It’s all in the Detail: Exploring India’s Textile Traditions

The weaving and embroidery techniques seen in Indian textiles open windows into the symbolic, cultural and ritual beliefs of the people who created them.

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Folk And Tribal Arts of India: Part 1

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart introduces the indigenous art forms of Patachitra and Jogi Art alongside illustrated lots from Storyltd’s upcoming auction of tribal and folk art

NEW YORK: On September 24th StoryLTD’s newest Absolute Auction of Folk and Tribal Art will go live with an eclectic collection of indigenous art works depicting a vast array of artistic traditions from different regions of India. These techniques represent longstanding regional narrative and customs with colourful hues, varying textures and elaborate compositions. Two techniques represented in this sale include the multi-dimensional storytelling tradition of Patachitra scroll paintings and the family rooted Jogi art.

Patachitra, originating in the Eastern Indian state of Odisha, is essentially an ornate cloth-based scroll painting. Although these colourful works have organic and humble roots they offer a wealth of narrative possibilities. “Patta” means “cloth” in Sanskrit while “chitra” means picture or painting. True to the name, layers of cotton cloth are adhered together with a natural glue product and formed into scrolls. Patachitras made of lighter paper materials are sometimes reinforced with saris to extend their life. It is essential that these scrolls remain intact as they are exhibited by traditional story tellers that travel distances and use these scrolls in their performances. The subject is often based on Ramayana or regional folklore and mythology. However, they also sometimes contain narratives from Muslim and Sufi traditions. Traditionally crafted by travelling bards, each scroll was accompanied by a song. Thus each Patachitra was experienced as a multidimensional piece, with a narrative conveyed in both visuals and music. The tradition of Patachitras continues and contemporary scrolls often convey current events or pivotal moments in recent history.

Lot 86, Jabbar Chitrakar and Unknown artist, Bengal Scroll https://www.storyltd.com/auction/item.aspx?eid=3741&lotno=86

Lot 86, Jabbar Chitrakar and Unknown artist, Bengal Scroll https://www.storyltd.com/auction/item.aspx?eid=3741&lotno=86

A fitting example of these Bengal scrolls can be seen in Lot 85 and 86 in the Absolute Auction of Folk and Tribal Art by Jabbar Chitrakar and Yamuna Chitrakar. These colourful works are made from natural pigments and shows two narratives simultaneously. The title Chitrakar, literally meaning painter, is taken on by the performers. Not formally trained in the art of painting, these chitrakars learn the traditional skills in a local setting, becoming travelling showmen who are adept in more ways in one, donning multiple roles- painters, singers, performers, storytellers.

Much like the scroll paintings of Bengal, Jogi Art has an interesting history. Ganesh Jogi, the namesake of this artistic form, performed as a musician in Rajasthan. Following the traditional professional associated with the Jogi caste, the family would wander the streets in the early hours of the morning, singing devotional songs and receiving grains, clothes and occasionally money from people. Due to changing times they had to move to the neighbouring state of Gujrat to seek a livelihood. A chance encounter with the eminent artist and anthropologist in the 1980s laid roots for the blossoming of this visual art form. Shah encouraged Ganesh and his wife Teju to draw from their hearts and imagination images that inhabit their world. Over time these illustrations became detailed and complex, a true visual delight. The current lots showcasing Jogi Art present the evolutionary and transformative potential of traditional artistic practices. They present varied themes that include village life, current events and contemporary discourses like environmentalism.

StoryLTD’s upcoming auction of folk and tribal art presents an opportunity to partake in India’s traditional visual practices, the range of artworks included in the sale are sure to peak one’s curiosity about the indigenous art genres existing in the different regions of the subcontinent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jangarh Singh Shyam’s Traditions in Folk Art Carry On Strong

 Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart on the continual legacy and evolution of Gond Folk Art. 

New York: The Gond tribe, one of the largest communities in India, is well known for utilizing song, dance, and arts both in times of mourning and immense celebration. There are deep seeded traditions in artistic festivals and various techniques in visual and performing arts. These include a strong attention to color and details in painting. In the 1980’s many of these artistic traditions were diluted by many of the men in these communities moving towards cities and larger areas of commerce for greater work opportunities. However, this movement for business also prompted folk traditions to be brought into the city centers. This wealth of tribal art brought into the cities prompted the Director of Bharat Bhawan, the multi-genre arts complex in Bhopal to construct the tribal art wing. With an established space for exhibiting tribal and folk work, artists in this tradition were fostered and their work became more successful.

