signed and dated 'RAZA '80' (lower center); further inscribed and dated 'RAZA 1980' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
39¼ x 39¼ in. (100 x 100 cm.)
Painted in 1980
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner
A. Vajpeyi ed., A Life in Art: S. H. Raza, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 120-121 (illustrated)
'Art of the Postage Stamp: The Progressives have lent their imprint on Stamp Collecting in the Country', Continuum: Progressive Artists' Group, Delhi Art Gallery, 2011, p. 326 (illustrated)

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Lot Essay

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.

(The artist quoted in G. Sen, Bindu: Space and Time in Raza's Vision, 1997, pp. 127-128)

In the late 1970s, Syed Haider Raza's style of painting changed dramatically. Moving away from figuration and the energetic brushstrokes which characterized his earlier work, the artist concentrated on the circle, a virtual universe, as compositional starting point. Painted in 1980, this work demonstrates the transition between Raza's expressionist and geometric styles, and is one of his first forays into the depiction of the bindu.

In a strictly formal sense, this work bears some resemblance to the Abstract Expressionist paintings of Frank Stella and Jasper Johns, however, whilst these artists were part of a theoretical exploration of 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 element manifests itself in various forms throughout Raza's more recent works and is variously interpreted as a beginning, a zero point or seed. It becomes the principle around which the artist structures his canvases, and this compositional foundation is similarly derived from meditative aids such as yantras and mandalas.

At the root of Raza's oeuvre lies a strong tie to nature and to the forests of Madhya Pradesh where he was born. Though his works from the 1980s and 90s are far from representational, the concept of nature remains pervasive and integral to their composition. Adopting a codified and symbolic language, the artist uses shapes and colors to represent different aspects of the natural world. According to art historian Geeti 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).

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