Gond Artists: Beasts and Birds in the Vernacular Lounge
In a departure from the usual exhibitions held in the Vernacular Lounge the Depot Artspace is pleased to host a show which features the work of Madhya Pradesh-based Gond artists, Bhajju Shyam, Ram Singh Urveti, Durga Bai, Rajendra Shyam and Dilip Shyam. Kate Potter has curated this exhibition of works she returned to New Zealand with after travelling in central India.
The artwork is pertinent to the Vernacular Lounge as it embodies and reflects a discourse, engendered here by the Depot’s exploration of the local vernacular, on the features which contribute to a distinctive, definitive and ever-evolving cultural identity – the means by which we come to know, understand and represent ourselves in the world as inhabitants of a particular place.
In its recent and increasing cultural diversity there is something for New Zealand to learn from the way in India, and the Gonds in this instance, ‘not only acknowledges its rich pluralistic existence but also re-configures the definition of contemporary.’ — Yashodhara Dalmia
About the artists
Bhajju Shyam is one of the finest artists of the Gond tribe in central India. Like most children from his tribe, Bhajju grew up helping his mother paint the walls of their village home, and at the age of sixteen, he moved to the city of Bhopal in search of work and soon became an apprentice to his uncle, the famous artist Jangarh Singh Shyam. Bhajju’s prowess as an independent artist grew quickly, and in 2001 he received a state award for Best Indigenous Artist.
Ram Singh Urveti
An artist from central India, Ram Singh Urveti is one of the most brilliant living artists of the Gond tradition. Ram Singh’s work has spread the myths and stories of the Gond community throughout Asia, Europe, Australia, and South America and has won him awards nationally and internationally. His work creates a world of fantasy and metamorphosis, coming alive with finely detailed organic forms. He is the artist of many images in The Night Life of Trees.
Durga Bai is a young tribal artist from the Gond tradition of central India. Gond is a ritual and functional art style with distinctive decorative elements, mostly painted on walls of houses, using natural colours. Durga Bai constantly re-works and pushes the borders of the Gond art form to create art that sparkles with a distinctive energy.
Rajendra Shyam (See central image)
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.
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.”