Gulam Rasool Santosh was both a painter and a poet and these two disciplines effusively blended in his canvases. His background probably can justify the exquisitely ephemeral quality of his paintings. He comes from the tragically beautiful Kashmir valley, which has been plagued, by insurgency and unrest for decades now.
G.R. Santosh’s Kashmir
Born to a middle class Kashmiri family in 1929, Santosh was fascinated with the natural beauty of Kashmir from a very young age. In one of his T.V. interviews he said, "In Kashmir, art was taught in school after class V. But I remember drawing in class II, starting, at the onset, on a landscape which I liked so much that I concentrated on landscapes, doing several of these before I changed my style." Santosh studied art till his matriculation but had to give up on any dreams of studying it any further for he was forced to start earning bread for the family after the early death of his father.
Mysticism meets Geometry
In Santosh’s early work one sees a preoccupation with geometric shapes and also the mysticism of the Kashmir valley. His unusual treatment of typical Kashmiri sights like snow-clad houses and the backwaters on the banks of river Jhelum, shows his ability to perceive nature in semi-abstract forms. The geometric shapes give the paintings a strange sense of harmony.
Santosh soon decided to pursue the concept of cubist landscapes. This is the very theme for which he is very popular now. However his cubist paintings were somewhat different from the western impersonal instances of the genre. They were more emotional and personal-Shabir, Santosh’s son says- "Even though he was influenced by cubism, one could feel the emotional attachment my father had for his native place which allowed him to give a refreshing treatment to his work."
In his career, Santosh has held over 30 individual shows. In 1973, he received the Lalit Kala Akademi award and in 1977, the Padma Shree. He died in 1997 in New Delhi.