Syed Haider Raza (b. 1922)
- Syed Haider Raza
- Signed and dated 'Raza 64' lower middle and signed, dated and inscribed 'RAZA/ P_558 ' 64/ "Olivier"/ 30F' on reverse
- Oil on canvas
- 36 1/8 by 28 5/8 in. (91.7 by 72.6 cm.)
'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.' (Michel Imbert, Raza: An Introduction to his Painting, New Delhi, 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, allowing 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 titled "Olivier" or Olive Tree, painted in 1964 a few years after Raza’s move to purer forms of abstraction, represents part of this early period of experimentation. The work is clearly still inspired by the olive groves of Southern France but the forms are abstracted beyond immediately identifiable features. These deconstructed landscapes 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.’ (Geeti Sen, Bindu: Space and Time in Raza's Vision, New Delhi, 1990).