By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi
“Painting to me is like poetry—timeless and universal” (Gulam Rasool Santosh, the Kashmiri Poet-painter)
Gulam Rasool Santosh — also known as G. R. Santosh—a prominent Kashmiri artist, poet and a painter —was born in a modest Muslim family in Habba Kadal near old Srinagar. Inspired by the Kashmiri Shaivism, he was, in all probability, the most prominent Kashmiri Muslim artist from the neo-tantra movement in Indian art, which includes artists like Biren De and Sohan Qadri.
“G. R Santosh belongs to the first wave of Tantrik artists in India. When we look at his work, we find cosmology is being reinterpreted and the notion of creation, mandalas and yantras being recreated in his art in a different way. But in all of those images, you can trace their vocabulary to ancient sources. What is so unique about his paintings is that he uses many archetypal symbols. So you have, for instance, a symbol of male and female principles. You have the inverted triangle which embodies the female principle and then you have the triangle which symbolizes the male principle, and both are super-imposed which you can see in the lower part of the painting. It emerges like a Cosmo-gram with many ideas of creation, time, spatial formations, and the colours are so well blended, and imageries so well framed that it is like a modem mandala of the cosmos.”
It would be appropriate to sum up this piece with a couplet of Ghulam Rasool Santosh, who was not just a painter and creator of remarkable paintings such as ‘Main Santosh Hun’ and ‘Rup Agni’ but also a well-versed Kashmiri poet. He says, and I quote:
Behold, and then you may well believe,
The only voice to trust is the one you hear.