Oil on canvas
53 1/8 x 39 in. (135 x 99.1 cm.)
Signed in Devanagari and signed and dated '89 / SANTOSH' on reverse
During the 1960s, whilst many Indian artists were drawn to the developments and global trends of abstraction and minimalism in Western art, a far smaller group searched, in various ways, to express traditions that related more closely to their indigenous identities. Although the journey created very different results for each individual, the search was frequently inspired by the esoteric or mystical traditions of India. This group includes artist like Biren De, Om Prakash, K. C. S. Panicker, Jagdish Swaminathan, S. H. Raza and Gulam Rasool Santosh.
For Santosh, the exploration into the more esoteric aspects of Indian traditions began with a trek to the Amarnath cave, which resulted in what he termed a mystical experience. On his return from Amarnath, he began to experiment with new symbols and forms that were inspired by a Kashmiri Shaivite tantric tradition based on the teachings of a philosopher Abhinavgupta. Santosh explains, that in 1965, 'there was a change with myself, I stopped painting. I wanted a change in my paintings as well, but I was not sure. I was in search of an image as an artist. An image that smacks of its soil, its tradition. Research in Shiva-Shakti philosophy prompted me to read on tantra. The realisation came to me that mine is not a tradition of visuals but a philosophical one.' (G. R Santosh, Awakening - A Retrospective of G. R. Santosh, exhibition catalogue, Delhi Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2011, p. 48)
This initial mystical experience, and the resulting research that Santosh then undertook into the various tantric traditions, resulted in a body of work based on Indian philosophy and the compositional forms of the yantra that continued to evolve throughout his career until his death in 1997. During this period, several basic tantric symbols continue to re-appear in multiple configurations. The central elements of his art become the lingam, the yoni, the bindu, the triangle, inverted triangle and the square, with additional elements such as the lotus, oval (representing the ovum) and star appearing less frequently. His works, if bisected vertically along a central line, are symmetrical or mirror images of one another. Normally, these geometric forms are enclosed within multiple borders in the manner of classical yantras.
Shantiveer Kaul points out, that for the most part, the combined forms almost always appear to represent stylised portraits of the female form seated in padmasana. He continues to explain further, 'While these geometric shapes occur in two dimensions, their construction and positioning suggests the third dimension. Thus, the triangle becomes a pyramid, the square a cube and so forth. Sometimes one is reminded of a stained glass window with a million tiny pieces of stained glass put together according to some magical formula pertaining to their chromatic value, glittering gem like or a diadem of light.' (Shantiveer Kaul, 'The Journey The Artist and His World', ibid., pp. 21-22)
Despite the clear links to classical tantric forms and compositions, Santosh was reluctant to assign any magical function to his own paintings. Instead, the artist felt that his paintings were a natural manifestation of his time spent in quiet contemplation. In this sense, they are to be seen as reflections of moments of heightened awareness. According to P.N. Mago, '...they reveal an urge to connect his individual consciousness to the deepest layers of his Being.' (P. N. Mago, A Coalesce of Spiritual and Aesthetic Bliss, Santosh, New Delhi, unpaginated)
The colours of the original are deeper and warmer than the catalogue illustration. A small brown stain in the blue border at the centre of the right edge, partially visible in catalogue illustration. A few small scattered white spots and a small abrasion to the canvas at the centre lower edge. Overall good condition.
About The Artist:
GULAM RASOOL SANTOSH (1929-1997)