Les Lumieres de la Ville
Les Lumieres de la Ville
Oil on canvas
51 ¼ x 38 ¼ in. (130 x 97 cm.)
Signed, dated and inscribed ‘”P-477’’63/ F60’ on reverse
Galerie Lara Vinci, Paris
A. Macklin ed., S.H. Raza Catalogue Raissone 1958-1971 (Volume 1), New Delhi, 2016, p. 100, P477, illustrated.
The title of this large, impressive landscape from 1963 literally translates to Lights of the City. While it may refer to a cityscape in spirit and memory, the work itself has lost all vestiges of representation and is instead a testament to Raza’s ability to manipulate colour to create a surface that radiates with energy and light.
In 1962 Raza had the opportunity to visit California and teach for a few months at the University of California at Berkeley. By his own admission, the visit to the United States, and its resulting exposure to the revolutionary changes that were taking place in the artistic community on both the East and West coasts, had a profound impact on his work. ‘In California I found that I shared affinities with the work and ideas of Hans Hofmann. There I discovered the works of Sam Francis and of Mark Rothko, which came as a revelation. Discussions with some of the professors and painters in Berkeley stimulated me, both in matters of technique and theory.’ (Conversation with S.H. Raza, Geeti Sen, Bindu: Space and Time in Raza’s Vision, New Delhi, 1997, p. 57)
Of the artists he met, Raza found a shared purpose with Hans Hofmann, an artist who ‘based his theories on a belief in the universal laws which governed both nature and art…’ (ibid., p. 75) Hofmann worked on the principle that ‘pictorial space’ or the space of the canvas was, in fact a two-dimensional space, distinct from the world around us. This difference allowed for the existence of a ‘spiritual reality on the canvas’, thereby creating a new dimension through the act of painting. This is further understood through his theory on the effects colour has on human beings. ‘The creative possibilities of colour are not limited to plastic expression… the reciprocal relation of colour to colour produces a phenomenon of a more mysterious order. This new phenomenon is psychological. A high sensitivity is required in order to expand colour into the sphere of the surreal without losing creative ground. Colour stimulates certain moods in us. It awakens joy or fear in accordance with its configurations. In fact, the whole world as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of colour. Our entire being is nourished by it. This mystic quality of colour should likewise find expression in a work of art.’ (ibid., p. 76)
The ideas expressed above did find resonance with Raza’s artistic philosophy, as it was around this time that most recognisable elements disappear from his canvas. Whereas his earlier works used vibrant brushstrokes and thick impasto paint to create semi-abstract works with hints of houses, mountains and trees, the works of this period have lost all semblance of forms. They rely entirely upon the pulsating, energetic brushstrokes and distinctive use of colour to communicate the artist’s message. The mood of the painting takes precedence over the subject depicted. The title of the work may indeed help in establishing a context or evoking particular memories for both artist and viewer, but it is entirely dependent on the formal aspects of the painting- the brushstrokes and the colours, to create the mood and a positive viewing experience. ‘It is the brushstroke which now assumes importance, to create this mood. The vibrancy of colour becomes a sensuous and physical presence, applied with a boldness that defies the need for subject matter – and for all else that mattered in a painting… Having imbibed the modernism of Europe, be brings to this the underpinnings of another realm of colour sensation. He now allows the first impression to be filtered through his emotions. Returning to that statement made by Hofmann, Raza’s paintings are no more formal constructions; the now exude that powerful combination which is described by Hans Hofmann as that “harmony of heart and mind”.’ (ibid., pp. 76-79)
# Import duty at 10.3% will be added to the hammer price, and, applicable VAT / CST will be charged on the total amount of the hammer price plus the duty.
About The Artist:
SYED HAIDER RAZA (1922 - 2016)