Aakriti Art Gallery is bringing a solo exhibition entitled Van Katha – The Sunday Guardian Live – The Sunday Guardian | WHs Answers

Curated by renowned art critic and curator Uma Nair, Van Katha presents 30 artworks of Gond Indigenous art.

Padma Shri Bhajju Shyam’s work stands as a practitioner of Pardhan Gond art, characterized by a uniqueness that embodies the full range of human emotions through animal imagery. For the uninitiated, Pardhan Gond is an ancient tribe whose work and lifestyle is defined by a community of bards (singers) or pardhan who invoke their great god, Bada Deo, while playing the bana instrument. Through the summoning, they are able to perform the crucial task of keeping alive the legendary tales of the ancient Gond kings. Every story, song, dance and painting brings the community together in a shared celebration of nature and the universe. Bhajju Shyam has carved a place in the country’s artistic landscape by combining tradition and simple beliefs with learned expressive techniques, often using folk motifs as urban metaphors. His work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, including the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, the Galleria Arteutopia, Milan and the Museum of London. He has also published several books.

Yes, acrylic on canvas.

Kolkata’s Aakriti Art Gallery presents a solo exhibition by the acclaimed Gond artist entitled ‘Van Katha’. The exhibition begins on July 30, 2022 and will run until August 20, 2022. Curated by the well-known art critic and curator Uma Nair, the exhibition aims to present 30 artworks of Gond indigenous art. “Bhajju Shyam is important in view of the work he has done in the continuation of Jangarh Singh Shyam School. I’ve been following his work since 2015. In curating the exhibition, I wanted works that were created in both the medium and larger 7×7 ft formats. Bhajju has a lot of experience painting large walls for companies and real estate agencies. So in the exhibition we have smaller canvases as well as imperial size paper works and 3 works of 7ft x 7ft. His scope and vision in creating are essential. I’ve always believed that a curator is a bridge between art lovers and artists. A curator adds the back of historical documentation to a series of works,” explains Nair.

Riwaaz, acrylic on paper.

In this series of works, Bhajju Shyam creates many animals and birds. The elephant, the fish, the deer, the pigs/pigs, the aquatic creatures each have their own place in the firmament. Bhajju explains that her foundation is built on a forest of stories that speak of the beauty and bounty of the earth. “My Uncle Jangarh encouraged our parishioners in Patangarh village to take up the art form he had experimented with at Swaminathanji’s initiative, known as ‘Jangarh Kalam’. My uncle illustrated the natural theme of Pardhan painting. He taught me that on the forest floor, snakes and birds, tigers and deer come together in creative visualization,” reveals Bhajju.
Interestingly, all of the works that are part of “Van Katha” were actually created by the famous Gond artist during the pandemic. “I told Bhajju Shyam to send me pictures as he keeps creating. This show took 3 years to get together. As an artist, he is diligent, dedicated and conscientious in the discipline. I have given him complete freedom to create his entire jungle menagerie. I also thought about his title and asked if he liked it. In my opinion, “Van Katha” embodies India’s oldest principle of the sacred books, Manushya aur Prakriti, Man and Nature. It speaks of the acceptance of the universe and the power and eternal effect of nature in the world,” reveals Nair.
The Dravidian term Gond comes from Kond, which means green mountains. The community naturally focuses on preserving nature. Without green mountains, wildlife habitats and water tables die out. And without bees and birds, crop cycles will be compromised. The Gonds got it, Bhajju does too. “The idea of ​​animals and birds and their importance in our culture and community was passed down orally from our ancestors. On this basis we create our artworks/drawings. Tigers, for example, were an important part of our culture. We belong to the Pardhan Gond tribe/community and are from the Kushram clan. And so is our deity Bagh Van Devi, to whom we pray for protection before we (our Adivasi friends) go into the forests to hunt/acquire food. And therefore a representation of the same can be seen in our drawings/artwork. Also, special offerings are made to the Bagh Van Devi during the wedding as well,” explains Bhajju.
Of the 30 works of art on display, 20 are paintings on canvas and 10 are works on paper. “These artworks are unique expressions of Bhajju’s spirit and imagination, and embody the regions past and present. The artworks are important because of their historical and scientific relevance, as well as their aesthetic value,” explains Nair. Sharing her thoughts on the traditions surrounding trees, she adds: “Bhajju’s world of forest tales stems from traditionally inspired tales passed down through the ages, transforming simple subjects into sacred beings. Themes of tradition and simple faith… are clearly understood in all the works and sketches on display. But through all this we feel the love for trees and for nature. Bhajju is important for the many stories he tells as well as his finesse in creating Darwinian dialogues in Native American Indian intuition. The birds, the horses, the pigs, the elephant all pulsate to the rhythm of the forest.”
Nair thinks Kolkata-based Aakriti Art Gallery is ideal for an exhibition like Van Katha, which is essentially a celebration of Gond art. “I knew it would go to Aakriti Art in Kolkata. Hungerford Street is an upscale neighborhood with beautiful trees. I’ve always loved the bones of Aakriti in design placements. Vikram Bhachawat is a well-respected name in art circles. I wanted a show that was both inviting and one that infused the senses with a love of nature. After all, nobody loved nature more than Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray – the two icons of Bengal,” says Nair, whose next show is Muzaffar Ali’s 50-year retrospective at Bikaner House in Delhi in January 2023.

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