Gandhi in Raza

1st – 31st March, 2017
at Akar Prakar Art Advisory, New Delhi

The iconic modern Indian painter Sayed Haider Raza returned from France to India, his homeland, to spend the last five-and-half years of his life and artistic career. Throughout his life Raza continued to feel deeply interested in the Gandhian ideals, inspired by the concepts of truth and peace. The image of the Mahatma remained etched in his mind since when he was 8 years old and he first saw Gandhiji. Towards the end of his life, in 2013, Raza painted a set of paintings by way of his tribute to the Mahatma and this exhibition Gandhi in Raza is an attempt to put together these artistic works in perspective and context.

A book, Gandhi in Raza is being released along with this show. Thinker Gopal Krishna Gandhi, also Gandhiji’s grandson, and Raza’s close poet-critic friend Ashok Vajpeyi have contributed to the volume with an essay each. The book also carries an essay written by the master artist Nandalal Bose to provide a historical perspective and to recall the deep interest the Mahatma had in arts.

Raza almost musically, certainly rhythmically, creates a Gandhi saptak through this set of works exploring the conceptual universe which the Mahatma created: Characteristically Raza inscribes on one of his works the last words the Mahatma uttered before he dropped dead to the bullets of his assassin and on the other a favourite hymn of the Mahatma, a verse by the medieval poet Narsi Mehta. Raza, following the footsteps of the Mahatma, had been coming back to the theme of ‘peace’ in many of his works over the years. Raza’s paintings here are a set of nirguna assertion about the saguna presence of Gandhiji, reminding us of the Mahatma’s choice of religious poetry including both saguna and nirguna verses. So here is the great master artist, Sayed Haider Raza, exploring some key concepts of the Mahatma in his own idiom, a rare series relating both to the subject—Mahatma, and the creator—Raza.

 

Sayed Haider Raza

S H Raza (1922–2016) studied painting in India and after receiving a French Government scholarship in 1950 he left for the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Raza was awarded the Prix de la Critique in Paris in 1956. Though he worked and lived in France for 60 years, he maintained strong ties with India only to return to India in 2010. He established the Raza Foundation, New Delhi in 2001. The Government of India awarded him the Padma Shree, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan besides being conferred with the Légion d’Honneur by the French Government. His works are mainly abstracts replete with references and icons from Indian cosmology and its philosophy. His life and works reflect the influence of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas and vision.