Gond artists

Gond artists participating in the Gond Animation Workshop at the National Institute of Design, 3-21 September 2012

Venkat Raman Singh Shyam

Venkat was born to a humble Pardhan Gond family living Sejohra, a village in eastern Madhya Pradesh. He began painting at the age of ten, and for five years he worked as an apprentice to his uncle, the late Gond master artist Jangarh Singh Shyam. The most innovative and experimental of Jangarh’s artistic successors, Venkat has worked in a variety of media and styles, ranging from figurative and naturalistic drawings and acrylic paintings on canvas and silk, to more decorative work in papier maché, ceramic tiles, glass, aluminum and sheet iron. He has done ambitious commissions for India’s Taj Hotel Group, and recently completed a series on the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008—which he personally witnessed while visiting the Taj Hotel on business. Venkat also organized the impromptu team of fellow Gond artists who painted cels for the UK-produced ‘Best of the Best’ animated film.

Venkat’s work has been collected and exhibited internationally. Despite such globalized exposure, he retains a deep commitment to his Pardhan Gond cultural heritage, which he celebrates through his depictions of traditional subject matter. He draws inspiration from his personal memories of growing up in different village communities, listening to tribal elders recount traditional myths and oral histories (which he is now recording), and photographing Gond festivals, ceremonies and daily life.

 Rajendra Shyam

Rajendra Shyam was born in 1974 in the remote village of Patangarh, in the jungle of eastern Madhya Pradesh, central India. As a child he was compelled to give up his education so as to help support his family, by doing daily wage labour on road construction. In 1996, his uncle—the seminal Gond master artist Jangarh Singh Shyam—recognized Rajendra’s artistic talents and encouraged him to work as his apprentice in Bhopal. He has subsequently pursued his own career as an independent artist. He has participated in many exhibitions in India and has also shown his work in Nottingham and in London.

Rajendra draws inspiration from his memory of traditional stories, learned during his rural youth and childhood. It was then that his artistic talents were first recognized by his family and community, who admired his renderings of dignas—auspicious designs painted on walls and floors. Since moving to Bhopal he has adopted modern media, especially ink on paper and acrylics on canvas. His wife Sushila often assists him in filling in the details of his work, a practice customary among Pardhan Gond artists.

Dilip Shyam

After graduating from school, Dilip Shyam left his village, Patangarh, for Bhopal but he was soon disappointed when he realized how difficult it was to find a job in the city.

Dilip Shyam was honoured with the Jangarh Singh Shyam Award in 2008. He had always wanted to be a painter like Jangarh, his paternal uncle, as well as his inspiration. He cherishes the memory of Jangarh Singh, who had commented on seeing his paintings, “You also have the artist in you. Don’t let that die.”

Roshni Vyam

Roshni is eighteen years old. Her parents are the renowned Gond artists Subhash Vyam and Durga Bai Vyam. She is the youngest of three children and she started painting when she was five years old, encouraged by her mother. Her elder brother Mansingh is also an artist. Roshni enjoys Gond folktales, especially those that she hears from her mother, and she is inspired to illustrate these stories. In the future she would like to open her own gallery and she is certain that she wants to continue developing her work in the traditional Gond style. Other than art, she enjoys spending time with friends and traveling.

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