All artists must have copyrights on their works: fake-hit Raza (Interview)

January 19th, 2009 - 12:03 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 19 (IANS) Syed Haider Raza, the master of Indian contemporary art, was deeply disappointed to find fake paintings being displayed at an exhibition of his early works in one of the capital’s oldest galleries. To prevent this, he feels all artists must have copyrights on their works. Raza has filed a case.”The making of fake paintings is sad. There are certain things in life that are important for a writer, painter and researcher working in their own domains - integrity and commitment,” Raza told IANS in an interview.

“All artists must have copyrights on their works. I have filed a case against the accused,” he added.

The exhibition of his works had to be pulled off after he found many of the paintings to be fake. Raza feels that those who tried to copy his works have a lot of talent, which they are wasting to make a quick buck.

“They are smart people who can pull off such a thing. I found abundance of talent and evidence of their vitality in the pictorial expressions,” the artist said.

Raza is not letting this episode distract him. “I am painting a couple of canvases on peace inspired by the 26/11 Mumbai attacks,” he said.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: How are you reacting to the fake art fiasco - the show of art in your name?

A: The making of fake paintings is sad. Unfortunately, many people do not see the problems clearly in life. Economic reality is very important, you cannot do without it. But there are certain things in life that are important for a writer, painter and a researcher working in their own domains - integrity and commitment.

Q: What is it that reproduction artists, who copy masters, are confused about?

A: They do not see the pursuit of things that they want to do. Either they chase money or fame. I was personally offered a big job in California, but I refused. I was a painter and always wanted to remain one. I stuck to my commitment. But then, there are all kinds of painters.

Q: What would you like to tell those who tried to copy your works and push it in your name?

A: They are smart people who can pull off such a thing and have the audacity of signing art works in my name. It was a sad evening because I found abundance of talent and evidence of their vitality in the pictorial expressions. If there is one thing I know on earth, it is a good painting.

I had not realised in France, where I lived for 58 years, that an obvious demonstration of fakes could be presented to the gallery. All artists, whether big and small, must have copyrights on their works and we must collectively make people aware that such a thing should not be done. I have filed a case against the accused for it concerns all senior artists.

Q: How would you describe the process of your evolution and growth as an artist?

A: For 30 years, I researched paintings in France. I loved painting European landscapes, especially those of the French countryside. But then I realised that something was missing from my work - India.

I came to India to study the concepts of bindu, kundalini, pushp pratik and the construction of geometry in art. There was a period when I wanted to explore Indian ethnography. But to be able to work, one has to be alone. I came to India and spent 10-15 years by myself, and the transformation took place.

Q: How are you taking the Raza Foundation to the next level?

A: For the last 10 years, Arun Vadehra of the Vadehra Gallery was taking care of the foundation, but now we have decided to pool all our resources to form a central cultural organisation in Delhi.

I set up Ekatra at the Shree Ram Bharatiya Kala Kendra with Ashok Vajpeyi as the president and several artists and gallery representatives as its members. I have donated the money coming from the copyrights of my works to the platform to promote Indian culture.

My foundation, so long, catered to artists. But now I am planning new things like composite exhibitions, which will showcase art, poetry and music. I am also scouting for land in the vicinity of Delhi for a permanent art archive.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am working on a collection of 15 paintings for the Venice Biennale in June-July 2009. Since Indian art is going places and finding resonance across the world, I am painting a couple of canvases on peace inspired by the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Besides, the collection will also feature my usual themes of bindu, prakriti, kundalini, naga, panchtatwa. The organisers will acquire eight canvases and I will add a few more complimentary ones - but they will not be on sale.

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