Suraj Tiku's Genius Lay in His Art
By Dr. R.K.
was drawn to art instinctually. As a young boy he would pick
up charcoal to draw sparrows on walls. When he was in the 5th or 6th standard
his art teacher had asked him to draw a flower. Suraj finished the drawing and
presented it to the teacher. The latter was annoyed and scolded him. He had an
impression that somebody else had done the job for Suraj. The teacher asked
him to make the drawing in his presence. He was amazed to see such free flow
Suraj's artistic instincts were spotted
and honed into serious pursuit for art by Pt. Kashi Nath Bhan. The latter
became Suraj's Guru, not only in painting but also in set designing and
acting. Bhan was colleague and close friend of his uncle. Pt. Shridhar Joo.
The former was a regular visitor to Tikus's home and had the opportunity to
watch Suraj's immense talent at close hand. It is true that not many of Bhan's
students achieved comparable fame and success as Suraj did. Suraj had the zeal
to learn and imbibed his guru's teachings quite faithfully.
Suraj was a master artist who could do
portraits and landscapes with equal ease. In later years when he came in
association with Sh. Trilok Kaul at the
of Fine Arts
Suraj received the influence of Modern Art. Suraj Tiku's abstract paintings
amply reflect on his capacity to quickly adapt to the new techniques and art
forms in painting.
Even as Suraj Tiku came our of the portals
of Amar Singh Technical Institute he was an accomplished portrait painter. His
portrait of Ram Lal, Principal of Kamahi Devi School at Hoshiarpur speaks
about it. Two other portraits of this period include those of Lord Rama and
Suraj Tiku's another teacher at AS
Technical Institute was Pt. Jagar Nath Mattoo, an excellent portrait artist of
his time. Tiku would spend lot of time with him to learn techniques in
portrait-drawing. Suraj had good hold and perfection in portrait making. He
would do his portrait painting in oil. Sh. Moti Lal Kemu describes him as
'the last portrait painter I know'. Suraj never made portraits for
He was asked by the J&K government to make
a life-size portrait of Sheikh Abdullah, the then Chief Minister. This oil on
canvas painting is preserved in Sher-i-Kashmir Conference Hall at Soura
Another master portrait drawn by Suraj is
that of Bhagwan Gopi Nath, an ascetic of high spiritual merit. Mr. MK Tiku,
who gave the order on behalf of Bhagwan Gopi Nath Trust, recalls, "when I
showed this 4x3 painting, oil on canvas, to Pt. Shankar Joo Fotedhar he was
amazed. The saint was shown in sitting posture, performing Havan. Every item
used in the Havan-Thal (plate), Pambash, Shakar (Jaggery ), Narjeel (coconut
pieces), Kangri (local warming stove), was so well delineated. This painting
was stolen in mid-1990s when some people gate-crashed into the
premises at Kharyar.
Other excellent portraits made by Tiku and
still available to us include those of--Saint Anandji (of Vilgam), Saint
Govind Kaul Jalali (of Ram Shaiv Ashram, Fatehkadal) Dr. Amarchand Kak, the
first optician (1929) of Kashmir, Pt. Tika Lal Langoo, the great
philanthropist and father of Sh. Krishen Langoo, the music maestro etc. He
also made portraits of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. S.N. Ahmed
Shah, the renowned physician and Sh. Chaman Lal Churangoo, one of the founders
of Kala Kendra theatre. Mr. Balkrishen Qasba's only regret is that Tiku never
made portrait of his illustrious grandfather, Master Zind Kaul. He says, "Suraj
made such an excellent portrait of Kishen Langoo's father, delineating his
facial wrinkles so nicely".
Both the Artists Gh. Rasool Santosh and
Suraj Tiku had been asked to make large-sized portraits of Pt. JL Nehru. Suraj
was also quick in portrait drawing. Even while he was conversing with a person
he would prepare the sketch of the person in ten minutes and the following day
he would present the finished portrait to him.
Gokul Dembi, the famed painter-artist and
Tiku's former colleague comments, "I found him to be the best portrait
painter of his era. His use of colours was beautiful. In his portraits the
colour of the skin would look so natural and portraits full of life".
Sh. M.K. Tiku, a connoisseur of art, who
knew most of the master artists of
intimately, adjudges Tiku as good as Mahendra Nath Dhar, the veteran portrait
artist of early 20th Century. He observes," Dhar was better known because he
was there before Suraj Tiku had arrived on the scene. Also, the urban elite of
Srinagar had portraits made by Dhar on orders. More than 75% of these portrait
paintings had been done by him. It was quite natural that Dhar was better
Suraj Tiku's landscape paintings have been
much appreciated. He was equally proficient in oil as well as in water colour.
Like other painters his landscape paintings have been done mostly in water
Suraj loved to paint
landscapes and its rural scenes. Boat formed a regular theme in his landscape
painting. To him boat symbolised
Kashmir. In landscape paintings he would
paint Dal and Anchar lakes and other water bodies in the vicinity of
and rural hinterland.
Lake has been the regular theme of local as well as foreign painters. Some of
his best landscape paintings include 'A street scene in winter', 'River by
Night' (Displayed at 32nd Annual All India Exhibition in 1968), 'In
at Art Exhibition in Jammu in 1964).
