The 1960s marked a shift in Raza’s paintings from his earlier semi-abstracted French landscapes towards a more pure abstract style. The impulses leading to this change were two-fold. His visit to the United States in 1962 brought him into contact with the New York school of painters and he witnessed for the first time the Abstract Expressionism of such artists as Sam Francis, Rothko and Pollock. Pollock’s works in particular left a deep impression upon Raza since their lack of formal construction allowed the artist to experiment freely with pictorial space. Raza’s move towards less structured compositions coincided with a change of medium from oil to acrylic which allowed him a greater freedom in the application of paint and resulted in the creation of more abstract yet fluid works.
The current canvas painted in 1971, almost a decade after Raza’s move to purer forms of abstraction, represents the climax of this period of experimentation. The title of the work, La Nuit, is insightful, as it clearly seems to be inspired by the memories of his childhood spent in the dense forests of Madhya Pradesh in Central India. In the artist’s words, 'the most tenacious memory of my childhood is the fear and fascination of the Indian forest... Nights in the forest were hallucinatory; sometimes the only humanizing influence was the dancing of the Gond tribes. Day break brought back a sentiment of security and well-being…And then, the night again. Even today I find that these two aspects of my life dominate me and are an integral part of my painting.’ (Raza rpt. Yashodhara Dalmia, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, 2001, p. 155). These abstract creations may be interpreted as a representation of the artist's meditations on this inherent duality of nature, orchestrated in color harmonies of dark and bright tones.
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