Ghulam Rasool Santosh

Ghulam Rasool Santosh, Tantric Paintings

Ghulam Rasool Santosh, also known as G.R. Santosh, was born in 1929 in the Kashmir valley in India. He was forced to give up painting after his father’s death and as a result took up several odd jobs of silk weaving, sign board painting, and white washing walls. In 1950 Santosh joined the Progressive Art Association (PAA) in Kashmir which mobilized Kashmiri painters.

As a member of this group, Santosh showed his work all over India. In 1954, he won the scholarship to study Fine Arts under N.S. Bendre at the MS University, Baroda in 1954. Santosh had a mystical experience in 1964 that was to have a profound effect on his work. ‘I went to Amarnath in the sixties, purely as an artist-tourist. But the truth is, that unknown to me, this journey changed my life, the way I think. Upon my return from the yatra, a ‘new’ poetry was born.’

Santosh became fascinated by religious traditions within Kashmiri Shaivism, a branch of Indian philosophy. This came to influence his art as the awareness and consciousness that stemmed from frequent meditation and practice of Tantra took form in his paintings as transcendent imagery. He launched himself at the vanguard of the neo-Tantric movement, associated with painters such as K.C.S. Paniker and Biren De. Here he has implemented ancient tantric iconographies and subsequently reinterpreted them by reducing them to abstractions, culminating in the construction of a fresh aesthetic language.

Many of the Tantric works, especially from the early 1970s were engulfed in black borders and backgrounds. At this time, when Santosh started experimenting in tantric art, he strongly aligned himself spiritually with goddess Kali, who is one of the proponents of Kashmiri Shaivism.  He is thus known to have referred to these seminal works as his ‘black period.’

Santosh has held over 30 solo exhibitions. He received the Lalit Kala Akademi award in 1973 and the Padma Shri in 1977. Gulam Rasool Santosh died in 1997 in New Delhi.

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