Mumbai: Catch a retrospective on the legendary modernist SH Raza

Updated: Jun 17, 2018, 16:57 IST | Benita Fernando |

Retrospective on the legendary Modernist will show the artist's evolution through the people and places in his life

Suryanamaskar, 1993. Pics/Piramal Museum of Art
Suryanamaskar, 1993. Pics/Piramal Museum of Art

Graduating from Sir JJ School of Art in 1947, the late painter SH Raza had developed a penchant for painting landscapes. With a childhood spent in the greenery of Madhya Pradesh, where his father served as a forest officer, landscapes were but a natural extension for the artist. Mumbai, however, affected him deeply as well, leading him to paint landmarks such as Flora Fountain and Marine Drive, besides the bustling streets. In his own words, "Since I was living in the city of Bombay, which seemed very beautiful to me, I also painted Bombay, under the sun and under the rain."

In SH Raza: Traversing Terrains, the first major exhibition of the artist since he passed away two years ago, visitors will get to see the formation of his practice and the many influences that he picked up along the way, right from the locales he lived in to the people that he met. "Like many great artists, Raza had an inner restlessness and this made him constantly travel, intellectually and physically. Raza moved from Madhya Pradesh to Nagpur to Bombay to Paris, and finally back to India again — almost like a metaphorical return to roots. He read Indian and French literature extensively, and was aware of different philosophies, thus constantly refreshing himself as a thinker," says Vaishnavi Ramanathan, co-curator of the retrospective.

Benares, 1944, watercolour on paper
Benares, 1944, watercolour on paper

For an artist who has become nearly synonymous with his famed Bindu series, this exhibition is set to offer a more wholesome view, through a collection that Piramal Museum of Art has been building since 2010 and three loans from the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation. Showcasing five decades of Raza's practice, from the early 1940s to the late 1990s, the exhibition will have 35 works, including those by Raza's contemporaries, the letters they exchanged with each other, archival images and diary entries.

Raza met many great thinkers and artists of his time, which allowed him to journey through minds. "The exhibition also highlights the bonds artists forged amongst themselves. It highlights the role of the Austrian war emigres, Walter Langhammer, Rudi von Leyden and Emmaneul Schlesinger who had moved to Bombay following World War II as well," says Ashvin Rajagopalan, director of Piramal Museum of Art and co-curator for this exhibition.

Also of interest to visitors will be accounts of Raza's interactions with pioneering photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who once gave him some valuable advice, "You are a talented painter. But your work needs one element — that is construction. Try to understand that a painting is built up. Try to see [Paul] Cezanne. And if you can give structure to your work, it will be an entirely different thing." As the retrospective will show, Raza went on to implement the insight successfully and in retrospect, it added to the making of a grand artist.

Where: Piramal Museum of Art, Piramal Tower, Lower Parel
When: June 24 to October 28, 11 AM to 8 PM
Call: 30466981

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