EXHIBITION - S. H. Raza (Jun 16-Jul 30, 2005) :

For some years Raza has been primarily occupied with an extraordinary series of meditative symbolic paintings, using linear structures to simplify the elements of the universe and the key components of our lives. In conventional art-speak one could describe them as 'geometric abstraction' but as a description of his genius this does not come close to interpreting the conception and evolution of these paintings, and the fundamental spiritual dimension to them.

During a visit to his studio, Raza describes the essential process of contemplation of the blank canvas, the establishment of the first crucial mark, the Bindu point, and then the gradual unravelling of the structure like the blossoming of a perfect flower, in musical terms a composition based on a sequence of statements in harmony and counterpoint. The artist aptly describes the lines that provide a structural framework to each composition as quivering like the leaves on a tree. At the epicentre of many of these paintings is a dark, blank void. Emanating from this inner core the forms and shapes are like veins, energising and giving life to the painting. The viewer begins a visual journey outwards from this centre, a journey through the elements of life itself.

Raza explains that at the heart of this unique visual language lie the five key symbols of fire and water, earth, wind and sky, brought together within a geometric framework that also contains signifiers of fertility and fruitfulness, all together underlining the inevitable interrelationship of the key components of the universe and the interconnections of our humble lives within it.

Raza has experienced several different yet interconnected phases as a painter. His earliest work in the late 1940s after graduation from the prestigious Sir J.J. School of Art, comprised vibrant landscapes and urban scenes, full of colour and drama. Raza tells of a crucial meeting with the photographer Cartier-Bresson, who encouraged him to formally construct his paintings, however ambitious his palette and brush strokes.

His move to Paris in 1950 was followed by a series of brilliant pictures, demonstrating a total command of his media. The gestural abstracted landscapes and architectural structures of this period are outstanding in their ability to define the early Raza, with a bold and confident use of colour within a formal framework.

The move to a more elemental symbolism came in the 1970s and since then he has dedicated himself to this form of painting, reconnecting with his Indian roots through a unique visual language. It is no wonder that these paintings are sought after by collectors of Indian art from all over the world, breaking records whenever they come to auction and surely recognised amongst the most important paintings of the post-Independence generation.

This landmark exhibition could not of course have happened without the support and generosity of S. H. Raza who had the confidence and commitment to create a collection that highlights the universality of his work. Amongst the many projects he is working on, is the establishment of a new museum in Menton that will be dedicated to his work and to that of his late wife, the artist Janine Mongillat.
This exhibition is also important as it is the first collection of works by Raza to travel between London and New York. The show will open with Berkeley Square Gallery in London and then move to the SaffronArt Gallery in New York. The association between SaffronArt and Berkeley Square Gallery has been fundamental to the promotion and development of modern and contemporary Indian art, not only at Berkeley Square Gallery, but we hope, also for a new audience in London. We hope to have a long and fruitful association. We would like to thank Natalie Davies at Berkeley Square Gallery and Punya Nagpal at SaffronArt, who have managed our various projects since we began and as we continue on this exciting new path. We look forward to following the Raza exhibition with many more shows and auction previews, bringing the best of modern and contemporary Indian art to London.

PETER OSBORNE, Berkeley Square Gallery
- 2005

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