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Raza’s ‘bindu’ art inspired by punishment in school

New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) Eminent artist Syed Haider Raza, who turned 88 Monday and says he would love to come back home after 60 years in Paris, recalls how the ‘bindu’ or dot that is the focal point of almost all his works finds root in a punishment he was given during his school days in Madhya Pradesh.

Raza’s bindu art usually starts with a coloured dot at the centre of his canvas and fans out either in squares or circles. The bindu in Raza’s life had an interesting birth.

‘As a child I was not a brilliant student. My teacher Nandalal Jharsa would draw a black dot on the wall of the school in Madhya Pradesh and told me to sit on the ground and look at the dot. I was afraid. It was after school hours and my teacher usually said he would return after changing his clothes. I obliged. One day, he invited me to his home for lessons after dinner saying my father had asked him to tutor me in math, Hindi and geography. The bindu stayed with me,’ Raza recalled.

The bindu resurfaced as a definite theme in his art in Paris.

‘I had devoted 30 years to European style art, but despite the recognition in Europe, I was not satisfied. I asked myself where is India in my paintings? The bindu came to my mind and it was like a seed giving birth to a tree,’ Raza told IANS here.

He said as an artist, he was born the day the bindu influenced his life.

‘I get new ideas everyday. I may have been born physically on Feb 22, but most people do not realise that I was born the day when the bindu appeared in my life. As a child grows, the bindu grew with enormous possibilities over the decades.’

The artist, who has been living in Paris for the last 60 years, intends to return to India by this year-end and make the capital his home.

‘I want to paint in Delhi, write about my experiences in life and rewrite certain memoirs of the Progressive Artists’ Group in Mumbai, which gave Indian art a contemporary language in the 1950s and 1960s. I wish M.F. Husain returns home too. He was one of our peers, along with F.N. Souza,’ Raza reflected on his birthday.

The Progressive Artists’ Group of Mumbai ‘was a good start to art in 1947’, he said. ‘But unfortunately, it had only six members. Mulk Raj Anand hosted the first show of the group in 1948. My works were also displayed.’

Raza, who usually paints in acrylic and oil, incorporates tantrik elements in his art. However, he began as a landscape painter in the European tradition.

‘I studied at the Nagpur School of Art as a young man and then moved to the J.J. School of Art in Mumbai,’ he said.

He left India in 1950 on a French government scholarship to study at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris. Subsequently, he settled in the French capital after touring the world. Raza married French artist Janine Mongillat and was awarded Prix de la critique award in Paris in 1956, becoming the first non-French artist to receive the honour.

The Indian government honoured him with the Padma Shri in 1981 and Padma Bhushan in 2007.

The bindu, according to Raza, was a manifestation of the ‘panch tatwa’ – the five natural elements of air, water, fire, earth and sky – on his canvas.

‘As my reflections grew, the panch tatwa became my five primary colours – black, blue, red, yellow and white. The bindu in my art is also the female body that bears the child for nine months and expands to encompass a bigger colour palette of brown, blue, red, brown, orange, yellow and white. The bindu and its growth have defined my concept as a painter,’ Raza explained.

‘Now, I want to see the bindu flower in a new way,’ he said with a smile.

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