PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN
Acrylic on canvas
39 5/8 x 39 5/8 in. (100.7 x 100.7 cm.)
Signed and dated 'RAZA 76' lower right and further signed, dated and inscribed 'RAZA 1976 / 100 X 100 cms' on reverse
Acquired by the previous owner from Gallery Chemould, Mumbai.
When speaking of the change in his artistic vision in the early 1970s, Raza states '...The aim to construct a "tangible" world receded. In its place there was a preoccupation with evoking the essence, the mood of places and of people... They were expressed through emotive colours and forms... Memory began to play a role in recalling the experience and mood of a situation. Instead of being constructions, my paintings from the 1970s are more gestural in technique and expression. In terms of colour too, they are expressionistic. The spontaneity was new and compulsive- I let the canvas grow...' (The artist in conversation with Geeti Sen, Bindu: Space and Time in Raza's Vision, New Delhi, 1997, p. 59)
The works from the 1970s see Raza return to his motherland for inspiration. This symbolic return to India was coupled with a change in medium. After making the transition from gouache to oil paint in the late 1950s and experimenting thoroughly with all the decadent textural possibilities the medium offered, Raza switched to acrylic paint at this time. This change was reflective of the visual transformations that occurred simultaneously in his work. The quick-drying, fluid acrylics allowed him to fully exploit the free-flowing, gestural brushstrokes he employed to successfully capture the depths of restrained energy and burnished colours, so evocative of the Madhya Pradesh forests where he spent his youth.
By this time, unlike the works of the previous decade, Raza's landscapes no longer represented a specific location. Rather, they relied expressly on brushstrokes and colours to communicate the overall mood of the painting, a direct result of the time he spent in the United States in the 1960s, observing the gestural art of the New York Expressionists. When recalling the Indian landscape, Raza drew much inspiration from the traditional use of colours in Indian miniature painting, specifically Pahari and Rajasthan, and was deeply influenced by the traditions of ragamala paintings when defining his aesthetic choices. The integration of poetry, music and painting within his creations was important for him, not for their narrative content, but for the 'abstraction of elements to create a "mood" which invokes participation from the viewer.' (ibid. ,p. 99) All three lent a 'raw sensibility and passion' to his gestural paintings.
These aspects of Indian art history, coupled with Sanskrit and Urdu poetry, energised his mind, and the colours of his canvas become a metaphor for India. Colours take on an emotive content and his specific choice of palette relates to the emotional experience he is hoping to capture on the canvas. The dark browns and blacks in the current work recall the richness of the forests and the dark nights that were very much a part of Raza's childhood growing up in the forests of Madhya Pradesh. They lived in the densest part, where 'nights in the forest were hallucinating... daybreak brought about a sentiment of security and well-being. On market-day, under the radiant sun, the village was a fairyland of colours. And then, the night again.' It is one aspect of this 'duality of experience' of day and night that is captured in the current work. 'His gestural treatment inducts the layering of raw emotions, expressed through colours and through images which seem ephemeral - as fleeting emanations of form resurrected from the past.' (Geeti Sen, ibid., p. 88)
The combined effect of all these various influences is a canvas that resonates with the deep, rich tones of the Indian night, its all-encompassing darkness broken with the promise of a new dawn that slowly emerges in the lower right, communicated through a lighter palette of orange, yellow, and red, that will eventually envelop the entire canvas and symbolise the start of a new day. 'Raza is a painter's painter. In his art, the Indian palette triumphs over the avant-garde image... he is interested in the life of colour and the life he can depict through colour.' (Richard Bartholomew, requoted in 'Remembering Raza', The Deccan Herald, 5 August, 2017)
The colours of the original are considerably lighter and brighter than the main catalogue illustration. The range of tonal contrasts is greater in the original with blacks deeper in tone and reds richer and brighter. The catalogue detail is more accurate to the original but still the tones of the original appear brighter. The painting has been strip lined. Four hairline abrasions to the paint surface have been retouched and fluoresce under UV light. The first is an approximately 6 cm. line of retouching in the dark horizontal band along the upper edge of the painting. The second is a 5 cm. diagonal line in the centre of the upper third of the painting. The third is an approximately 9 cm. line along the lower border towards the left corner of the painting. The final S-shaped abrasion is on the left edge of the canvas. Although clearly visible under UV light, these areas of retouching are not visible to the naked eye. Good overall condition.
About The Artist:
SAYED HAIDER RAZA (1922-2016)
AUCTION DATE: Aug 6, 2020 at 6:30pm IST