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Artist S. H. Raza

S. H. Raza (1922 - 2016)

Syed Haider Raza alias S. H. Raza (born 22 February 1922) is an Indian artist who has lived and worked in France since 1950, but maintained strong ties with India.His works are mainly abstracts in oil or acrylic, with a very rich use of color, replete with icons from Indian cosmology as well as its philosophy. He was awarded the Padma Shri and Fellowship of the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1981, Padma Bhushan in 2007 and Padma Vibhushan in 2013.

Syed Haider Raza - Early life and education

Syed Haider Raza was born in Babaria, Mandla district, Madhya Pradesh, to Sayed Mohammed Razi, the Deputy Forest Ranger of the district and Tahira Begum and it was here that he spent his early years and took to drawing at age 12; before moving to Damoh also in Madhya Pradesh at 13, where he completed his school education from Government High School, Damoh.

After high school, he studied further at the Nagpur School of Art, Nagpur (1939–43), followed by Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai (1943–47) before moving to France in October 1950 to study at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSB-A), Paris, 1950-1953 on a Govt. of France scholarship. After his studies, he travelled across Europe, and continued to live and exhibit his work in Paris. He was later awarded the Prix de la critique in Paris in 1956, becoming the first non-French artist to receive the honour.

Raza - Early Career

Syed Haider Raza, had his first solo show in 1946 at Bombay Art Society Salon, and was awarded the Silver Medal of the society.

His work evolved from painting landscapes to abstract ones. From his fluent water colours of landscapes and townscapes executed in the early 40's he moved towards a more expressive language painting landscapes of the mind.

1947 proved to be a very important year for him, at first his mother died, and this was also the year when he co-founded the revolutionary Bombay Progressive Artists' Group (PAG) (1947–1956) along with K. H. Ara and F. N. Souza (Francis Newton Souza), which set out to break free from the influences of European realism in Indian art and bring Indian inner vision (Antar gyan) into the art, the group had its first show in 1948, the year his father died in Mandla and most of his family of four brothers and a sister migrated to Pakistan, after the partition of India.
Once in France, he continued to experiment with currents of Western Modernism moving from Expressionist modes towards greater abstraction and eventually incorporating elements of Tantrism from Indian scriptures. Whereas his fellow contemporaries dealt with more figural subjects, Raza chose to focus on landscapes in the 1940s and 50s, inspired in part by a move to France.

In 1959, he married French artist Janine Mongillat, and three years later, in 1962, he became a visiting lecturer at the University of California in Berkeley, USA. Raza was initially enamored of the bucolic countryside of rural France. Eglise is part of a series which captures the rolling terrain and quaint village architecture of this region. Showing a tumultuous church engulfed by an inky blue night sky, Raza uses gestural brushstrokes and a heavily impasto-ed application of paint, stylistic devices which hint at his later 1970s abstractions.

The 'Bindu' and beyond

By the 1970s Raza had grown increasingly unhappy and restless with his own work and wanted to find a new direction and deeper authenticity in his work, and move away from what he called the 'plastic art'. His trips to India, especially to caves of Ajanta - Ellora, followed by those to Benaras, Gujarat and Rajasthan, made him realise his ro and study Indian culture more closely, the result was 'Bindu', which signified his rebirth as a painter. The Bindu came forth in 1980, and took his work deeper and brought in his new-found Indian vision and Indian ethnography. One of the reasons he attributes to the origin of the 'Bindu', has been his elementary school teacher, who on finding him lacking adequate concentration, drew a dot on the blackboard and asked him to concentrate on it.

After the introduction of 'Bindu' (a point or the source of energy), he added newer dimensions to his thematic oeuvre in the following decades, with the inclusion of themes around the Tribhuj (Triangle), which bolstered Indian concepts of space and time, as well as that of 'prakriti-purusha' (the female and the male energy), his transformation from an expressionist to a master of abstraction and profundity, was complete.
"My work is my own inner experience and involvement with the mysteries of nature and form which is expressed in colour, line, space and light". - S. H. Raza "

The unique energy vibrating with colour in his early landscapes are now more subtle but equally, if not more, dynamic. Raza abandoned the expressionistic landscape for a geometric abstraction and the 'Bindu'. Raza perceives the Bindu as the center of creation and existence progressing towards forms and colour as well as energy, sound, space and time.
His work took another leap in 2000, when he began to express his increasingly deepened insights and thoughts on Indian spirituality, and created works around the Kundalini, Nagas and the Mahabharata.

