vibrant abstract painting of Sienne Port by S.H. Raza

S.H. Raza, Sienne Port, Oil on canvas; 1960. Image courtesy: Piramal Museum of Art

The first major exhibition of Sayed Haider Raza since his death in 2016, S.H. Raza: Traversing Terrains explores five decades of the painter’s work from the early 1940s to the late 1990s, tracing his development and influence as both artist and philosopher.

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abstract painting of a church against a yellow sky by S.H Raza

S.H Raza; Eglise et Calvaire Breton; Oil on Canvas; 1956. Image courtesy: Piramal Museum of Art

‘The most tenacious memory of my childhood is the fear and fascination of Indian forests,’ Raza said in an interview 2001. ‘We lived near the source of the Narmada river in the centre of the dense forests of Madhya Pradesh. Nights in the forests were hallucinating; sometimes the only humanising influence was the dancing of the Gond tribes…’

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As such, the scenes Raza often depicts are full of life, movement, memory, Indian iconography, nature, philosophy, music and poetry. They’re otherworldly, sometimes strange and chaotic, sometimes precise and ordered, fusing together the landscapes of France (where he lived after being awarded painting scholarship at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris) with the feverish colours and unique aesthetics of India.

Abstract painting of a coastal town by Indian modernist painter S.H.Raza

S.H. Raza; Benares; 1944; Watercolour on paper. Image courtesy: Piramal Museum of Art

In 1947 ( the same year that India gained independence), Raza co-founded the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group, advocating an avant-garde style (Fauvist colours, Cubist forms, Expressionist brushwork) with Indian subject matters and themes.

This expansive retrospective provides an intriguing and important insight not only into the artist’s career and life, but also into the progression of Mumbai’s art scene.

‘S.H. Raza: Traversing Terrains’ runs until 28 October 2018 at the Piramal Museum of Art, Mumbai. For more information on the exhibition visit piramalmuseum.com/exhibitions/current/sh-raza-traversing-terrains