To those in a hurry, S.H. Raza’s acrylics will seem...well, interesting, colourful, geometric compositions with points, circles, triangles and lines. To those in a hurry, Ashok Vajpeyi’s poetry will seem to be... simplicity itself: ordinary words, commonplace images... things everyone is familiar with. But for those who linger, Raza’s works come alive, opening up vistas that evoke responses from within, while in Vajpeyi’s poems, the mundane touches profundity.
The exhibition of Raza’s paintings and Vajpeyi’s poetry, Shabd-Bindu, hosted by Akar Prakar, brought the two longtime friends to the city to meet viewers. Vajpeyi explained that Shabd-Bindu is just a title of convenience: the poems and the art “are two autonomous zones.” But one somehow felt that the very act of placing the two together had, to some extent, flavoured each. Like the ancient miniaturists, Raza often likes to touch his paintings with poetry, inscribing a word or a line in Hindi, thus illuminating his work with his love for Rilke, Tagore, Kabir, Ghalib, Muktibodh, Faiz and others.
Based in Delhi, after 60 years in Paris, the 91-year old continues untiringly to explore ancient Indian philosophical concepts and the iconography of panchatattva, tribhuj, prakriti-purush, kundalini and the like. In his recent works, his palette seems richer and more luminous. If the lines falter, the colours don’t. The quivering reds, yellows, greens, blues, blacks, the triangular sparks of white (that remind one of moving sparkles of sunshine on waves) have lost none of the vitality they always had.
Vajpeyi’s poems encourage even the uninitiated to seek in Raza’s works the artist’s and their own antardhwani. Take the poem, “Ab mai akaash ko pukarta hoon”, where the poet draws up a picture of a long isolated sky who, in spite of being above all, hides, whimpering like a child, from loneliness and can be invited to rest awhile and, “washing hands and feet”, partake of daal-roti in the kitchen, find out about old friends and sleep on the soft bed of the earth. The accompanying painting, Aalok, has the soft radiance of dawn — white circles of varying tone touched with greys, greens, browns and soft pinks circling around the tiny bindu at the centre which Raza has often described as the seed and centre of all creation and existence.
The poems, “Aawo” and “Pathar se keli karta hai pathar”, (inspired by Khajuraho) are placed alongside Raza’s Alingan, where keen lines of various hues seem to joyfully run into one another, forming circles round a bindu, and Yugal, where somewhat raw and fleshy broad concentric circles converge and intertwine, as though with the fury of the first cosmic fusion of earth, fire,wind, water and space. Similarly, the placing of the two bindus in the diptych, Rangkshiti, lends poignancy to Vajpeyi’s “Vida ke koi samai nahi hai.”