S.H. Raza, Indian Modernist (1922 — 2016)

“Bindu is a source of energy, a still center, a point of radiation. It has immense visual possibilities.” (Syed Haider Raza)

Syed Haider Raza, one of India’s greatest painters of modern art and the last surviving member of the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG) in 1947, died July 23, 2016 at the age of 94. Members of PAG, all dedicated to developing an Indian visual vocabulary in response to the prevailing European realist influence, included: S.H. Raza, M.F. Husain, K.H. Ara, H.A. Gade, S.K. Bakre, and Francis Newton Souza.

S.H. Raza succeeded in integrating formal Western modern art concepts, particularly geometric abstraction, with traditional Indian Hindu and Muslim metaphysical symbols of spirituality, creating a uniquely Indian Progressive art. After early expressionist works, usually landscapes, his style turned toward abstraction. The one constant throughout his artistic journey was a rich and vibrant color palette. Frequent themes explored by Raza in his instantly recognizable abstractions include prakriti (nature), kundalini (primal energy), tribhuj (triangle) and most significantly, bindu (circle/dot).

The artist was the recipient of the Padma Shri, the Padma Bhushan, the Padma Vibhushan and the Legion of Honour (the highest honour awarded to civilians by the French government). Raza was also a fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi, India’s national academy of fine art in New Delhi.

— Jules Cavanaugh


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