Dr. Jyotindra Jain
Jangarh Singh Shyam was one of the most accomplished and individualistic Pardhan Gond artists who, is responsible for the popularisation of the so-called “Gond School of Painting”.
Jangarh Singh Shyam was one of the most accomplished and individualistic Pardhan Gond artists who, with his tribal cultural background, entered the contemporary space of art while working at Bharat Bhawan in Bhopal, where he was introduced to poster and acrylic colours, paper, canvas and printmaking. It was also here, for the first time, that he pictorially narrativised his inherited legends rooted in mysterious forests and fantastic birds, beasts and reptiles on canvasses, raising issues of nostalgia, autochthony, memory and belonging – “a place from where to speak”. Pardhan Gonds did not have any elaborate tradition of painting, except for the women’s rudimentary painted clay-relief work. The entire explosion of the so-called “Gond School of Painting” originated from Jangarh. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to label it not Gond, but the Jangarh idiom.
As Jangarh acquired universal fame and influence in the sphere of Indian tribal art, a horde of Gond boys began to emulate him, but none could match his talent. At the peak of his artistic career, Jangarh committed suicide in Japan on July 3, 2001, where he was engaged in finishing a commission. He had entered the very contentious field of the global marketplace of art, the pressures of which he had not learnt to cope with.