Paris-based artist SH Razas annual sojourn to India may have turned sour after fake paintings of his artwork surfaced,but the artist hasnt let the controversy spoil his other plans. He speaks to VANDANA KALRA about exhibiting at the Venice Biennale,the book titled Mandalas that he released in Delhi on Friday and the culture center he intends to build
* Not many Indian artists have had the honour of exhibiting at the Venice Biennale. Could you share details of your artwork that will be exhibited at the venue?
There will be a section for Indian art at the Biennale and the theme will be peace. One of the canvases that I am painting is a reaction to the recent terror attack in Mumbai. It has a white bindu at the center and on the side,below,I have written the prayer raghupati raghav raja ram. There will be more artwork that I will be exhibiting,but none will be on sale. I have also asked the organisers of the Biennale to invite other Indian artists.
* When will there be an exhibition of your artwork in Delhi?
There is an exhibition planned at Vadehra Art Gallery next year. Also,Sunaina Anand of Art Alive Gallery will showcase some of my earlier work during the book release function at the French embassy. The publication titled Mandalas is an English translation of a book written in French by Olivier Germain-Thomas. It features my artwork based on mandala. This is the work that I consider important. Saffronart has another 500-odd page book on me that is scheduled to release later this year.
* Do you like to see your old artwork?
Yes. I dont have many of them though. When I was leaving for France in the late 1940s,I left some of them with my friends in Kalyan,but they threw them before I contacted them again,which was after a decade. Earlier this week,a couple came to meet me with an old canvas of mine and I was happy to see it. I was looking forward to seeing my old work when I went to Dhoomimal. The number of cases of fake art in the country are increasing and this time it has happened with me.
* The Raza foundation has been giving artists awards for some years now. Is the initiative meant to encourage young talent?
We give Rs 1 lakh each as award to five people. This includes two painters,a musician,dancer and poet. The money is important,especially when you are young.
* There is also a museum planned by you in Delhi. What will be its nature and have you already decided on the location?
It will be a culture center in Modinagar area. We plan to have a collection of contemporary art,miniatures,warli,madhubani and tribal art amid others. There will be a permanent display. Some of my works will also be there. The country needs a center that aims at promoting art. I have initiated the project and am being helped by younger artists like Manish Pushkale and Akhilesh.
* What are the celebrations lined-up for your birthday next month?
Every day is a birthday for me (smiles). I turn 87 next month. It will be a low key celebration this year. I will just meet a few friends.