Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Raza and the Circle of Life

The artist Syed Haider Raza started off painting landscapes, but some time in his journey into metaphysics and the biology, he chose the "Bindu", or the central point of energy, as his chief symbol, and the circles of life to surround it, as his theme of work.

He said the "Bindu" was like the seed, the beginning of all life, that contained everything that would "ever be".

He added in his works later, concepts of the "Tribhuj" or sacred triangle, as well as symbols of Purusha and Prakriti (the male and female forms of energy). All in resplendent acrylics and oils.

Raza lived in France for more than six decades, and exhibited there extensively. He returned to India only in 2010. But as far as his thinking and his compositions went, he was always in India. He remarked on his return, that he "had never left".

He died a few days back, on the 23rd July, 2016, at the ripe old age of 94. Interestingly, apart from the last two months when he was seriously ill, and towards the end he was in fact on life support, Raza painted every singly day of his adult life! He said his job was to paint, and his day must "begin and end with art". Even after his return to India, Raza was exhibiting fresh paintings every year.

Raza at his studio

Like many artists who become famous towards the end of life, Raza had seen many ups and downs in life. Few know that for some time, to make ends meet, he even taught Hindi in France! 
What will be remembered surely, is that in 2010, one of his paintings "Saurashtra" sold for a staggering $34.87 Million at a Christie's auction.

From the Saurashtra series

And I somehow remembered another circle of life, the song from "The Lion King", with its spectacular opening lines in the Zulu language, and that ended with a universal message:

"....It's the circle of life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle
The circle of life."

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

For the love of Vincent

Vincent Van Gogh died at the young age of 37, after having shot himself with a revolver, in the wheat fields of Auvers-sur-Oise.

Paul Gauguin’s portrait of Van Gogh, Oil on canvas, 1888.
Painted when Gauguin visited Van Gogh at Arles.

Whether it was the circumstances of his death, or the stories of his life, of unrequited love affairs, of not having the money to paint or sometimes even to feed himself, Van Gogh is remembered as the lonely, unloved, hugely talented artist.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s portrait of Van Gogh, Pastel on cardboard, 1887. 
 His most loved paintings are of the fields of Arles, sunflowers and cypresses, and star-lit nights. He obviously loved painting portraits, and produced several self-portraits, writing to his sister that he “should like to paint portraits which appear after a century to people living then as apparitions…..I do not endeavor to achieve this through photographic resemblance, but my means of our impassioned emotions- that is to say using our knowledge and our modern taste for color as a means of arriving at the expression and the intensification of the character…”

It is for the “impassioned emotions” on display whether Van Gogh was painting cherry trees and orchards, his bedroom in Arles, a night café or the bridge over the river Rhone, that he is loved so much. Some of this love has translated to an international collaborative project called “Loving Vicent”:

About a hundred artists have got together to hand-paint about 57,000 frames, in the style of Van Gogh, and capturing locations, people and  vignettes from his short life, to form an animated film. It is probably the first animated movie of its type, built entirely from these lovingly painted frames. You could catch a glimpse of the trailer of the movie at:

“The red vineyard” by Vincent Van Gogh, Oil on canvas, 1888. 
This was the only painting sold by Van Gogh while he was alive!

“The night café” by Vincent Van Gogh, Oil on canvas, 1888.

In a letter to his brother Theo, Van Gogh wrote: "In my picture of The Night Café I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad or commit a crime. So I have tried to express, as it were, the powers of darkness in a low public house, by soft Louis XV green and malachite, contrasting with yellow-green and harsh blue-greens, and all this in an atmosphere like a devil's furnace, of pale sulphur. And all with an appearance of Japanese gaiety, and the good nature of Tartarin."