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The Indian Express | What we Love about S. H. Raza

Written by Benita Fernando | Mumbai |
March 4, 2022 5:00:49 pm

Ajay Piramal, chairman, Piramal Group

I find Raza’s artworks meditative. There is a painting by Raza in our collection, which is the largest he has ever done, called the Naad Bindu. Although it is executed in shades of grey, the more I look at it, the more vibrant and colourful it seems. The concentric circles of the paintings also seem to vibrate a positive energy, which is very refreshing. I also like Raza’s sense of colour in all his paintings, be it the works from his early days in Paris or his later works from the 80s. Each time I look at his works I find something new in them. His paintings give me a sense of calm and the colours make me happy.


Snehal Tambulwadikar-Khedkar, faculty, Sir JJ School of Art

I saw Raza’s geometric abstractions first as a student. I resonated with his art, especially the Rajasthan series. I had seen these bright warm abstractions often, but when I travelled to Rajasthan, these paintings danced before my eyes. I could see the colours, the horizon lines and monochromes of architecture giving form to the vastness of the desert from his paintings in Jaisalmer; the oranges and yellows and reds in the pickles, the clothing that fluttered in the desert breeze in fluid patches; and I fell in love with the series. It was no more an abstraction, but a resonating sensorial experience, the pulse of the city.

I find this series the most suitable to share in art history classes. Academic study generally begins with learning to identify forms, and a parallel practice of on-the-spot landscapes. Students often get attached to the logical identities of objects they see and replicate them in their works. They eventually need to learn to express their sensorial reactions to what they see. Simply put, the essence of the scene and why they were attracted to paint it. Raza’s Rajasthan series exemplifies this so well, it represents the essence without being literal.


Sangeeta Raghavan, gallerist, Art Musings

I had the good fortune of being closely associated with Raza, first through his art and then with the artist himself. He gave me my first solo exhibition when I had just joined the gallery and since then his guidance was a big part of our gallery’s journey. We went on to do several exhibitions with him on his return to India.

Vistaar was his first solo on his return to India in 2012, which we had the honour of presenting at Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai, the city that Raza considered the place of his artistic birth. I remember before he walked up the stairs of the gallery, he knelt and touched the steps with reverence. Such was he as a person, full of respect and gratitude.

I remember with fondness our visits to his wonderful home in Gorbio in the south of France as well as innumerable trips to Paris, enjoying his vast collection of art, books and antiquities. What I loved most was to go through his diaries. He wrote in English, Hindi and French, his influences came from varied sources and he imbibed all of it in his works. And to be privy to watch him at work both at his studios in France and back in his beloved India was a privilege.


Sayali Mundye, independent curator

Raza’s watercolour and gouache landscapes of Bombay hold a special place in my heart. They are different from his Benaras watercolours or the Kashmir gouache landscapes, even though these were created in the same decade and using similar mediums. It is the mystique and connection with the city that gets me in these Bombay landscapes.

I often wonder about artists and the sites they painted from and what their set-up would look like, did they carry pigments and mediums, what time of the day mattered to them, was it accessible… I remember smiling randomly while walking past Flora Fountain one day because I remembered the painting. With Raza, it’s two that make me ponder: the bird’s eye view of Flora Fountain and Malabar Hill. These paintings capture fleeting notions of a city, as if the artist left behind sealed pockets of that time and place, of a Bombay beyond my reach, one that I can only daydream about.


Manish Pushkale, trustee, Raza Foundation

Raza started his career with his interest and inclination towards capturing the vanishing point in his paintings, but, slowly, gradually, he moved towards the depiction of his point of views, where centrality of viewing slowly has displaced the locality of the seeing. His painterly vision went against prevalent beliefs and the practices of imitating the world we see. To me, this is one of his greatest creative contributions. His presence in my conscience is like a bookmark, a reminder, which divides the folios of painting and picture making.

After Rabindranath Tagore, we should analyse and highlight Raza’s philanthropic contribution in the same light. Since the last two decades, the Raza Foundation has played an important role in establishing a holistic connection between meanings and art practice. Raza’s philanthropy in today’s time literally became a foundation for many new as well as prevailing institutions.


RB Holle, artist

When I was in college, we studied lots of artists—Gaitonde, Hussain, Raza. I studied in Pune and I wasn’t very connected to Mumbai. I had never come to Mumbai but we were knowledgeable of the painters who were from Mumbai. When I saw Raza’s paintings, I was shocked. The use of colour. It was so fresh. His Bindu form. The abstraction. He added poetry verses. I began to understand his paintings. The Bindu was calming and I loved looking at it.

I had seen Raza at exhibitions, where at least one or many of his works would be there. I never had the courage to go up to him and introduce myself. After I graduated, I had the fortune of meeting him. He was happy to see my work. He bought one of my works and with that money, I was able to buy more art material. It felt good that one of India’s topmost painters spoke so nicely to a fresh graduate like me.