Jyoti Bhatt: Rediscovering Photography

Sneha Sikand of Saffronart on the artist’s presentation at a TEDx event

Jyoti Bhatt at the TEDx event in Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad: Renowned painter, printmaker and photographer, Jyoti Bhatt, recently gave a talk at a TEDx event held in Ahmedabad. One of the founding members of the Center of Photography in Baroda, Bhatt shifted his focus from painting to photography early on in his career. He speaks about his love for photography and why he keeps going back to it despite being an equally successful printmaker and painter.

Having studied printmaking, fresco and mural making, one can see these various methods influencing his body of photographic work. Even while capturing the visual culture of rural Gujarat, Rajasthan, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, or just landscapes and individuals, he bears in mind the finer details which can be grasped with the single click of a camera.

Focusing particularly on his love and passion for photography, Bhatt presents several examples of  how he likes to photograph different textures and forms. He also gives an interesting account of a sketch made by him in the 1950s and a photograph that he took fifteen years later being a mirror image of the sketch. He goes on to compare the two works but obviously prefers the photograph as he feels the nuances are captured better.

Watch the TEDx video here

Sculptures in the Spotlight

Our upcoming Evening Sale on 12 September 2019 in New Delhi features unique and dynamic sculptures by leading Indian modernists K G Subramanyan, Sankho Chaudhuri, B Prabha, Himmat Shah, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh, Prodosh Das Gupta, Ramkinkar Baij, Jyoti Bhatt and Pilloo Pochkhanawala.

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The Art of Jangarh Singh Shyam

Gond art is among the most popular and well-known indigenous art traditions of India. Taking its name after the tribe which practices it, Gond art is mainly centred in Madhya Pradesh. Within this form, there is a wide spectrum of artistic styles, primarily connected to certain painters and their practices. The tribe’s strong tradition of oral narrative—often focussing on their gods who corresponded to elements of nature—transposes to their paintings as well.

These indigenous art forms have now evolved in their social and cultural roles. Efforts by art historians and the government have helped push them to prominence and artists themselves have painstakingly modified a centuries-old ethos to contemporary demand. At the forefront of giving the folk and tribal arts the recognition they deserved, was Jangarh Singh Shyam, famed for his Gond paintings and for popularising the art form abroad.

Jangarh Singh Shyam at his studio in Bharat Bhavan | Wikimedia Commons

Shyam is synonymous with this art form, so much so, that Udayan Vajpeyi, in his essay, “From Music to Painting” proposes that the art be called Jangarh kalam, or Jangarh style. (Sathyapal ed., Native Art of India, Thrissur: Kerala Lalithakala Akademi, 2011, p. 33) Hailing from the Gond tribe in Madhya Pradesh, Jangarh Singh Shyam lived in the jungles of Mandla until a chance encounter with the modern artist Jagdish Swaminathan in the 1980s. Swaminathan, who was leading an Indian collective on a study tour with the aim of creating a collection of tribal art in Bhopal, came across Shyam’s house, whose walls were adorned with his art. Upon enquiring, they met Shyam—only a teenager at the time, but with a striking style of painting.

Jagdish Swaminathan with Jangarh Singh Shyam and his wife at Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal, 1987 | © Jyoti Bhatt

Swaminathan took Shyam on as his protege, bringing him to the Roopankar Museum in Bhopal, where he learned to transfer his art from walls to paper. He created a series of works on paper and canvas which are displayed at Bharat Bhavan today. “His first large works on paper from the start of the 1980s contain highly expressive forms of great simplicity redolent of primitivism.” (Herve Perdriolle, Indian Art: Contemporary, One Word, Several Worlds, Milan: 5 Continents Editions, p. 61)

Shiv – Many-headed or Shesh Nag snake, trident and lingayoni (Gond Art), 1989, Gouache on paper, 19.5 x 25.5 in, Estimate: Rs 6 – 8 lakhs ($8,220 – 10,960)

In typical Gond tradition, Shyam’s art is based on the deities and divinities of the Gond tribe, and the animist culture of worship surrounding them. Suspended in space, he renders them like silhouettes creating the effect of shadow puppets, with bright colours, dots and hatched lines. The inspiration for using fine dots comes from the tribe itself, where shamans go into a trance and imagine that the particles of their bodies disperse into space to join with those of spirits to form other beings. The intricacy and control in his dot-based designs is seen in the works of all Gond artists, as are his most common subjects – the tree of life and various animals.

