For all the tragic intensity of its smouldering fires, and the glare of its greenery, the world of Raza hangs in a torrent of potentialities, amid the contending powers of darkness and light.
- Jacques Lassaigne, 1958
Candamerie represents a shift in Sayed Haider Raza's work, moving away from the Post-Impressionist style of his landscapes of the 1950s to a more expressionistic abstraction. This follows from Raza's 1962 visit to the United States and Canada, when he was invited to be a visiting lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow. On this trip, he encountered the works of Mark Rothko, Sam Francis, Jackson Pollock and Hans Hoffmann at the height of the Abstract Expressionist movement in the United States.
"Rothko's work opened up lots of interesting associations for me. It was so different from the insipid realism of the European School. It was like a door that opened to another interior vision. Yes, I felt that I was awakening to the music of another forest, one of subliminal energy. Rothko's works brought back the images of japmala, where the repetition of a word continues till you achieve a state of elevated consciousness [...] Rothko's works made me understand the feel for spatial perception" (Raza: Celebrating 85 years, exhibition catalogue, New Delhi, 2007, unpaginated).
Raza painted Candamerie in 1969 at a point when this expressionistic style was fully mature. Intended as a bucolic landscape, Raza’s favored genre, the composition is far from representational and relies primarily on the interplay of colors rather than line and form to convey the impression of place. Direct representation and naturalism is discarded, replaced with emotive gestural flickers and flashes of vibrant fleeting forms. The sublime beauty of the landscape remains pervasive and integral to the essence of Raza’s style as he begins to experiment with a less structured pictorial space and explores the translucent play of color and light in nature.
Here, burning reds, oranges and yellows suggest a blazing sun on a scorching day in a forest, and are contrasted with deep tones of brown and black, suggesting dappled shade and endowing the painting with an almost magical atmosphere. This painting is one of the artist's earliest explorations of the plasticity and potency of his palette, which became dominant in the 1970s, and is particularly evident in his monumental works like Tapovan (1972) and La Terre (1977). For the artist, black was a 'mother color', representative of creation and the source of all other colors on the spectrum. Black would soon become even more significant in Raza's oeuvre, as it turned in the 1980s to embrace geometric abstraction and works that centered on the bindu or central black dot.
In Candamerie, the artist's shimmering play of light and shade makes the painting come alive and evokes the rustling rhythm of the leaves in the wind on a hot summer day. The combination of sensual enjoyment and a tactile sense of painterliness imbues this painting with a fundamentally more mystic and conceptual imagery drawn from the artist's deeper understanding of ancient Indian art, as Raza moves beyond the merely representational into the realm of the spiritual.