INTERVIEW The curiosity about Indian thought and philosophy keeps S.H. Raza going with his search. SHAILAJA TRIPATHI
It is S.H. Raza’s 91st birthday, and he is treating art connoisseurs and admirers to his latest set of paintings in an exhibition called “Antardhwani” currently on at Vadehra Art Gallery. In association with The Raza Foundation, two books — “My Dear” and “Understanding Raza” — were also released on the occasion. While “My Dear” contains the long correspondence that Raza had with his old friend and senior artist Krishen Khanna, the second book is an anthology bringing together some of the writings on Raza in English, French and Hindi. It includes pieces by M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, Ram Kumar, J. Swaminathan, Geeti Sen and many more.
Ironically, it was in France that he embarked on the journey exploring the ‘bindu’ and the ‘panchtatva’, and after having come back for good the journey continues. Before this he had showcased “Punaraagman” in November 2011, again at Vadehra Art Gallery.
One of the key members of the iconic Progressive Artists Group — comprising M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, K.H. Ara and V.S. Gaitonde, S.K. Bakre and H.A. Gade — that gave a new direction to Indian art, Raza muses about art and his latest exhibition.
The concept of painting is developed by the Europeans as world seen by the eyes but for me it’s not the world seen by the eyes that is important, it is by the mind. It is the sound which comes from within, ‘antardhwani’ — the sound that emerges from within and which has to be caught by the artist. And it has to come in a painterly form. It can be anything — figurative or expressive.
On his small-format works
Why not do smaller works when ideas can be conveyed in a precise manner? It is a desire to do such small works. It is very fascinating to do in miniature form something which is so intense because on a bigger canvas you have too many things going on at the same time.
Bindu, for me, is to start a point of concentration. As it develops it is the one with immense possibilities, anant sambhavnaye … it can develop into several colours and circles. These are the things which have been there in the atmosphere. Instead of looking at superficial things, artists, filmmakers, musicians should look at such vital things. These are the things which are of great interest in life. Particularly, they are related to Indian culture of the past, its immense civilization that has lived for centuries so why not artistes think about it. I took 50 years to arrive at Bindu. My teacher had drawn it to make me concentrate. I didn’t understand it much then but the idea remained in my head.
On his geometrical forms
I liked geometry in school but didn’t like mathematics. As a visual form, a pictorial form, it meant a lot to me. You see, even ideas have to be structured. It entered my canvas in the ‘90s in an important manner.
On Indian thought
You have to see the essence of a painting. What is the essence of a painter’s pictorial research? The importance that I attach to Hindu thought… I call it Hindu thought because Indian thought is essentially dominated by Hindu thought. The Mahabharata starts with Panchtatva. These matters are important for a painter. My quest took a turn about 10-15 years ago and it is near the sources of Bindu and Panchtatva and Indian thought in general.
On Krishen Khanna
We are artists of the same period. Krishen was working in a bank and I advised him to try out painting. It took him four to five years to decide. It was a big decision. We used to talk about art, different ideas, literature. We have been regularly in touch.
(The exhibition will be on till March 28 at Vadehra Art Gallery in New Delhi.)