Sher (Gond Art), 1990, Ink on paper, 14 x 11 in and Gughawa Pakshee (Gond Art), 1993, Ink on paper, 21.5 x 14.5 in, Estimates: Rs 3 – 4 lakhs ($4,110 – 5,480) and Rs 5 – 6 lakhs ($6,850 – 8,220)

In 2010, the Muse du quai Branly in Paris held an exhibition called Other Masters of India, which carried large works on paper by Shyam from the late 1980s and early 1990s, which according to Perdriolle, “reveal a development in the direction of a profusion of psychedelic colors and more elaborated forms. The second half of the 1990s was marked by an unusual refinement, pictorial maturity, and graphic mastery that resulted in some of his best works.” (Perdriolle, p. 61)

Birds (Gond Art), 1996, Ink on paper, 11 x 13.75 in, Estimate: Rs 4 – 5 lakhs ($5,480 – 6,850)

Shyam worked with several mediums throughout his career, including drawing and silkscreen painting, rediscovering a new style and representation every time. As he achieved fame, Shyam encouraged other artists in his community to paint, giving them access into the mainstream. His house was the studio, where he provided his students with paper, canvas and paint, encouraging them to find their own expression through new mediums.

Shyam passed away in Japan in 2001. He was in his early forties. The artist’s memory is preserved in his body of work, including the large murals he created for the Parliament building in Bhopal, and continued by the members of his family trained by him, including his wife Nankusia, daughter Japani, and son Mayank. In a short-lived but exceptional career, he left behind a powerful and dynamic legacy which reached for the new while preserving the roots of the Gond artistic tradition.


Saffronart’s Winter Online Auction features four works by the artist, and will be on auction on 9 – 10 December 2020 on saffronart.com.

A Tale of Two Compositions

Saffronart will host a live Evening Sale on 12 September 2019 in New Delhi, featuring work by modern masters, including two works by K H Ara and Ram Kumar from significant periods in their artistic careers. These two paintings represent a crucial chapter in the evolution of modernism in Indian art. 

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Asia Art Archive to host a day-long conference on Art Writing in India

Manjari Sihare shares details of a forthcoming seminar on Art Writing in India

New York: Those in Kochi or that part of the world, please check out a forthcoming conference on Art writing in India organized by the Asia Art Archive and co-hosted by the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

Fields of Legibility: disciplines and practices of art writing in India, is a day-long seminar which will be held on February 6, 2013 in Kochi. Asia Art Archive (AAA) is a Hong Kong based not-for-profit organization committed to documenting the recent history of contemporary art in Asia within an international context. Established in 2000, AAA is the most comprehensive publicly accessible collection of research materials in the field and it continues to grow through a well planned program of research and information gathering. Having set up its first Indian research post in 2007, AAA has over the years undertaken a number of research initiatives in the country, ranging from awarding a research grant to Vidya Shivadas in 2009 to critically survey the field of art criticism in India to a digitization project of the personal archive of Geeta Kapur and Vivan Sundaram in 2010.

Currently, the Archive is working on the digitization of the personal archives of four important pedagogues in Baroda, namely, professors K G Subramanyan, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Ratan Parimoo, and Jyoti Bhatt. It is also compiling an extensive bibliography of art writing in India since the late 19th century, across English and regional languages. This daylong seminar is the first in a sequence of such programs that will inform AAA’s research towards a series of anthology publications dedicated to the history of writing on 20th century visual art in India.

PROGRAMME SCHEDULE

10am – 1:30pm

Welcome address and conference introduction

Keynote lecture by Prof. Susie Tharu (Professor of Eminence, Department of Cultural Studies, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad)

Panel 1: Writing on the Nation | Writing in the Vernacular
Chair: Prof. Parul Dave Mukherjee (Dean, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)
Speakers:
Saloni Mathur (Associate Professor, Department of Art History, University of California, Los Angeles)
Prof. Gulammohammed Sheikh (Artist and art historian, Baroda)

2:30 – 5pm

Panel 2: Sites of Discourse | Discursive Positions
Chair: Sadanand Menon (Art critic, Chennai)
Speakers:
Geeta Kapur (Independent critic and curator, New Delhi)
Raqs Media Collective (Artist collective and curators, New Delhi)

Summation by Prof. Parul Dave Mukherjee
Floor open for discussion

To learn more about the Asia Art Archive, click here. 

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