 

Artist Jangar Sing Shyam was the first Gond artist to use paper and canvas for his paintings. The Bharat Bhawan became a jump off for Shyam’s work being shown throughout India as well as internationally. Tragically Shyam took his own life while working in Japan. Details as to why he chose to end his life so young in his successful career are still unclear. He is survived by his wife Nankusia Shyam who’s creativity was immensely sparked by her husband’s art career. Since his passing she has used painting as a way to carry on his memory and remain connected to him. While many artists have utilized his passing as a means to promote their own tribal art, Nankusia has been motivated to establish her family as the primary practitioners of true Gond art in the tradition of her husband.

 

Overtime Ms. Shyam’s work has gained confidence and she has truly defined her own independent style and aesthetic. Her work exhibits a strong narrative by utilizing fantastical elements such as mythical animals. In addition to his wife’s artistic practice, Jangarh Singh Shyam integrated his style into the community through an apprenticeship program while he was still alive. This has fostered a robust community of Gond artists in the tradition that is now termed “Jangarh Kalam”. Through the creative passion of his family and community, Jangarh Singh Shyam’s work will forever be remembered.

Folk and Tribal Art: Gond Painting

Josheen Oberoi of Saffronart looks (very briefly) at what constitutes Gond Art

New York: Folk and tribal arts are relatively less exposed forms of narrative Indian art and contain within them a gamut of styles originating from various geographical regions in India; Gond art is one such art form.

Jangarh Singh Shyam
Untitled, 1984
Acrylic on canvas, 55.5 x 32.5 inches
Image courtesy: Saffronart

The term Gond art refers to paintings that emerge from a heterogeneous tribal group called the Gond or Koiture, mostly centered in Madhya Pradesh. Even within the phrase Gond art there is a wide spectrum of artistic styles, primarily connected to distinct painters and their practices. The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts’s (IGNCA) research discusses the cultural roots of the Gonds and also indicates the unifying theme in Gond art – the pervasive presence of nature. Their pantheon of gods are intimately connected to nature and their strong tradition of oral narrative seemingly transfers to their paintings as well.

The first Gond artist to gain national recognition was Jangarh Singh Shyam (who died in 2001), and in fact, the present genre of Gond painting is called Janagarh Kalam after his pioneering style. He was discovered in the 1980s by the late Jagdish Swaminathan, then Director of Bharat Bhawan in Bhopal. Jangarh Singh Shyam was the first artist to paint on paper and canvas instead of directly on earth or walls of the home. 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.

Ram Singh Urveti
Untitled, 2011
55.5 x 45 inches
Image courtesy: Saffronart

The tree of life is also a favourite subject of Ram Singh Urveti and Suresh Kumar Dhruve. Ram Singh Urveti uses a deep colour palette and combines his imagery of trees with a variety of animals, creating a synergy of plants and animals in his work, while Suresh Kumar Dhruve often presents trees almost like a totem pole, erect and still, surrounded by human figures.

Jangarh Singh Shyam’s wife Nankusia Shyam and daughter Japani Shyam are also renowned Gond artists. Their paintings are inhabited by the world of animals, although their individual aesthetics are distinct. Nankusia Shyam often paints animals from her childhood memories or shares her impression of urban culture in the shape of these animals. Japani Shyam, on the other hand, almost seems to capture the eco systems in which animals survive; her works are denser, they are reproductions of the worlds that animals and plants survive in.

Japani Shyam
Untitled, 2011
Acrylic and ink on canvas, 36 x 48 inches
Image courtesy: Saffronart

In Narmada Prasad Tekam’s painting, plants and animals share equal footing; they are not shown as a continuum, as in Jangarh Singh Shyam or Ram Singh Urveti’s work. These detailed works contain everyday creatures, recognizable in their presence.

Narmada Prasad Tekam
Untitled
Acrylic on canvas, 68 x 45 inches
Image courtesy: Saffronart

Durga Bai’s works, which have been widely exhibited in India and abroad, show a dynamism and movement within the picture that is unique to her. Brightly hued, hers are narratives of folk tales and deities, of goddesses remembered.

Durga Bai
Untitled
Acrylic on canvas, 68 x 123 inches
Image courtesy: Saffronart

Dhavat Singh
Tiger Tales 1, 2009
Acrylic and ink on canvas, 67.5 x 47.5 inches
Image courtesy: Saffronart

Dhavat Singh’s Tiger Tales are vivid representations of tigers, their interactions with their surroundings and the folklore that surrounds these majestic animals. Equal parts contemporary and traditional; these are visceral works, extending the parameters of Gond art, as it stands today.

The story telling, the fantastical animals and trees is a thread that runs through the work of Gond artists, rooted in their folk tales and culture. However, each of these artists, as evident in these images, has developed a specific language within these narratives creating a richness of aesthetic forms and styles.

These artists represent only a fraction of practitioners of Gond art. A more extensive list and information is at the IGNCA website.

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