\”The Bindu or cosmic egg is a symbol of primordial genesis from which, in Hindu mythology, all Creation is born\”
– S.H. Raza
Syed Haider Raza was born on 22nd February 1922, in Kakkaiya (locale Mandla), present-day Madhya Pradesh, to a deputy forest officer Syed Mohammed Raza and Tahira begum. He began drawing at the age of 12 and his fascination with painting continued to develop. Eventually, he enrolled in the J.J. School of Arts in 1943. He had a profound understanding of the world based on philosophical and otherworldly roots which gave his work a geometric framework that India had never seen before. The Bombay Art Society awarded Raza a silver medal for his first solo show in 1946. In 1947, following Indian independence, he founded a progressive artist group in response to the rapid changes that had occurred in Indian society. With the help of his companions Souza, Hussain, and Ara, he established a modern visual dialect and fashion of putting colours and freed India\’s arts from European influence by emphasizing Indian topics.
Young Raza was inspired by Indian philosophy after seeing a Bindu drawn on a chalkboard during his tutoring days. As part of Indian reasoning, Bindu addresses the universe. Bindus are the centre of awareness and the beginning of the universe. As a representation of human existence, it is where all solidarity begins. Known as one of India\’s leading abstract expressionists and pioneers, Syed Haider Raza incorporated geometrical references into his art that merged western and Indian techniques. A profound sense of being was presented to the world through Bindu in his work. As opposed to a figurative angle, Raza chose Bindu as the focal point of his work. The artist blended Indian subjects with avant-garde colours, shapes, and brushwork (Fauvist). A gestural brushstroke and an impasto application of paint characterized his work from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. His fascination with post-Impressionist artists like Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh led him to use colour more heavily as a means of expressing himself as he began to move from gouache and watercolour to more material oil-based colours. His scenes evolved from realistic to abstract over time.
Raza\’s childhood memories of small, forested towns were used to create Tapovan – meaning woodland of reflection – as an expression of the mood and climate of the Indian nightscape. As Raza began incorporating elements of his Indian childhood and social legacy into his artwork, he may have achieved his full creative circle with Tapovan in 1972. A modern aesthetic heading crossed Raza\’s mind after the 1970s when he looked for inspiration in his country. He made frequent trips to India, absorbing the supernatural thoughts of its noteworthy writings. In the long run, he hit upon the Bindu as a theme. It took the shape of an idealized circle that appears frequently in his paintings thereafter.
Raza married a French artist and returned to India only after she died in 2010. His geometric abstract works are a good example of how he makes abstraction and spirituality interact in his art. There has been a comparison between their basic shapes, deliberate repetition, and modest designs and those of American Abstractionist Frank Stella. Raza discovered them during a period of teaching art in the US in the early 1960s, and he greatly appreciated them.
Raza sought to embed spirituality into his work, whereas Stella sought to eliminate it from his. Through upright triangles arranged on both sides of a circle, he illustrated other angles of Indian cosmology along with the Bindu. He also depicted complementary male (Purusha) and female (Prakriti) energy in Indian cosmology. When Raza visited an Indian exhibition in 1959, his art changed from cubist and figurative to increasingly abstract, with evocative gestural brushstrokes and colour that were reminiscent of a sense of sexuality, passion, and psychology. Throughout the piece, his deft use of colour and basic drawing skills enhanced the gestural strokes and transformed them into geometric deliberation. A seed is an image of richness that is normal, and seasons are recurrent and unbreakable. A point of reflection is a source of vitality and creation. A visible shape that consists of line, tone, colour, surface, and space, the Bindu has been characterized by Raza himself as a visible shape. A deeper understanding of Indian philosophy and unique concepts of time and space was explored by Raza through the Bindu; his intrigue expanded into a more comprehensive study of Indian philosophy.
In his Bindu series, deep dark circles echo those used in yantras and mandalas for reflection and are surrounded by concentric circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles in blue, yellow, red, orange, and green. In addition to representing yin and yang, the two fundamental forces that make up all matter, the interlocking geometric designs also symbolize male and female vitality. An abstract representation of a state did not suffice for him, so he was drawn to tantric conventions that used craftsmanship— a yantra— to catalyze awareness and change. In the painting ‘Bindu Bija Mantra,’ for example, 25 square tiles depict the five senses through essential colours: red, blue, yellow, white, and dark. Each tile represents a component of creation, referred to as the tattvas, or elements of creation: fire, water, soil, sky, and air/space. From his point of view, we can see how the artist brings colour to life by creating a whole range of emotions. As a layman who has no understanding of the artist\’s expressions, one might look at Bindu Series paintings with no understanding of what he is trying to portray. However, if one looks carefully at each line in isolation from other objects, there is an amazing quality to them that only comes from being painted so meticulously that each stroke suggests that the colours are blended and chosen with care. Within the Bindu Series, there is a certain void—not as a withdrawal from vitality but as its radiation.