signed and dated 'RAZA '72' (lower right)
acrylic on canvas
51 1/8 x 31 7/8 in. (130 x 81 cm.)
Painted in 1972
Lepine Private Collection, Roquebrune, France
Acquired from the above, 1972
Thence by descent
This work will be included in a revised edition of SH RAZA, Catalogue Raisonné, Volume II (1972 - 1989) by Anne Macklin on behalf of The Raza Foundation, New Delhi
Abbaye du Pommier, Anncy, Le Grenier, Roquebrune Village, France, 1972


Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari Specialist, Head of Department


“Landscape transforms into a calligraphic exercise, the poetry of colors intertwined with script. Strophe and anti-strophe, unfinished lines, maybe even ancient slogans and sacred text define this painterly idiom. The swirls of colors creating the impression of a black sun and the cosmos beyond in sparkling explosions of reds, blues, greens and yellows” (I. Puri, ‘Almost a Love Poem’, Yet Again: Nine New Essays on Raza, Kolkata, 2015, p. 21).

Abandoning the recognizable landscapes of his early years, Sayed Haider Raza’s work took a new turn towards gestural abstraction in the early 1970s, dominated by free-flowing brushwork and pulsating energy. Influenced by the summer he spent teaching at the University of California in Berkeley in 1962, these paintings pay homage to the work of American Abstract Expressionists like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock that he encountered on this visit to the United States.

Having lived outside of India for over two decades at this point, Raza’s paintings from the 1970s, like the present lot, also reveal his deep yearning for home and reminiscences of his childhood there. The artist recalls, “The most tenacious memory of my childhood is the fear and fascination of Indian forests. 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 humanizing influence was the dancing of the Gond tribes. Daybreak brought back a sentiment of security and well-being. On market-day, under the radiant sun, the village was a fairyland of colours. And then, the night again. Even today, I find that these two aspects of my life dominate me and are an integral part of my paintings. There are a multitude of variations, but it has its departure point in an experienced feeling, even if the real problems are of plastic nature” (Artist statement, The Making of Modern Indian Art: The Progressives, New Delhi, 2001, p. 155).

The present lot reflects this ‘hallucinating’ aura of the night sky that he so vividly remembers from his childhood in the forests of Central India. The blackness that floods the canvas evokes the silence of the night. At the same time, this darkness and silence is disrupted by streaks of red, green and white, mimicking flickering lights seen through the underbrush and hinting at the vibrating energy of imminent daybreak. Through the juxtaposition of colors in this painting, Raza creates a dynamic surface that captures the imperceptible resonances of day and night in a homage to nature and its eternal cycles, a concept that would soon come to govern his work unequivocally.

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