Millennium Post

Of folk art and family ties

To honour the memory of Jangarh Singh Shyam, one of the most celebrated folk artists of our country, Gallerie Ganesha is hosting a show of his works along with those of Jangarh Singh Shyam’s daughter Japani Shyam in a two-person show titled Tribal tales at Gallerie Ganesha Greater Kailash II in the Capital, from December 18-20. The show includes twenty works.

Jangarh Singh Shyam, born in 1962, belonged to the Gond tribe of Madhya Pradesh. As a boy who
lived in the jungles of Mandla in Madhya Pradesh, he was discovered by the legendary J. Swaminathan, who brought him to Roopankar Museum in Bhopal and introduced him to the modernist mainstream. Shyam not only made the difficult transition from tribal to urban life-style but gained almost instant recognition.

He showed his works at the prestigious ‘Magicians of the Earth’ exhibition at Pompidou Centre in Paris alongside leading Western artists such as Francesco Clemente. He painted the interiors of the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha and the dome at Bhopal’s Bharat Bhavan, one of the most prestigious museums of tribal and contemporary Indian art. Even after his tragic death in Tokyo, Japan at the age of 39, the young artist went on to leave a permanent impression in the minds of the discerning art audience.

No wonder then, the Sotheby’s auction of South Asian Art in New York in 2010 featured a canvas by him, first for any folk artist from India. In Saffronart’s auction of folk and tribal art in 2012, his work was the most expensive priced at Rs 9 lakh.

Shobha Bhatia, Director, Gallerie Ganesha said, “From his hometown where he created mural paintings on walls to his last works before his sudden death in 2001, he continued to evolve and his creativity is worthy of the greatest names in contemporary art. His style is characterised by a feeling of intense vibration and the cohesion of his work reveals both the animist culture of Gond tribe and one of the foundations of Indian thought.”

Born in 1988, Japani, who was named after his father's trip to Japan, started painting at a very early age and she says her father would always encourage her to paint the way she wanted and never criticized her work. She feels that is the reason why she began to paint with confidence and in 1999. At the age of eleven, she was given the Kamala Devi Award.

Japani’s main motif is the world of animals and birds, their struggle for food, their sense of camaraderie, their different mood. Another motif is the world of rituals, beliefs among the Gonds which she was exposed to when she went to the villages of Pantangarh and Sonpur, where her parents Jangarh Singh Shyam and Nankusia Shyam came from. Being a city bred girl, she looks at them from a distance and at the same time she feels she is a part of them.

Like her brother Mayankh, she has also painted on the world of Baigas, who are still very much an integral part of nature. She has imbibed the use of colour and form from her father and continues to experiment with and express it in her creations.

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