signed and dated 'RAZA 87' (lower right); further signed twice, dated, inscribed and titled 'RAZA 1987 100 x 100 cms Acrylic on canvas "GERMINATION"' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
39¼ x 39¼ in. (99.7 x 99.7 cm.)
Painted in 1987
Institute of Contemporary Indian Art, Mumbai

Lot Essay

The concept of ankuran or germination, which forms the focal point of this meditative work, is a seminal trope in Raza's work. The inspiration for this iconography came from the miracle of witnessing the birth of a new sapling. For Raza, this simple act embodied the process of creation and the emergence of new life on Earth. "It is the resurgent spirit of rebirth, of the fertilizing powers of the sun and the earth which converge to give birth to new life." (G. Sen, Bindu: Space and Time in Raza's Vision, New Delhi, 1997, p. 19)

One of the founders of the deeply influential Progressive Artist's Group, Raza expatriated to France in 1950 to pursue studies at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts, Paris. His vision garnered him attention; in 1956, Raza became the first artist not of French descent to be awarded the Prix de la critique. While in Paris he was exposed to a range of continental movements, with which he engaged both artistically and intellectually. By the era of this work, however, Raza had moved away from the confines of Abstract Expressionism and the Ecole de Paris to return to the Indic, celebrating the forms, spirituality, and vitality of the tantric.

In the 1980s, Raza turned toward sacred geometries of form, representing Indic cosmology through abstract visual meditations. "In terms of painting, immense possibilities seemed to open, based on elementary geometric forms: the point, the circle, vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines, the triangles and the square." (Artist statement, G. Sen, Bindu: Space and Time in Raza's Vision, New Delhi, 1997, p.126) His use of the sacred geometry cracked wide open the interpretive space of the image; neither specific to a religion, nor bound to a geography, the reduced forms are universal, deeply personal, yet iconic.

Considered the apogee of Raza's career, the 1980s saw the culmination of pure form and expression in his works. Moving away from traditional representationality Raza captures universal essence as a visual diagram, likewise exemplified by the highly geometric masterwork Saurashtra, which was offered by Christie's in 2010, achieving the world record for the artist at auction. Using a symbolic language, in which colours and shapes signify natural forces, Raza channels a deeply spiritual language of forms-a spiritual representationality. This meditation on the nature of being, Germination is equal measures an aesthetic tour de force.

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