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The Tale of Gond Art

The Gonds, the largest Adivasi Community in India are of Dravidian origin and can be traced to the pre-Aryan era. The word Gond comes from Kond, which means green mountains in the dravidian idiom. The Gond called themselves Koi or Koiture, but others called them Gond since they lived in the green mountains.

History

Deer/Antler by Jangarh Singh Shyam, Image credit: Foundation Cartier

 

In the 1980s, a renowned Indian artist, J Swaminathan, was building a new wing for Bharat Bhawan (India House), where Tribal and Urban art would be displayed. J Swaminathan sent his students into the villages to search for tribal artists. One of them saw an image of Hanuman (the monkey God) on the wall of a house. When he met the artist, Jangarh Singh Shyam, he asked him to make a painting on paper with poster colours.

Jangarh Singh Shyam was the first Gond artist to use paper and canvas for his art. His talent was soon recognized, and his work was exhibited all over the country and internationally. He can be attributed to starting the present genre of Gond art which is named Janagarh Kalam in his honour.

Technique

Gond paintings use a technique of creating textures by pattern. The artist starts with an outline, which is then filled with block colours. This is left to dry, then elaborate patterning is painted on top, which gives the designs their distinct three-dimensional quality. The artist has to be very precise and the patterning process is very time consuming.

The artists reflect their perception of life through these freehand paintings. For wall paintings, mud plaster base is used over which linear patterns are etched with the fingers.

In Gond tribes, the ground and walls may be used as canvas while limestone and charcoal are used as mediums to make various decorative paintings for their houses. These paintings are not restricted to paper and do not entirely depend on synthetic colors.

Mahua Tree by Choti Tekam, Image Credit: supernative.in

 

Themes

Gond paintings have numerous themes including folk stories, nature, religion etc. The paintings could be flamboyant and colorful or could be simple and sophisticated in black and white. Though the style is similar, each painting has individuality in expression and interpretation.

Australian Aboriginal painting — Yarla Jukurrpa (Bush Potato Dreaming) — Cockatoo Creek, Image credit: Kate Owen Gallery

 

Gond paintings bear a remarkable likeness to Australian aboriginal art. In both these art forms, the brush moves as dots or lines as fillers.

Gond painters have created their own signatures using patterns. Some draw circles, while some draw lines, some use myriad colours, while some stick to black and white.

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