Gond is a celebrated shared art tradition practiced by the Gond-Pradhan community in India. It was first ‘discovered’ by Jagdish Swaminathan who was searching for original artworks from Indian tribes in the 1970s. The search ended with him meeting the talented artist Jangarh Singh Shyam, considered the pioneer of Gond art. The themes of the painting revolve around ritualistic idols and motifs, narrative paintings as well as depictions of the natural world and its harmony. These usually follow an intricate pattern of lines and dots within the figures depicted.

This painting, created by Japani Shyam, features a white line drawing of a tree on a black canvas. The tree or tree branch swirls in a snake-like manner from top to bottom with peepal leaves shooting out from it. At the bottom of the tree branch are several small tentacle-like projections that stand like feet, possibly snails or earthworms – both animals that provide fertility to the earth. The amalgamation of fauna with flora is a common feature of Gond style. It symbolises the symbiotic relationship between all natural beings. Japani Shyam is the daughter of master painters Jangarh Singh Shyam and Nankusiya Shyam.  At the age of eleven, she received the Kamala Devi Award for her talent.

Japani and her artist brother, Mayank Shyam, remember growing up listening to stories recited by their parents, ones that have been passed on through generations in the Gond community. Japani’s work is inspired by these stories, and uses the same language of the natural world. However, Shyam tends to use coloured canvases to paint; orange and green are among her usual choices but a strong preference for black is rather evident. Her works are cleaner, quieter and exhumes a meditative quality. She explains: “This is the quality of Gond Art, every artist has their own unique language”. Her themes might align with the natural world of Gond as we’ve seen before, but her visual language stems entirely from her imagination.

To read more on the artform, click here.

Japani Shyam
Acrylic on canvas
H: 75 cm x W: 55 cm
Accession No.