Awards :
  • 2015 : Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur (the Legion of Honour), Republic of France
  • 2015 : D Litt (Honoris Causa), Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh
  • 2014 : D Litt (Honoris Causa), Indira Kala Sangit Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh, Chhattisgarh
  • 2013 : Padma Vibhushan, The Government of India
  • 2013 : One of the greatest living global Indian legends ... NDTV INDIA
  • 2007 : Padma Bhushan, The Government of India
  • 1981 : Padma Shri, The Government of India
  • 1981 : Fellowship of the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi
  • 1981 : Kalidas Samman, Government of Madhya Pradesh
  • 1956 : Prix de la critique, Paris
  • 1948: Gold Medal, Bombay Art Society, Mumbai
  • 1946 : Silver Medal, Bombay Art Society, Mumbai
Exhibitions :
  • 2016 : Nirantar, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata
  • 2015 : Galerie Lara Vincy, Paris, "RAZA : Paintings"
  • 2015 : Akar Prakar, Kolkata, "Aarambh – RAZA at 93"
  • 2015 : Art Musings, Mumbai, "Aarambh @ 93 : Solo Show of SH RAZA"
  • 2014 : Grosvenor Vadehra, London, "SH RAZA - Pyaas"
  • 2014 : Sovereign FZE, Dubai, "RAZA : Paysage, Select Works 1950s – 1970s"
  • 2014 : Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, "SH RAZA- Parikrama - Around Gandhi"
  • 2013 : Akar Prakar, Kolkata, "Shabd- bindu – A show of recent works by SH RAZA & poetry by Ashok Vajpeyi"
  • 2013 : Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, "Antardhwani"
  • 2012 : ICIA, The Art Trust, Mumbai, "SH RAZA - Solo Show"
  • 2012 : Art Musings, Mumbai, "SH RAZA : Vistaar"
  • 2012 : Grosvenor Gallery, London, "Bindu Vistaar"
  • 2011 : Vadehra Art Gallery & Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, "SH RAZA, Punaraagman"
  • 2010 : Flora Jansem Gallery, Raza Ceramiques, Paris
  • 2010 : Akar Prakar Art Gallery,Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Jaipur INDIA in 2010
  • 2008 : Art Alive Gallery, Delhi, INDIA
  • 2008 : View Exhibition Magnificent Seven at Art Alive Gallery
  • 1997 : Roopankar Museum of Fine Arts, Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal
  • 1997 : Jehangir Art Gallery Mumbai
  • 1997 : National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi
  • 1994 : The Art Rental Corporate, Group Michael Ferrier, Échirolles, Grenoble
  • 1992 : Jehangir Nicholson Museum, National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai
  • 1992 : Courses Arts Lalouvesc, France
  • 1991 : Gallery Eterso, Cannes Retrospective: 1952-91, Palazzo Carnoles
  • 1991 : Museum of Menton, France
  • 1990 : Chemould Gallery, Bombay
  • 1988 : Chemould Gallery, Bombay; Koloritten Galleri, Stavanger, Norway
  • 1987 : The Head of the artist, Grenoble
  • 1985 : Galerie Pierre Parat, Paris
  • 1984 : Chemould Gallery, Bombay
  • 1982 : Gallery Loeb, Bern, Switzerland; Gallery JY Noblet, Grenoble
  • 1980 : Galleriet, Oslo
  • 1976 Mumbai, Gallery Chemould at the Jehangir Art Gallery, RAZA, 26 February – 1 March 1976
  • 1975 Sanremo, Galleria Matuzia, RAZA, 4 – 31 October 1975
  • 1969 Paris, Galerie Lara Vincy, RAZA : Peintures Recentes, 27 November 1969 – 5 January 1970
  • 1968 Bombay, Gallery Chemould, RAZA, 15 – 27 April 1968
  • 1968 Toronto, Gallery Dresdnere, RAZA – Recent Oil Paintings, 25 October – 9 November 1968
  • 1968 Cologne, Dom Galerie, Sayed Haider RAZA, 26 March – 4 May 1968
  • 1967 Paris, Galerie Lara Vincy, 1967
  • 1966 Dusseldorf, Tecta Galerie, RAZA – Paris : 25 Oil Paintings from 1962- 1966, 6 October – 10 November 1966
  • 1963 Cologne, Dom Galerie, RAZA, June – July 1963
  • 1964 Paris, Galerie Lara Vincy, RAZA : Peintures récentes, 18 November 1964 – 10 January 1965
  • 1962 Galerie Dresdnere, Montreal
  • 1962 Galerie Lara Vincy, Paris, RAZA, 15 July 1962
  • 1961 Paris, Galerie Lara Vincy, RAZA, 19 April - 18 May 1961
  • 1960 Montreal, Galerie Dresdnere , Autumn 1960
  • 1959 Montreal, Galerie Dresdnere, RAZA : Peintures et Gouaches, 5th – 19th MAY 1959
  • 1958 Galerie Lara Vincy, Paris, "Raza - Prix de la Critique 1956. Peintures et gouaches" (April–May)
  • 1956 Galerie Saint-Placide, Paris, "Raza"
  • 1950 Charles Petrat's Institute of foreign Languages, Mumbai (september)
  • 1950 The IFL International Centre, Bombay, "SH Raza: Farewell Exhibition of Paintings" (september)
  • 1948 Exhibition Hall, New Delhi, "Raza: 100 paintings of Kashmir", organised by Rudolf Von Leyden, (september)
  • 1947 Bombay Art Society, "Raza's Watercolour Landscapes", (november)
  • 1946 First solo exhibition at the Bombay Art Society Salon
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