One of the most significant artists in Indian Modernism and a founder member of the Bombay Progressives, S.H. Raza’s diverse body of work is a unique amalgamation of his classical French training at École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and his exposure to post-war American abstract expressionism. Raza’s works are imbued with the Indian visual language of his heritage, celebrating the country’s iconography, nature, philosophy, music and poetry.
Curated by Vaishnavi Ramanathan, curator and art historian, Piramal Museum of Art, and Ashvin E. Rajagopalan, Director, Piramal Museum of Art, the exhibition will showcase five decades of Raza’s work from the early 1940s to the late 1990s- his early days in Mumbai, his travels around India, to various parts of France including Gorbio, and eventually his metaphorical return to his Indian roots.
The exhibition traces his development as an artist and philosopher, whilst offering insights into his contributions to post-Independence Indian abstraction. The artworks on display highlight Raza’s significant influence on his peers, including the Bombay Progressives Group, and subsequent generations of Indian artists by taking a sweeping view of his rich artistic journey across continents, styles and philosophical musings.
The S.H. Raza: Traversing Terrains exhibition also invites the viewer to discover the dynamic urban context in which Raza worked, and Mumbai’s role as an artistic melting pot for diverse ‘progressive’ energies, whilst also tracing Raza’s unique evolution as an artist.
“We thought it was important to present this exhibition not only because of the significance of Raza’s works but also because he arrived in the Indian art scene at a very critical juncture. Though he lived in France, his works were deeply rooted in India and are result of a life-long quest to get to the essence of the visible world around,” says Vaishnavi Ramanathan.
Traversing Terrains has been conceptualised and designed to highlight Piramal Museum of Art’s meticulously unique approach to art display, and furthers its vision of creating well-rounded exhibitions that appeal to the public on multiple levels. Re-defining the framework of art display in India, Piramal Museum of Art are working with critically acclaimed exhibition designers Gallagher & Associates, who have custom designed the exhibition space to showcase the artist’s work in an immersive and engaging context.
Interactive displays, special programming and custom-designed lighting will offer diverse audiences unique opportunities to engage with the works.
This is a compelling homage to Raza’s legacy allowing audiences to navigate an exhibition space that physically and aesthetically mimics the distinct visual language of the artworks. When viewed from above, the entire gallery space and installed exhibition appears as an innovative Raza painting.
“In a sense, this exhibition has been in the making for several years as the Piramal Art Collection has been consistently enriched by SH Raza’s artworks over the last decade. The show is not just about Raza’s paintings, but explores a larger narrative of his life and his relationships with his peers, contemporaries, patrons, galleries and friends.
A museum visitor will find some of his landmark artworks bolstered by letters, publications, critiques of his work and other documents, drawing a human story amidst the aesthetic pleasures of viewing over 30 artworks by this Master. This exhibition is designed to resonate with the Indian audience that is typically receptive to storytelling, gaining knowledge and exploring culture.
“Piramal Museum of Art is focused on making art accessible to the public at large. We hope that the exhibition narrative and design, along with the accompanying public outreach programme will enable deeper engagement with one of the greatest artists India and the world has ever known,” said Ashvin E Rajagopalan
Traversing Terrains opens to the public from 24 June to 28 October 2018.