Aag was painted in response to the closure of numerous European airports due to the clouds of volcanic ash that erupted from volcano Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland in 2010. Shyam was returning from travel in the United States at the time and was stranded at Frankfurt airport for seven days, in the largest air-traffic closure since World War Two. The stylised cloud of heavy ash looming below the aeroplane has been executed in intricate Gond patterning, while stranded passengers are depicted reclining on airport lounges.
Venkat Raman Singh Shyam (India b.1970) is from the Pardhan Gond people. The Gond are one of the largest indigenous groups of India and are spread throughout several states of central India. Their artwork is characterised by intricate design, storytelling and the use of natural symbols, such as trees and animals, with meanings rooted in folktales and Gond culture. Gond paintings were initially created only on the walls of dwellings and expressed religious belief and sentiment, recorded daily life, local festivals, and the objects, spirits and creatures Gond people perceived around them. They use an inherited convention of patterning and bright colours, as well monochrome drawings that convey energy and movement through the use of a characteristic thin line that surrounds objects and people.
Pardhan Gonds were traditionally responsible for reciting the community’s oral histories, officiating at ceremonies and festivals, and painting auspicious designs on walls and floors of houses. The first Gond artist to gain international recognition was Jangarh Singh Shyam (1962–2001), the uncle of Venkat Shyam. Venkat Shyam began painting when he was 10 and worked as an apprentice for his famous uncle. Shyam draws on the Gond style, while also experimenting with new subjects and techniques.
Exhibited in 'The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' (APT8) | 21 Nov 2015 – 10 Apr 2016