Practised by one of the largest tribes in India, the Gond art is a quintessential example of folk and tribal art from the pre-Aryan era. The Gonds are predominantly from Madhya Pradesh, but can also be found in pockets of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhatisgarh and Orissa.
According to the traditional beliefs of the Gonds, all things are inhabited by a spirit, and are therefore sacred. The tribe gave shape to their belief system by depicting man’s close connection to the natural world through their paintings. However, nature is not the only source of ideas for the Gond people. Myths and legends of India, as well as the daily lives and dreams of the community also form part of the subjects for their art work. Their paintings serve as a means to preserve and record their history.
The village of Patangarh lying in the Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh is central to the story of Gond art. Almost every wall in the village is painted by someone in the family practising the art form. The Gond paintings are created using carefully-drawn lines, in order to impart a sense of mobility to the still images. Dots and dashes are also added to impart a greater sense of movement, as well as to increase the amount of detail. Gond paintings also use very bright, vivid colours like white, red, blue and yellow. The paints used by the Gond artists are usually made of charcoal, coloured soil, plant sap, mud, flowers, leaves and even cow dung. However, due to the scarcity of these materials Gond artists have begun to use poster colours nowadays.
Jangarh Singh Shyam, hailing from Patangarh village, was the first artist to take Gond art to paper and canvas. He had started off his journey as an artist by painting the walls and floors of houses during the Digna festival. He is credited with being the creator of a new school of Indian art called ‘Jangarh Kalam’. Jangarh had also painted the interiors of the Legislative Assembly of Madhya Pradesh, the Vidhan Bhavan, and the dome of Bhopal’s Bharat Bhavan—one of the most prestigious museums of tribal and contemporary Indian art.
Another famous Gond artist named Bhajju Shyam, is Jangarh Singh’s nephew, and belongs to Patangarh too. He is in the forefront of the next generation of Gond artists, evolving his practice to depict everyday life around him, including his travels and his life in big cities.
Over the next few weeks he will be working with the team of StartIndia to experiment with modern techniques, merging the old with the new, in order to create a mural in the Lodhi art district. The effort is part of an artist residency titled “ From Craft to Contemporary” , which is a collaboration on the part of Asian Paints and StartIndia, for the first time ever. With the engaged participation of artist, Bhajju Shyam, it aims at reimagining traditional Indian art forms and reintroducing them to the younger generation through the mural in the Lodhi Art District using modern techniques.
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