• South Asian Modern + Contempor auction at Christies

    Sale 2299

    South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art

    23 March 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 40

    SYED HAIDER RAZA (B. 1922)


    Price Realised  


    SYED HAIDER RAZA (B. 1922)
    signed and dated 'RAZA '89' (lower right); signed, titled and dated 'RAZA 1989 200 x 100 cms Acrylique sur toile "GESTATION" (on the reverse)
    acrylic on canvas
    39 3/8 x 78¾ in. (100 x 200 cm)
    Painted in 1989

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    In the late 1970s, Syed Haider Raza's style of painting changed dramatically. Moving away from figuration and the fluid energetic brushstrokes which characterized his earlier work, Raza began to use the elemental form of the circle as a compositional starting point. In a strictly formal sense, these geometrical works seems to bear some resemblance to the Abstract Expressionist paintings of Frank Stella and Jasper Johns. However, while these artists were part of a theoretical discussion on the Formalist movement, Raza's work addresses a more spiritual context. The circle becomes less of a graphical component and more of a central point representing concentrated energy. This circle manifests itself in various forms throughout Raza's more recent work and is variously interpreted as a beginning, a zero point or seed. Formally, it becomes the principle around which Raza structures his canvases with this compositional construct having age-old precedents in meditative aids such as yantras and mandalas.
    In Gestation, Raza presents an arrangement of shapes and earthy colors seamlessly merging his characteristic horizontal bands with elegant obliques, Raza creates an inherent rhythm and elegance in this work making it one of the finest and most striking examples of painting in his oeuvre.

    At the root of Syed Haider Raza's paintings lies a strong tie to nature and to the forests of Madhya Pradesh where he was born. Though his works from the 80s and 90s are far from representational, the concept of nature remains pervasive and integral to their composition. Adopting a codified and symbolic language, Raza uses specific shapes and colors to represent different aspects of the natural world making the works intrinsically representative. According to art historian, Geethi Sen, "Geometrical forms are used to map the universe. Here, the vocabulary of pure plastic form acquires an integral purpose: to relate the shape and rhythm of these forms to Nature." (G. Sen, Bindu: Space and Time in Raza's Vision, New Delhi, 1997, p.118). This work melds the chevron design used by Raza to indicate forests and trees with the color palette of earth. Raza's concern with the principles of pure geometry is equaled by his fascination for color and its potent symbolism. "I have interpreted the universe in terms of five primary colours: black, white, red, blue and yellow. A total chromatic expression can be achieved by mixing primary colours with other secondary colours, such as greens, browns, and ochres. From there you can move to a great austerity of colours till you come to a supreme purity of form." (G. Sen, Bindu,1997, pp. 127-128)


    Acquired directly from the artist in 1989

    Pre-Lot Text



    A. Vajpeyi, A Life in Art: Raza, Art Alive Gallery Publishers, New Delhi, 2007 (unpaginated, illustrated)