ď Itís depressing if I donít paintĒ
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For him art is integral to any celebration. So a day before he turned 91, on Thursday, SH Raza was at Vadehra Art Gallery, unveiling his recent work, which echoes his preoccupation with geometric forms. The bindu is still the focus four decades after he first placed it on canvas. It encapsulates both the beginning of life and the void that surrounds us. We spoke to the Delhi-based Padma Vibhushan recipient about his art, awards and recognition and being back in India after his 60-year-long stay in France.
How would you define the work that comprise the ongoing exhibition "Antardhwani"?
As an artist my job is to paint, and it is up to people to interpret it. For me, in "Antardhwani" I'm looking at nature and its different elements. There is the yoni and the linga.
Tell us about the bindu.
I'm grateful to my teacher in Jharia (Jharkand), who introduced me to the dot or the bindu when I was seven. I hated studies and when my parents requested him to get me interested in school, he drew the dot on the blackboard and asked me to stare at it to improve my concentration. I understood its significance much later.
Before you left for Paris in 1950, you met Henri Cartier Bresson. How did the meeting impact your work.
After seeing my work in a group show in Kashmir he said he liked my paintings (landscapes) but felt it was slightly vague and not precise. He said I would benefit by studying (Paul) Cezanne. I took him seriously and introspected my work.
What makes you go to your studio every day?
It's depressing if I don't go. I spend at least six to seven hours painting every day. I like to keep some of my work so that I can show people what am I doing, But nowadays, it's much more tiring to paint. I am lucky that people have understood my work and appreciate it. The Padma Vibhushan shows that the government too appreciates my work.