Another much appreciate landscape painting
of Tiku is 'A River scene near
Habbakadal. This was the painting he gifted to his friend Sh MK Tiku, a
trustee of Bhagwan Gopi Nath Trust and a leading saffron trader. One evening
Suraj was gossiping with Mr. Tiku at the Habbakadal bridge. He took out cover
of cigarette packet and drew a pencil sketch of the area near Purushyar
temple, with Jehlum flowing in its full majesty and behats (big boats) moored
on its banks. Tiku asked Suraj to try a better landscape scene-near Chinar
Bagh or Nehru Park. After 5-6 days Suraj droped in at Mr. Tiku's shop in
Habbakadal and handed him over the painting-depicting river scene near
Purushyar Temple. Great landscape painter Dina Nath Wali 'Almast' on seeing
this painting in Mr MK Tiku's house had all praise for Suraj. Suraj also
respected Mr. Wali and admired his landscape work. Tiku would preserve Wali's
paintings. Wali's poetic collection "Sahrayuky Posh" (Desert Flowers),
presented to Suraj by the author was carried by him to
also. On another occasion artist GR Santosh took this painting in his hands,
kissed it and exclaimed, "Yi Chuh Kamal, Yi Gav Artist. Atha Asiah
Logmut Rupaya Ya Zah, Vuchiv Kamal' (This is great. This shows the
artist in him. It must have cost him a rupee or two. How wonderful it is?)
Another artist from
who was connected with Khadi Commission and visited Mr. MK Tiku, saw the
painting. He had all praise for the painting and asked Mr Tiku if the artist
of the painting was alive and expressed desire to meet Suraj Tiku. The meeting
could not materialise as the Maharashtrian artist had to leave early.
Oil on Canvas Work:
Suraj Tiku also did oil on canvas
landscape paintings. His best paintings in oil include 'Horses', 'Roses',
'Dongas at Habbakadal' (1975) etc. 'Horses' was gifted by Suraj to
Muzaffar Ali, the noted filmmaker of 'Zooni' fame. Another painting
with similar title adorns Amar Mahal Gallery. 'Roses' (displaying Roses
in coir basket) was presented by Tiku to Dr. Naseer. The latter on seeing this
beautiful painting got up from his seat in appreciation.
Many of Suraj Tiku's paintings are in
Cultural Academy and other Art Galleries of India. His paintings have been
displayed in exhibitions held by J&K Cultural Academy and 'Visionaries'
Group. This group was launched by artists serving at the Institute of
Music and Fine Arts in 1969, with an objective to activate the work of art in
Kashmir and hold exhibitions. Its leading lights were Suraj Tiku, Prof. Santji
Sultan (Gen. Secretary), Trilok Kaul, PN Kachru, Gokul Dembi and others.
This group held an exhibition in
Delhi , in
which Suraj also participated with his paintings.
Suraj Tiku's paintings have been awarded
for 'First Snowfall' (1963-64), 'Horses' (1965), 'Roses' (1964), 'My Land'
(1967). The awards were given by
Tiku had fascination for Kashmiri
miniature paintings. Whenever a miniature painting would come his way he would
preserve it in his archival collection with great care. Santosh Tiku remarks,
"father did not only appreciate the antiquity or beauty of these paintings
but would also speak with great sense of pride that Kashmiris had such
Tiku's contemporaries and juniors had
great regard for his artistic work. Pt. Trilok Kaul, his mentor and close
"Suraj was very sincere towards his art
and profession. He was inquisitive, had will to learn and evolve. His
paintings on the strength of their quality qualified for exhibitions alongwith
those of Somnath Bhat, Kishori Kaul, PN Kachroo etc. Tiku's landscape
paintings had an edge over those of DN Wali (particularly after 1949) as Tiku
was in tune with contemporary trends in art though his base was traditional.
He had seen Sat Lal Kampassi, DN Wali, British artists etc. Tiku's style was
different from that of Wali. GR Santosh, however, had an edge over Suraj in
According to Krishan Langoo, Suraj Tiku
accepted no artist other than Trilok Kaul. Tiku admired Trilok Kaul's
creativity and had all appreciation for his struggle to pursue art despite
hardships and economic uncertainty.
Trilok Kaul, Tiku's Director at the
of Fine Arts, had a positive influence on Suraj's persuasion of art. Return of
Trilok Kaul and others from Baroda saw a new interest among local artists in
use of bright colours and trying new art forms like cubism, expressionist
styles and other forms of abstract painting. Suraj Tiku also absorbed these
influences. 'Kanzalvan' (1975), a village near Gurez, is perhaps the
best done by Suraj in this genre.
Gokul Dembi also admires Tiku's landscape
paintings. He observes:
"Suraj would make beautiful landscape
paintings. He would do in water colour usually and occasionally in oil. The
reason was water colour was fashion of the day in
Suraj's landscape paintings were done in a realistic way, his water colour
used to be like water where freshness would be preserved. He would do it in
traditional way. Suraj did abstract painting also. There was influence of
Trilok Kaul on him but Tiku's basic concepts remained the same".
Rajinder Tiku, an eminent sculpturist
"I know Suraj more as a person who was
very jovial and loved to cut jokes on anything. He would also treat his work
very jovially. His work would excude energy".
would prepare portraits and sketches for Gaash, a magazine in Kashmiri,
published by publication wing of J&K Education Ministry. He would also do
illustration work for books brought out by the Education department. Tiku made
title covers for many books, including Lol Badrayas Lol Rey, Saya Git
(authored by PNK Sayil and Halas
Tiku used to work for
exhibitions, designing models for different departments. He helped B.Ed.
students in preparing models.