By the 1940s, Indian politics, economy and society underwent great changes. Most of the world including India felt the brutal force of World War II, India however was also amidst its struggle for independence from British rule. The war brought to India many Europeans and Americans; who came as soldiers and refugees and interactions with the foreigners left an impression on the art practices.
The strings of this restlessness reached Mumbai by 1947 which led to the formation of the Progressive Artists Group. Artists who joined this group were Francis Newton Souza, Maqbool Fida Husain, Syed Haider Raza, Krishna Howlaji Ara, Hari Ambadas Gade, and S Bakre, a sculptor. The group of young artists felt an affinity with international modernism and dwelled on the formal values of a painting.
Born in 1922 in a forest village called Babariya in central India, in the family of a forest ranger, Raza grew up close to nature and this has had a tremendous effect on his art.
Even though a long phase of his earlier career was dedicated to landscape painting the other elements that played a crucial role in Raza’s progression as an artist was his need to remain rooted in his beginnings. His mother-tongue Hindi as well as Sanskrit and sometimes Urdu prominently feature in some of his work perhaps following the miniature tradition of painting.
Eventually Raza moved towards abstraction which was a progressive process, where he pared down gestural abandon until he arrived at the purity of form with circles, squares and lines. The contemplative bindu, circles that reduce to a point of intense meditation, is painted in resonant colours of red, ultramarine and black.