4.2 Reading Works of Art

Sayed Haider Raza

Sayed Haider Raza, popularly known as Raza, was a renowned Indian artist. Simple geometric shapes, striking colour combinations, captivating compositions – these are some of the characteristic features of his paintings, and so are the colours blue and orange. You will find them in almost all his paintings. None of his paintings depict lifelike human figures or copies of scenes from his environment. His paintings belong to the abstract style of paintings. Such paintings are not inspired by any external factor. They originate when the artist tries to peep into his own inner mind. They are made by arranging circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, lines, dots in different compositions using effective techniques of applying paint, attractive colour combinations, achieving balance in some places and creating imbalance in other places.

Raza found his paintings through his study of Indian art and its heritage, cultural context and philosophy. His pictures seem to radiate peace and life at the same time. We realise that the painting is a visible form of very deep thought. Very few abstract paintings communicate with the viewers as much as Raza’s do.

Raza was born in a small village in Madhya Pradesh. He began to paint from the age of twelve. He studied art at the ‘Chitrakala Mahavidyalaya’ at Nagpur and then at the J. J. School of Art in Mumbai. Later, he went to France to study Art. After a few years, he decided to settle in France. His wife was French. He won many national and international awards. He was honoured with all the three Padma awards – Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. With all the awards and honours, his paintings were exploring a spiritual, metaphysical path. Gradually, the ‘bindu’ or point came to be the core of his paintings. He described his work in these words – ‘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’.

Sometimes, an artist’s thoughts appear to be too complex or even complicated when they are expressed through words. For him, the effective medium of communication is his work – his paintings. Raza had great creativity. His paintings are very expressive. This great artist passed away on 23 July 2016 at the age of 94, leaving behind a legacy of sensitive paintings (achieved through extra-ordinary compositions of lines and colours) that depict extra-ordinary compositions.

Gond Art is a tribal art. It has been developed and preserved by the Gond tribal people residing largely in the Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha States of India. From their traditional tales and mythology, we learn that they have lived in India for thousands of years even before the other inhabitants came here. The Gondi language is similar to Telugu, a Dravidian language.

Gond art has spread mainly in Central India. Originally, people used to draw pictures on the earthen walls of their houses. Most folk arts involve natural techniques of preparing colours and use of several mediums. They are transferred from generation to generation in a smoothly flowing process. Gond art is no exception to this. A house decorated with beautiful pictures creates a pleasant atmosphere. Also, art is a medium of recording and preserving what is seen.

 In folk arts, you yourself prepare the ‘canvas’ – the surface on which to draw and the colours with which you draw. That is why creating folk art is a very enriching experience. This richness is reflected in the choice of their medium. In the days of past, several things in nature such as soils of different shades, the juice of plants, leaves, tree bark, flowers, fruits and even things like coal and cow-dung were used to prepare colours. The different colours, various textures and patterns were used year after year, lending a simplicity to the art. When we see these pictures, we realise that a picture drawn this way or the other can look equally beautiful. What a deep thought this art conveys – and so easily !

In the Gond style of art, we see that the outlines may vary a little from artist to artist but the designs that fill it make the whole picture look lively and attractive. The designs include simple textures achieved using dots, straight lines, dotted lines, curvy shapes and circles. Special attention is given to the choice of various colours so that the total effect is amazing and beautiful.

 In today’s age of commercialisation many men have taken up Gond art. But the roots of folk arts probably lie in women’s daily chores like cleaning and decorating the house, dealing with natural colours in the course of cooking and in their leisure time activities.

– Abha Bhagwatn