A landscape by Kailash Raj, a contemporary artist with rare distinction pursuing medieval miniature style, especially as practiced by master artists of hill region – the Pahari, illustrates the nature’s most sublime face. Kailash Raj works in Indian painting’s medieval style though unlike those who render copies of the earlier works often using the same set of imagery, painting size, format, colour-scheme, figures’ iconography, style of borders, theme and sometimes even its antique look, Kailash Raj often creates his own world of miniature, his own theme, sometimes even his own version of myths, scheme of colours, iconography, perspective, costume-types, almost everything except the medieval art style and the flavour that he inherits from that great tradition. However, perhaps its irresistible magic being more captivating than his insistence for the ‘new’ in this miniature he has sought to reproduce one of the folios of Basohli series illustrating the Gita Govinda, a twelfth century Sanskrit classic – a pastoral poem by Jaideva portraying Lord Krishna’s romance with Radha. Basohli is the earliest school of Pahari art and the earliest of Indian painting to illustrate Gita-Govinda.
Besides nature’s vividness and sublimity the painting also portrays the doctrine of co-existence that best manifests in nature. Tigers, rabbits and deer – black bucks and others, are grazing, roaming, resting or looking for food fearless; rocks are tough but not obstructing the growth of trees growing even on their bosoms; river comes down from high altitude but keeps to its course and does not encroach the land, and the sun touches it softly.
Though primarily a landscape for eye there also reveals in the painting the message of co-existence and preservation of nature and environment that it manifests. Maybe, when illustrating this vision of nature from the Gita-Govinda, the artist had in mind also the ancient Sanskrit classic Pancha-tantra by Vishnu Sharma. Apparently the stories of nature in which nature – animals and even trees, hills …, has the major or rather exclusive role, each story also reveals a moral. The thrust – for co-existence and preservation of nature and environment, is far greater in the contemporary world. This could be the reason why Kailash Raj chose to reproduce this great Pahari classic against his usual practice of evading reproductions. Irrespective of the age he is born in, Kailas Raj is in the real sense a miniaturist in the line of great medieval masters, those of the hill region in particular not only rendering an art-work but also linking it to the contemporary needs. Artist from Rajasthan went for hard tones of colours. Kailash Raj has a preference for hills’ soft colour-tones except for costumes for which he preferred Rajasthan’s bright colours.
Kailash Raj is basically a pursuant of tradition but his paintings are full of innovations and experimentalism. This miniature is a total experiment. Landscape is very rarely the domain of miniature painting but he reproduced it for in contemporary world it had greater relevance. Though a folio from a known series from hill region, and its pastoral character is more akin to Pahari ambience, a landscape it does not confine to one particular art region or stylistic identity – Rajasthani, Pahari or any. In the purity of idiom, soft colour tones, vigour, pastoral background and in representing the nature’s totality otherwise also the painting is close to Pahari art-style, more so its Kangra School.
This description by Prof P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet.