New Delhi: The Gond tribal artists of Madhya Pradesh, known for their stylised portrayals of folkores and nature, have found a platform on the high street of art in the capital.
A gallery devoted solely to the promotion of the ethnic art from Madhya Pradesh is helping 45 artists sustain on their craft and fetch fair price in the face of shrinking government support.
Located in the capital`s emerging art village in Lado Sarai, the boutique art-house opened formally Friday with a showcase of Gond art, "Living Cultures", at the India Habitat Centre.
Tulika Kedia, owner of the Must Art Gallery, said her "art house is the only gallery in the country to cater exclusively to Gond artists".
Kedia is associated with the Kedia Group of Industries.
The collection on sale has been drawn from the works of senior and young tribal artists inhabiting Pattangarh village in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh, a flourishing tribal arts centre.
More then 50 Gond Pardhan families in the village have made a name for themselves in the country and abroad with their art; which is strikingly different from the conventional genres for its intricacy, power of story-telling, cultural roots and lucid motifs.
"The showcase is symbolic of the contemporary journey of the ancient art of the Gonds, one of the dominant tribal groups of Madhya Pradesh," curator of the showcase Alka Pande, a noted art critic, told reporters.
There are estimated to be over four million Gond tribals in central India.
Gond art, one of the most visible faces of Indian ethnic art abroad, has moved from the walls of tribal homes to paper and canvas in the last 10 years. The artists, who once used natural dyes, now use chemical pigments like acrylic, rotterink and even oil paints.
They are also experimenting with new colour palettes like the ultra-urban beige, mauve and fluorescent blues moving as to the traditional shades of black, white, red, yellow and green.
The motifs speak of new aesthetic influences with urban landscapes, gender empowerment, surreal symbolism, textures and semi-abstraction complimenting old folklores and religious fables like the tale of the "Seven Brother and One Sister" and the "Seven Yama: Rescue of the gods of death".
"The mysterious death of Jangarh Singh Shyam, one of the early pioneers of contemporary Gond art in Japan during a residency programme in 2000, brought visibility to the art that was not so well known. People are taking notice. My attempt is not to keep it boxed in tribal exotica; but bring it to the mainstream visual language," Pande told reporters.
The death of Shyam, who was also from Pattangarh village, made international headlines and brought critical spotlight to the tradition, prompting at least two generations of younger artists, mostly Jangarh`s kin, led by his wife Nankuchia Shyam carry the legacy forward.
"The demand for Gond art in the international market is growing because of its affordable price range and vibrant compositions. It has a contemporary appeal and fits with any kind of furniture," Kedia said.
Kedia, who owns more than 2,000 Gond art works, is collaborating with noted French collector of Indian tribal art, Herve Pedriolle, to host Jangarh`s son Mayank Shyam, a promising artist, in Paris later this year.
Kedia said "Jangarh`s death has sparked fears among the artists about going abroad".
"They would rather stay in India and fetch their prices from around the world. Hence they need more selling space," the promoter said.
"The government does not pay fair price for Gond art anymore," artist Dilip Shyam, Jangarh Singh`s nephew, said.
"The Bharat Bhavan has reduced sponsorship and we have to depend on corporate organisations for better deals," Shyam said.
The price of Gond art in the international market ranges from Rs.50,000 to Rs.3 lakh, the artist said.