Gond art comes to Mumbai

Aug 11, 2015, 08:58 IST | Krutika Behrawala

Celebrate nature, life and the Gond Pardhan culture as artworks by Bhopal-based artist Sukhnandi Vyam Pardhan, nephew of seminal contemporary Gond artist Jangarh Singh Shyam go on display in Mumbai

In 1981, Jagdish Swaminathan, the eminent artist and director of Bhopal’s multi-art complex, Bharat Bhavan, visited Patangarh, a hamlet in Madhya Pradesh, and came across a wall painting of Bajrang Bali created by Jangarh Singh Shyam, belonging to the Pardhan Gond community. The 21-year-old was then invited to Bhopal to replicate his art on canvas and went on to become the pioneering contemporary Gond artist whose works were exhibited at Tokyo, New York and Paris. The critic Udayan Vajpeyi also credits Shyam for being the creator of a new school of Indian art called Jangarh Kalam.

Sukhnandi Vyam Pardhan painting with acrylic colours
Sukhnandi Vyam Pardhan painting with acrylic colours

Now, as a tribute to this artist, his nephew Sukhnandi Vyam Pardhan, who learnt Gond art under his maternal uncle, will showcase 50 paintings at the exhibition titled, Sacred Roots, starting today at Artisans’. “Through this solo exhibition, we would like to recognise the distinctive voice that each artist has developed, dispelling the notion of a shared ‘folk’ or ‘tribal’ art form,” informs Radhi Parekh, director of the gallery.

The artist’s take on the Dancing Shiva
The artist’s take on the Dancing Shiva

Pardhans and their art
While the Gond tribe of central India has several branches, the Pardhans supposedly descended from the youngest of seven Gond brothers who became a priest and a storyteller on the instruction of Badadev, their local deity. Known as the bards of the Gond community, the Pardhans were entrusted with keeping their cultural lineage alive through oral traditions. Shyam was the first artist to transform oral imagery onto canvas.

One of the exhibits by Sukhnandi Vyam Pardhan
One of the exhibits by Sukhnandi Vyam Pardhan

The Pardhan Gond paintings celebrate life replete with songs, rituals, myths and their harmony with nature. “When I was 10 years old, my uncle would often see me carve wood and clay figurines. He liked it, and urged me to take up painting. He always encouraged me to use my imagination, go beyond drawing only rituals and customs and develop my own style,” says Vyam, whose work predominantly depicts nature and its creations, revealing his beliefs and perspectives of the world.

Till: August 18, 11 am to 7 pm
At:  Artisans’, 52-56 Dr VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda.

Gond Ramayani

The gallery will also host a two-day lecture series on Gond folklore and mythology by Utkarsh Patel and Arundhuti Dasgupta Singhal of the Talking Myths project. “The focus of our lectures is on the mythologies that were held sacred by these people and which have come to shape and define their art.

As the dominant tribal community in central India, the Gond narrative also has influenced many other tribes,” reveals Dasgupta. Patel will throw light on their oral narrative, titled Gond Ramayani. “The central character of Gond Ramayani is not Ram, but Lacchman, and it is about his quest for a bride.

The Ramayani in Gond art form is a recent phenomenon initiated by Jangarh Singh Shyam, which was painted under the Ramkatha project of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts,” he informs.

On: August 13 and 14, 6 pm to 8 pm
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