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Wall to Wall

In an exhibition, artist Japani Shyam remembers her father, the pioneer of the Gond style of painting.

Written by Vandana Kalra | New Delhi |
Updated: January 10, 2015 11:26:52 am
japani shyam, art, modern art Animal motifs are present in works by Jangarh Singh Shyam and his daughter, Japani Shyam.

At the age of 17, the young boy had his neighbours watch in rapt attention as he dipped his fingers in colour to paint the huts in Verrier Elwin’s adopted village of Patangarh, Madhya Pradesh. Veteran artist J Swaminathan perhaps followed this trail of admirers when he first encountered Jangarh Singh Shyam. He introduced him to poster colours, a medium Shyam instinctively adopted, producing an amalgam of traditional and modern imagery. Soon, Shyam was in Bhopal, as a muralist at Bharat Bhavan, being designed by architect Charles Correa. His motifs included humming birds and forest flora and a flying Hanuman, as well as myths that were mere oral traditions till now. Shyam travelled from Bhopal to Delhi, and Paris to Japan, where he committed suicide. At 37, though, he had already traversed the world, and in his village, had inspired numerous artists to paint in his style, which came to be recognised as the Gond style of painting.

“From his home town, where he created mural paintings on walls, to his last works before his sudden death, he continued to evolve and his creativity is worthy of the greatest names in contemporary art,” says Shobha Bhatia, director of Gallerie Ganesha. She is celebrating his work along with his artist-daughter Japani in the exhibition titled “Tribal Tales”.

Comprising over 20 frames, the show brings together the veteran and his 26-year-old daughter, who distinctly remembers her father teaching her how to wield the brush when she was still an infant. “He never criticised my work and always encouraged me to experiment with different motifs,” says the artist, who, at 11, was bestowed with the Kamala Devi Award. Ironically, she was named after Japan by Shyam. Like her father, she too excels in merging the mythical and pictorial. She is familiar with his world of birds and animals, folk and ritualistic. But she
does not relate with them likewise.

City-bred, she and her brother Mayank (also an artist) have only heard tales from their mother and grown up admiring their father’s work. “These stories are a part of our culture and we celebrating that through our works,” says Japani. She makes a conscious effort to stay away from comparisons with her father, developing an individual aesthetic.

Bhatia has got the two together — Jangarh’s intricately scaled fishes with that of Japani, and a lone bull on Jangarh’s otherwise sparse work with her daughter’s deer raging out of a tree.

The exhibition at Gallerie Ganesha, E-557, Greater Kailash II, is on till January 20. Contact: 29217306

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