Passion, Resilience and Originality – The Making of an Artist
Venkat Shyam’s triumph lies in his unwavering conviction in his art and in the quiet fortitude with which he not only faced his destiny but also embraced it. His art weaves his memories rooted in the Gond tradition, its myths, its reverence for nature with his keen insights on modern life.
Venkat Raman Singh Shyam hails from Sijhora in eastern Madhya Pradesh. Venkat Shyam started experimenting with charcoal when he was 10 years old. He was, however, discouraged from painting with charcoal as the Pardhan Gonds considered black to be an inauspicious colour. Nevertheless, he persevered and his uncle, Jangarh Singh Shyam, an established and prolific Gond artist recognized his talent.
At 16, Venkat Shyam followed his uncle’s advice and joined him in Bhopal to train under him. He apprenticed for 3 years under his uncle. Here he was introduced to the different materials he could work with. In 1991, Venkat moved to Delhi to pursue an independent career.
An unexpected detour
His time in Delhi was filled with obstacles and Venkat Shyam had to take up odd jobs to survive. One of these jobs included that of a signboard artist which involved painting film posters and hoardings.
The hardships in Delhi meant that Venkat Shyam could not focus on Gond art.
He returned to Bhopal in 1993 due to health issues and continued to be a sign board artist till the tragic passing of his uncle and his only mentor, his uncle, Jangarh Singh Shyam.
Venkat Shyam knew instinctively that he had to return to Gond painting to preserve the legacy of his community’s art.
The Lone Artist
Although his uncle played an important role in his training, Venkat Shyam carved his own niche. While his art features traditional Gond motifs, thematically he explores his concerns about contemporary social topics. For instance, many of his works emphasise the connection of man and nature and reminds us of the damage we have done to our environment.
Finding His Way
Venkat Shyam has co-authored an autobiographical work, Finding My Way with writer and publisher, S. Anand. This powerful book not only sheds light on Venkat Shyam’s journey as an artist but also provides an important narrative on the Pardhan Gond culture, community and myths.
Making a mark
Returning to Gond painting full time proved to be the right step. Before long he received recognition in India and abroad. He has a prolific body of work and has exhibited regularly at prestigious galleries in India and abroad. In India, he has participated in exhibitions held in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore to name a few. Internationally, his work has been well received as well. He was part of the ‘Sakahan – International Indigenous Art’ exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada. This specially curated exhibition features some of the most innovative contemporary indigenous art.
In 2002, the Government of Madhya Pradesh awarded Venkat Shyam the Rajya Hasta Shilpa Puraskar.
Venkat Sharma continues to explore new grounds to promote Gond art. His project with Tara Douglas on an animated film based on a Gond folktale won the Tallest Story Competition Trophy at the Inverness Film Festival in Scotland.
Taking the art of Gond Painting global with Rooftop
We are proud to share that Venkat Shyam has collaborated with us for curating a maestro course on Gond painting. Learning from a maestro is a rare and enriching experience; the workshops go beyond technique and offer a glimpse into the master’s way of seeing the world. Don’t miss this opportunity!
Register on Rooftop app for an exclusive Gond painting course with master artist Rajaram Sharma.
At Rooftop, we offer a wide range of courses on traditional Indian art forms taught by eminent artists. To know more about our workshops, visit our app.