Meet Raju Swami, a Miniature Artist …

Hi friends,

Throughout art history we have been enthralled and inspired by the art and artists.

Like music, art has a way of evoking raw emotion. It can make you happy, or cry. It can draw you in, or repel you. It can soothe your soul. It transcends language, borders and the ages. It has a language all its own. It helps you to see and perceive the world around you in a different way. You stop and notice things you’ve never seen before. It can transform and even heal. It’s been used in therapy to heal others with emotional issues. It is a primitive desire we all have.

Here is an artist who has made India proud with his miniature art, which has crossed international borders.

Amidst the deserts of Rajasthan, this man is painting trees. Raju Swami a miniature artist has painted so many artworks, but his domain- the plant kingdom is something that puts him a class apart.

Raju Swami was born on 18th February 1967 at Bikaner (Rajasthan), India. From the very beginning he has been blessed with an observant eye. He had a keen interest in drawing figures and objects. He undertook miniature art’s study under the guidance of his father Sh. Gordhan Dass Swami.

When a journalist asked him as to what he thinks about painting botanical art in miniatures, Raju tells, “Miniature painting is our family legacy. We are into it from the last 6-7 generations. I learnt the art from my father. Our studio however, specializes in botanical art, especially trees and traditional flowers. The art is Mughal style botanical paintings. Even as I do the other sort of paintings, trees are a major backdrop in them. Our art is so intricate that you need a magnifying glass to see them. In a tree there are thousands of leaves painted”.

The colors and medium he uses are antique and hand-made papers. The colors are all natural pigments which are grinded from stones or extracted from vegetables- such as indigo, chalk, limestone, lapis lazuli, cinnabar, lacquer, charcoal etc. They are prepared and blended with gum before painting.  The brushes are made of squirrel tails. He also uses gold leaf for the golden colors as needed.

When asked how much time he takes in creating one art piece, he replies, “Depending upon the scope of works it may take a few weeks to months to even a couple of years. I usually engage myself in a big project and a few small creatives simultaneously to disengage”.

Talking on his aspirations, he shares, “My paintings have travelled across the world- right from UNICEF greetings to various exhibits at International levels and places including Botanical Art and Illustration organized by Hunt Institute of Botanical documentation in Pittsburgh, USA. I am hoping that this kind of work gets more recognition and promotion, so that it continues to flourish and the art form does not fade away. I have been trying for the Guinness book of records. My younger son is trying to make this art more contemporary by connecting it with spaces, backdrops and digital gadgets. We continue to teach students every year in our studio and art school”.

Under the patronage of the rulers, it grew to become one of the finest schools of miniature art. Depicting mainly court life, the flora and fauna, the school closely followed the Mughal traditional styles and this is apparent in the early examples which exist from 1600 onwards. While the artistic style kept pace with painters in the Mughal Court, the Bikaneri artists were more expressive and nuanced. Around 55 such paintings have been procured from a master of that genre, Raju Swami, who has exhibited his works worldwide, and put together in this exhibition. The influence of the Mughal style has been all pervasive in the Bikaner School and the Bikaneri style could be considered almost a provincial idiom of that style. There have been instances of Mughal and Bikaneri miniatures being mistaken for each other. A distinctive feature of the Bikaneri style is the palette of opaque and translucent vegetable and mineral water colours, and a delicate portrayal of nature and human forms. …

Day to day accounts from the royal archival diaries (bahis) and numerous inscriptions on Bikaneri paintings, makes this one of the best documented Rajput schools. Inscriptions, mainly in the Marwari dialect, but also occasionally in Persian scripts, reveal the names of artists and dates and in some cases, even the place of production and occasions for which the works were commissioned.  There is recorded evidence of interactions between visiting Muslim painters from neighbouring Rajput states with local novices, who later adopted Islam and were called ustas. From the 16th through to the 19th centuries this art flourished, and is practised even today.

Raju Swami’s paintings have been printed as UNICEF cards. His works have been published in the Garden of Life, by Naveen Patnaik (Doubleday New York); and his paintings were included in the 8th International Exhibition of Botanical Art and Illustration organised by the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at Pittsburgh. Now, they are up on display for Delhiites too.

Art forms have always been created to communicate important messages and to inspire people to act and think. Every child draws when they are small. I believe it is a part of us. A way of connecting to our past, our creative energy, to each other.

See you soon with a new post. Take care.