Nature, identity merge on this Gond artist’s canvas

BY SIDDHI JAIN 

New Delhi, Sep 21 (IANSlife) Carrying forward the unique tradition of Gond tribal art, Japani Shyam, daughter of a master artist, is exploring her community’s folklore on canvas.

She gives a visual identity to the stories of Gond deities, animals, birds and landscapes that were part of her growing up years.

Shyam, 30, began her tryst with art when she watched her father paint from a young age, and eventually pitched in to give finishing touches to his canvases, before taking up the brush herself.

Her father, Jangarh Singh Shyam (1962-2001), was discovered as an artist when the walls of his hut in Patangarh village were found covered with Gond paintings. Known for popularizing a new idiom of Gond art worldwide, he had a major exhibition, “Magiciens de la Terre”, in Paris in 1989, among others.

One of his three children, Japani Shyam won the Kamala Devi award at the Crafts Museum in Delhi when she was barely 11, leading her to realize that she was always earmarked to be an artist.

“Personally, I love painting the nature and personal stories of Gonds — our ways of worship, customs, sacrificial traditions and mythical tales. You will always find the element of trees and birds in my paintings,” Bhopal-based Shyam told IANSlife.

The iconography of “tree” recurs in her oeuvre and points to the deep link Gond artists forge between creativity and environment.

“I like to delve into the meaning and significance of flora and fauna in Gond art. My world is mostly inhabited by animals and rituals, and I integrate nature through forests in which these animals live.

“My work is nature-based, but my designs are purely based on imagination. None of the forest creatures are really a copy of what they look like in real. I sketch free hand and whatever shape the creature takes in my mind, I go freely with it. It should only appeal to me and please my eyes,” she said.

While Gond art is known to be a melange of colours, Shyam’s signature black-on-white painting style has brought her much acclaim.

As fate would have it, her father committed suicide in Japan in May 2001, leaving behind a family of grieving artists. An event that made much news then, was the beginning of personal and professional loss for Shyam and her siblings.

“It was a very sad, shocking incident. ‘Pitaji’ taught everyone in the family, and we were very young, but the show must go on. I will not say that I am a very good artist, but we still feel a missing link as a father and guru,” said Shyam, who bagged the FICCI Young Achievers Award 2018.

The Gond artist is exhibiting a selection of her paintings at a solo show titled “Tribal Traditions” at Gallerie Ganesha here till September 22.

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