By Shriram Khadilkar
|Landscape by Raiba|
Veteran painter Abdul Aziz Raiba is ninety and still questing for the unfathomable through his artistic expression…
“I am not satisfied with the work that I have done so far,” says the nonagenarian; nonchalantly referring to his thirst for painting as a neonate’s yearning for milk.
|Death of a Horse|
It has been seventy long years since A. A. Raiba has been expressing himself through the medium of painting. Even today, he thirsts for it. Currently busy with reading the Quran and painting landscapes sitting in his studio, he is as responsive and energetic as any young artist waiting to embark on his artistic journey.
|Raiba at work|
Raiba learned Indian style of painting while studying in Sir. J. J. School of Art, Mumbai under the guidance of Jagannath Ji Ahivasi. After completing his art education, he was influenced by western trends in art. His close associates advised him to visit Europe, but he preferred to go to Kashmir. He stayed there for more than three years and accomplished a large body of work.
|Roti seller from Kashmir|
He largely abided by the Indian style of painting. From Kashimiri women, to South Indian fisherwomen to Goan landscapes to village scapes in North India, Raiba was at one time called ‘harfan moula’ (Jack of all trades) because he was painting whatever came his way. The movie Jhansi ki Rani effected a canvas depicting a girl climbing on the trunk of an elephant. He painted a dying horse after witnessing the death of a camel. And then he also painted beautiful blind women who was selling rotis in Kashmir … He handled a variety of subjects through his canvases.
|After viewing Jhansi Ki Rani|
Bold shapes, strong definite lines, beautiful shades of colours with a difference are the specialty of Raiba’s paintings. The important thing is that he prepares his own canvases. Earlier, he used to prepare his own colours too. He had a voracious appetite to view and assimilate works by other artists; a variety of styles and isms; yet he made a breakthrough and established his own style of painting. The series on ‘Old Bombay has been Raiba’s greatest contribution to the world of Indian Art. In this series, he has painted monumental structures of 18th century Mumbai. He did a lot of sketching for many years and painted using perspective in miniature style with shades like deep reds, umbers, and faded yellows. In the same style, he painted some locations in Bhasin village area too.
|Page from the sketch book "Old Bombay"|
Raiba was also a member of Progressive Group, but moved away after a show in 1953. He never challenged anybody; except himself. His close friend and confidant M. F. Husain once advised him to work as an artist in film production and urged Raiba to approach K. Asif when he was making Mughal- E- Azam. A disciplined Raiba could not bring himself to work in that ambiance. Here was a versatile artist who was blessed by the likes of Charles Gerard, Walter Laghammer and Rudy Von Layden, who were king makers of those days.
|Old Bombay by Raiba|
As compared with contemporaries of his time, Raiba is not a costly painter. One will very rarely see his paintings in an auction. He was never, and even today, he does not believe in running after money. “Work with passion, money will follow you,” says Raiba. His fans are spread world over with collections of his paintings.
Years ago, he operated from a 10 x 10 ft. home cum studio at Temkar Street in South Mumbai. Today, he stays in a high-rise apartment, which also houses his independent studio space in the whereabouts of Virar in suburban Mumbai.
|Raiba at Work|
With age as no limit, Raiba values his priceless creative journey. As he sits reading the Quran, the indefatigable artist in him is busy preparing to rework on the Kashmir series. Young in spirit and bubbling with energy, this veteran is a befitting inspiration for young and upcoming artists.