This evening I grabbed a colourful opportunity to behold the paintings of Syed Haider Raza at Amdavad ni Gufa. I am neither an Art critic nor a student of fine Arts. I’m just me, a layman. So, I’d tell you about these visuals, the way I saw it.
Relation of Raza and the Bindu
Way back in school, at the age of 12, on the insistence of a school teacher, Raza concentrated on a dot to calm down the inner restlessness. It was then that his fascination for Bindu (a dot) was rooted into his mind. And quite later, when he wanted to find a new direction and deeper authenticity in his work, Bindu came forth. It was a result of his trips to India, especially to caves of Ajanta and Ellora, followed by those to Benaras, Gujarat and Rajasthan that made him realize his role and study Indian culture more closely. Bindu has been his favourite theme ever since.
The Art that leads you to yourself
What I love about his works is that in spite of being a contemporary painter, he seeks inspiration from his roots. The revolutionary Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group that he co-founded set out to break free from the influences of European realism in Indian art and bring Indian inner vision (Antar gyan) into the art soon after independence. And he is still going strong at the age of 94! Kudos to you sir!
“Long ago, when I began, I stated that abstraction in rooted in Tribhanga. The three primary colours form a definition of nature’s identity. Tribhanga is tradition.
I am always wanting to reach back into the past to recall the connection of our ancient history with the patterns of the present.”
What I saw in Raza’s Bindu
The word tribhanga, him working on three basic colours and his ardour for Indian inner vision enabled me to see the manifestation of three Gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas into these paintings. These three Gunas are the three properties belonging to all created things according to Indian Philosophy. While not going deeper into these constituents of nature, I’d like to quote these three shlokas of the Bhagvat Gita that narrate three types of knowledge represented as Sattvika, Rajasik and Tamasik Gyan.
सर्वभूतेषु येनैकं भावमव्ययमीक्षते ।
अविभक्तं विभक्तेषु तज्ज्ञानं विद्धि सात्त्विकम् ॥१८-२०॥
The knowledge whereby one eternal nature is perceived in all beings, undivided though beings are divided, know that knowledge to be of Substance (Sattva).
पृथक्त्वेन तु यज्ज्ञानं नानाभावान्पृथग्विधान् ।
वेत्ति सर्वेषु भूतेषु तज्ज्ञानं विद्धि राजसम् ॥१८-२१॥
But the knowledge which sees in all beings various natures according to their variety, know that knowledge to be of Passion (Rajas).
यत्तु कृत्स्नवदेकस्मिन्कार्ये सक्तमहैतुकम् ।
अतत्त्वार्थवदल्पं च तत्तामसमुदाहृतम् ॥१८-२२॥
But the knowledge which attaches itself to one thing, as though that were the whole, lacking the right motive, without true perception, narrow, know that to be of Darkness (Tamas).
p.s. – When I was looking at the painting and making something out it, I did not know that he is awarded the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. As well as the highest French civilian honour, the Commandeur de la Legion d’honneur (Legion of Honour), where he lives.
(Photographs of S F Raza’s painting displayed in this blog post are clicked by me with the kind permission of the art gallery Amdavad ni Gufa. And the photo of Raza is taken from Google, the great.)