Sayed Haider Raza, or Raza Sahab as he is affectionately known as in this country and in the art world, is one of those seminal personalities whose contribution to the creative process and the evolution of the modern language of image making of this country has created its own history. Envisaging the depth and expanse of this history one discovers several facets that range from the representation of reality to the experiential and realizational abstraction but also raises some important and pertinent questions regarding a larger understanding of things.

Is art only relevant to its times? Is the role of an artist to only respond to the times that he lives in, or also re-validate and re-interpret the assimilations of the past? This debate will, perhaps, never have a definitive answer as long as art is continued to be created and produced and art critics and art historians continue to historicize and delve in a critical debate about its validity and function. Art can transcend the limits of time, be relevant to the viewer and communicate a plethora of meanings and messages or simply rivet ones attention to a frozen abstraction. Raza's creations over six decades are all these and much more.

Raza has been residing in France since 1950. His works of the early years in India or those of the last over 5 decades in France, all appear to have a consistency and continuity yet being independent-not possible to be categorized or bracketed as belonging to a certain period. The geometrical forms merging with the seamless infinite forms and the dynamic colours convey equilibrium, while concealing hidden meanings and meanings within meanings.

Timelessness can be eternal, concepts which have roots in all branches of Indian philosophy, complex connotations of philosophical abstractions find apparently simple manifestations in Raza's canvas. Thus the viewer can interpret and re-interpret over and over again.

NGMA considers it a proud privilege to having mounted the exhibition "Swasti" on the occasion of the 85th birthday of Raza, who has also been honored with a Padma Bhushan this year.

It is a small tribute to an artist whose contribution to modern Indian art is immemorable. The exhibition attempts to show case a range of works from the early 1950th to the present times from the collection of National Gallery of Modern Art, a priceless collection from Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal and including private collections and individuals.

Raza sahib has also created some works, specially for this occasion which are presently on display.

But, can it capture the infinite character of what has gone into the making of this man and his art?

Professor Rajeev Lochan,
National Gallery of Modern Art,
New Delhi

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