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New Delhi: Curating Roots

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An exhibition on tribal art forms in the Capital

Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Two art galleries have come together to pull tribal art forms from the shadows of popular art flooding our social media feeds. Exhibit320 and Blueprint.12 are displaying a curation of warli, bhil and gond artists, all of whom are heirs of these styles- inheritors of art practiced by their families.

Warli art

Unwinding childhood in Warli Art
Sadashiv Soma Mashe hails from coastal village of Ganjad, Maharashtra and paints with acrylic and cow dung on raw canvas. His paintings abide by classic warli style. Geometric figurines dominate a landscape that portrays community culture. Two of his paintings depict giant fish nets and fishermen propped on their top, holding them together. Creatures trapped in the net represent the entire ecosystem of the ocean and make for most of the painting as well. He seems to have delved into the lives of those who thrive along the coast. He does so by giving most of the prominence to the fodder of this community- marine life. There’s also a meditative painting that shows hundreds of ants descending into the epicenter of a gigantic spiral. While the spiral, home of the ants occupies most of the space on the canvas- there are miniature humans, rats and grass around it.

Bhuli art

Beast’s from Bhopal in Bhuli Art
Bhuri Baiwas of Pitol was introduced to paper, paints and canvas for the first time by J.Swaminathan at Bharat Bhawan, Bhopal. She welcomed this easy availability of means as she could skip the struggle of extracting paints from plants and clay. She first painted her ancestral horse with poster colours! Her Bhil paintings display a synthesis of plants and animals, in their natural habitat. They meet the eye with the striking use of primary colours, but there’s more that she tries to say in her composition. Horns of a deer rise to the top to the painting. Birds rest on the branched out horns. The use of green for these branched out horns gives the impression of leaves growing out of them. Bhuri Bai now works as an artist in the Adivasi Lok Kala Academy in Bhopal.

Gond art

Greens painted in monochrome Gond Art
Mayank Shyam and Japani Shyam are children of the famous gond artist Jangarh Singh Shyam. Both their styles are similar in more ways than distinct. This brother-sister duo knows their trees. Japani’s paintings give you a two dimensional view of the complex paths branches and leaves can conjure in monochrome. In one of her painting, women peek out of the dense cover of the trees. Squirrels and birds on the other hand rest on the ground, looking at their home under human invasion. Mayank props his foliage with birds too. They are the only coloured elements in his otherwise black and while ensemble, surrounded by water breeding coloured fish. “In our village it is believed that life started from water”, Mayank says.
The exhibition is on till December 24, 2017, open from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Exhibit320, F-320, Lado Sarai, New Delhi.

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