Gond Painting: Venkat Raman Singh Shyam (India) 

Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)

Venkat Raman Singh Shyam 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. 

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.

Gond paintings 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.

The first Gond artist to gain international recognition was Jangarh Singh Shyam (1962-2001), the uncle of Venkat Raman Singh Shyam. His nephew began painting when he was 10 and worked as an apprentice for his famous uncle.

Venkat Raman Singh Shyam draws on the Gond style, while also experimenting with new subjects and techniques.

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. Venkat Raman Singh 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.

In 2008, Venkat Raman Singh Shyam was visiting Mumbai, and from the window of his hotel, personally witnessed the events surrounding the terrorist attacks that targeted the Taj and Oberoi hotels.

While the works illustrate current news events, Venkat Raman Singh Shyam uses the characteristic line work of Gond drawing to convey a sense of life and movement that he applies to his more traditional motifs, giving these images a powerful sense of imminence.

Signal shows how the terrorists reached their destination on fishing boats, passing through coastguard security, signalling their identity with red wristbands.

Rescue depicts the special military force rescuing civilians from the Taj Hotel as Venkat Raman Singh Shyam witnessed it.

Fruit-gun signifies the increasing number of people drawn to participate in terrorist organisations, playing on the metaphor of fruit and seeds as symbols of growth, and contrasting this with guns which destroy life rather than nurturing it.

Interview with the artist

'The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' (APT8)
Credits: Story

Since 1993, The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) has been the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art's flagship contemporary art series. APT has driven the Gallery's focus on the region and enabled the development of one of the world's most significant collections of contemporary Asian, Pacific and Australian art.

'The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' (APT8)
21 November 2015 – 10 April 2016

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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