Saturday, December 22, 2012

‘Vistaar’ of a vibrant icon, sacred in its symbolism

Mumbai-based Art Musings presents a solo show of the veteran artist, S H Raza. Entitled ‘Vistaar’, it brings to the fore how his work is suffused with mystic aspects of Hindu philosophy.

In the course of a career spanning nearly seven decades, he has dedicated himself to a quest for vital forms that convey his earliest memories of landscape and cosmic expanse, language and silence. The circle or ‘Bindu’ has become more of an icon, sacred in its symbolism, and placing his work in an Indian context. It’s now more of an icon, sacred in its symbolism, and placing his work in an Indian context.

To Raza, painting is akin to the meditative practice of japa, the fully –engaged repetition of a mantra, until it is deepened and concentrated into a pathway of energy. Working with basic forms such as the point, the circle and the concentric diagram, he has pursued a pictorial japa as a means of approaching the deep sources of the self.

Raza studied painting at the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai (1946- 48). One among the founder members of the Progressive Artists’ Group, he went on a scholarship in 1950 to the Ecole National des Beaux-Arts in Paris till 1953. The world-renowned artist has participated in various landmark exhibitions including the Venice Biennale, 1956; Sao Paulo Biennale, 1958; John Moore’s Exhibition, Liverpool, 1958; First Triennale, New Delhi, 1968; Salon De Mai, Grand Palais, Paris, 1989, International Bienniale e Dakar, Senegal, 1992, and Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan, 2000, among others.

His art lends itself to such a quest for intensity: the compass of its scale meets the eye in an intimate encounter; the linear stroke, the chromatic pitch and the unspoken sound explode, not at the distance set by the frame, but within our minds. In his favored vocabulary of motifs, alongside cosmic references as the bija or seed, the bindu or focal source, the divya-chakshu or inner eye, and the kalpa vriksha or cosmic tree, the artist also dwells on the twinned nagas, the interlocking serpents emblematic of regeneration, and the yoni, the locus of the female principle.

His images are improvisations on an essential theme: that of the mapping out of a metaphorical space in the mind.

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