He calls Mumbai — then Bombay —the place that “made him an artist.” “Bombay is where I began my career and I have shown there several times over the years. When approached by Art Musings, with whom I have a close association, I thought it would be appropriate to show my latest body of works here.”
Nature had always been a prime focus in most of his paintings, and that is obvious in this selection too. “ I started with painting landscapes but there is no specific theme that this exhibition is based on. I have explored concepts and ideas that have dominated my work through several decades.”
Talking about the development of his style, he says, “I used to focus on landscapes earlier, but over time, I have started allowing words to enter my canvas as well. Now, I paint ideas too,” he says. An alumna of the prestigious Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Raza has never shied away from incorporating Indian aesthetics in his paintings. Deeply influenced by Hindu mythology, he says the theme of the Bindu, which he began incorporating into his paintings from 1980, gave him a new life as an artist. He explains, “For me, Bindu is an origin of energy, a still centre, a point of convergence, a place of concentration. A fountainhead of creativity.”
How does he feel about Mumbai’s art scene? “There are more opportunities to show today. There are art galleries with vision and imagination, and more collectors. Young artists are painting with a plurality of styles and visions.” Quiz him about his favourite contemporary artists and he replies, “I admire the works of Atul Dodiya, Jayashree Chakravarty, Smriti Dixit, Manish Pushkale, Sujata Bajaj and Akhilesh, to name a few.”
At the exhibition, in addition to the 30 acrylic paintings on display, you can also purchase Vistaar — a hardback which will be brought out by Art Musings — that puts together reproductions of his works from various periods and provides an interesting insight to his life.