Artist S.H. Raza moved to Bombay (Mumbai) in 1943, a year after the Quit India Movement, and developed a language that was autobiographical and yet global. (Photo taken in 2011 by Chetan Nikam/Wikimedia Commons 4.0)
Ashvin E. Rajagopalan, director of the Piramal Art Foundation, recently curated in Mumbai an exhibition of 40 ‘never-before-seen’ works showcasing S.H. Raza’s artistic journey from 1944 to 2005. Of particular interest are the works done by Raza from his time in Bombay from 1943 to 1950, doubly significant because the artist was one of the members of the Progressive Artists Group along with F.N. Souza, M.F. Husain, V.S. Gaitonde, Akbar Padamsee, S.K. Bakre, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta and others.
These artists were on the brink of creating new pluralistic art for a new India, borrowing from other styles, especially Western, and reflecting the politics of the land. Raza, who had moved to Bombay in 1943, a year after the Quit India Movement, developed a language that was autobiographical and yet, global.
Talking of the ‘universality’ of a Raza painting, Rajagopalan said, “Raza constantly pursued a global understanding of modern art. He opened a gateway and created a continuous dialogue between people in India and Europe. This is a lesson young artists today should learn. You may paint something that resonated with you in your village, but how will I explain it to a collector in Mumbai, Iran or London? You should learn to expand your ability to communicate beyond your own little bubble. That’s why a Picasso resonates with the world. Or a Raza. They speak a global language. You don’t need to explain circles and squares and tantra and bindu.”