On Sharkey's Shelf: "Rajasthan Style" Explores the Colors of Northern India
Taking a jaunt to a foreign land doesn't necessarily require you to purchase a plane ticket -- or even leave the comfort of your favorite armchair. Assouline does a brilliant job of placing remote, exotic locales within arm's reach. I always look forward to being transported to the destinations on which the publisher focuses its lens, especially in this latest tome devoted to Rajasthan.
The state is India's greatest in terms of sheer geographic reach, and arguably its most aesthetically inspiring. "The Land of Kings," as Rajasthan is called, is visually phenomenal thanks to a landscape scattered with vast ancient edifices elegantly preserved for posterity. What better subject matter for a beautiful coffee-table book?
Rajasthan reveals its regional history through architecture. The intricate towers of Jag Mandir palace seem to rise from the depths of Lake Pichola. Temples are intricately etched with vibrant swirling motifs and gilded flourishes. The Amber Fort is a majestic feat of stonework. It is all breathtaking and entirely unique to the province.
Grandeur is at its peak in Rajasthan, but then again, so are spectacular natural geographic features like lush oases and tremendous rolling hills. It is a lesson in contrast. Everywhere, there is a striking polarity between modernity and antiquity, between great, luxurious structures and the boundless expanses of sand dunes. Rajasthan encompasses the bustling metropolitan center of Jaipur, Mount Abu's Jain temples, the terraced green garden of Tijara Fort, the Blue City of Jodhpur, and so much more! You would need months to fully explore it by yourself. But thanks to Anne Garde's keen eye, the vista comes together harmoniously. It is truly a designer's dream.
Assouline transforms the stunning, subtle images of this region that some might minimize into a double-page spread. You could easily become addicted to them. If you look closely, you realize there are nuances in each image that Garde uses to make a statement -- say the weather-worn hand covered in the most opulent gems, or the women of Rajasthan sporting vividly hued saris en route to the bazaar. Every single image weaves a complex tale of Rajasthan's residents going about their quotidian lives against this incredibly resonant backdrop of dramatic buildings and landscapes. The saturated colors and patterns represented in Rajasthan's cities are enormously expressive of the region's rich culture and artistic traditions.
Reading "Rajasthan Style" is like going on a virtual journey with someone who has a great appreciation for detail. You feel like you've had an amazingly thorough visit to the land by the time you turn the last page. If the siren song of an exotic land calls to your inner jet-setter, look no further than "Rajasthan Style." It's just extraordinary.