The motif to paint: Artist Mahesh Shyam takes forward a legacy of Gond art

Mahesh Shyam, a 28-year-old Gond artist from Bhopal displaying his work at the on-going Aadi Mahotsav in Visakhapatnam

Mahesh Shyam, a 28-year-old Gond artist from Bhopal displaying his work at the on-going Aadi Mahotsav in Visakhapatnam   | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

Artist Mahesh Shyam hopes people are drawn to his canvas not just because of its colours or size , but because each of his works tells a significant story from his Gond ancestors

“No two Gond paintings can ever be alike, there will always be some change even if it is made by the same artist and that is the beauty of this art,” explains Mahesh Shyam, a Gond artist as he adds motifs to his painting. The 28-year-old resident of Bhopal is displaying his works at the Aadi Mahotsav, Tribes India National Tribal Festival held at the Sanpra Hotels and Resorts.

The celebrated Gond artist Jangarh Singh is his uncle and the 28-year-old Mahesh recalls how as a child he would fill colours into Jangarh’s creations. He painted walls of huts along with him too. It was when he was a teenager that Mahesh moved from the conventional frescoes to paper and canvas.

“Traditionally, walls of homes would be decorated to commemorate special occasions like a wedding, the birth of a child or a festival. Our ancestors practised the art of ‘Gondi Bhiti Chitrakala’; it was much later that the artisans from the tribe forayed into canvas and paper,” he reveals.

While the media he uses may be modern, his motifs continue to be traditional Gond. He also uses natural colours made from vegetables and leaves . “I took up Gond art because I wanted to preserve our art form. Hence I try to keep my work as authentic as possible,” he says.

Unlike many of his peers,Mahesh refuses to incorporate the changing world in his paintings. His paintings still depict tales from the forest and nomadic life of the tribe. In the exhibition, we see him paint a world that is dominated by animals and plants.

Peacocks, fish, cows, deer and in rare instances humans feature in his paintings.

The stories he heard in his stories from grandparents who lived one with nature inspire him.

“They saw the forest life closely and had several fables in which animals were personified. Though I haven’t seen the forest life that closely, their tales helped me imagine what it would be like living in the forest,” he adds. If it is not the forests, it is mythology he paints with stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

Mahesh says that it takes almost a week to ideate and paint a canvas that measures three feet by two feet. “The most time-consuming process is drawing the intricate Gond motifs over the paintings. The delicate detailing demands more time and attention,” he adds.

Today, Mahesh sells his paintings in 12 countries through The Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India which is managed by the Ministry of Tribal affairs.

“People abroad are more interested in knowing the story behind each painting. Unfortunately, people in our country do not move beyond colour combinations and the size of the canvas.”

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 7:36:35 AM |

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