Syed Haider Raza (b. 1922)
- Syed Haider Raza
- Signed and dated 'Raza '72' lower right and inscribed 'RAZA/ 1972/ 160 x 189 cm/ TAPOVAN/ Acrylic on Canvas' on reverse
- Acrylic on canvas
'Raza remains characterized by the crossbreeding of the modernity of Europe and America and the spirituality of India. His evolution can be observed in the successive stages that structured his life: at every moment of his thought process, life, nature and their mysteries have been forever present.' (Imbert, 2003)
Throughout his career Raza has been influenced by the mystical power of nature. The elements and the potency of colors and symbols to represent these elements are central to the evolution of Raza’s artistic vocabulary. In the early years in France, Raza painted the landscapes of Europe in semi abstracted forms but with identifiable architectural features that provide a constant link to human activity but as his works progress these identifiable elements disappear.
In 1962 Raza moved to America to teach and during this period he came 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 had no formal construction or sense of spatial recession which allowed the artist greater autonomy over the pictorial space which inspired Raza to experiment in new ways. Raza’s own move to a less structured composition coincides with a change of medium from oil to acrylic which allowed him a greater freedom of expression, the medium itself allowing a less self conscious application of paint to the canvas and this approach results in more abstract yet fluid works.
The current work painted in 1972, a decade after Raza’s move to purer forms of abstraction represents the culmination of this period of experimentation. The title of the work Tapovan or Forest of Meditation is insightful, these abstract creations are no longer inspired by the French countryside but instead represent a visual expression of his own meditations, which are clearly inspired by the memories of his childhood in the forests of India. 'The most tenacious memory of my childhood is the fear and fascination of the Indian forest. We lived near the source of the Narmada river in the centre of the densest forests of Madhya Pradesh. 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. On the market-day, under the radiant sun, the village was a fairyland of colours. 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…' (Sen, 1997)
The forests, the mountains, the river, the sun and the earth serve as pictorial metaphors to express his intuitive understanding of a higher reality. The color harmonies that he uses relate back to Rajput and Jain painting and Raza claims that upon examining traditional painting, ‘he began to realise that the relevance of the painting was not only in the subject and the theme, but in a newly perceived formal order of color orchestration.’ (Sen, 1990)