The fighting birds by Rahul Singh Shyam

Artish Interview - Rahul Singh Shyam

Rahul Singh Shyam is among the newer generation of upcoming Gond artists. He apprenticed under renowned Gond artist - Bhajju Shyam. His work is a vibrant representation of his culture and community. 
Rahul Singh Shyam

Where are you from? Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I was born on 10thJuly1988 in a tribal community in central India. My paternal village is Patangarh, District Dindori in the state of Madhya Pradesh. This village is also known as the birth place of late Jangarh Singh Shyam who was my uncle.

While I spent most of my childhood in Kanpur where my father was employed by Indian Railways, my summers were spent in my village, where I learnt about my culture and my tribe.  I learnt about our ways of life, food, festivals, religious beliefs and today I combine these with my love for nature and depict them in my work.

After school I went to Bhopal for further education under my cousin – Mr. Bhajju Shyam, who is a well-established Gond artist. I did take up a job in the private sector post education, but the inability to express my thoughts and the draw towards my culture and society made me quit this position and focus on my art.

Today my paintings are my source of livelihood, they allow me to be with my family and stay close to my roots. I have a 2 year old daughter with my wife Nisha who is from the Gond community and I am very happy to make a livelihood and support my family with my art.

How did you get into Gond? 

I assisted my cousin – Bhajju Shyam in his work and that is where I first got interested in painting. I was impressed by the way he translated his thoughts onto the canvas through colour. I like having painting as a medium to express my thoughts. Gond painting is so deep and comprehensive like the Gond culture and society. In the birth place of Gond painting "Patangarh" there is atleast one artist in every house of the village. Today, these artists have taken up Gond painting as a career option along with education and farming. This is good because it ensures that the art of Gond lives on.

Tell us a bit about your technique

In my village, the walls of homes have always been decorated with images of animals, birds, trees etc. using mud. Moreover, during festivals, courtyards and places of worship are also decorated with special mud, geru and colours called “Digna”. The technique used in these home decorations is now translated onto canvas and paper using acrylics, brushes and pens.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your paintings? 

My conversations with my Mother - Mrs Shashi Shyam, about my culture and way of life, for e.g. proverbs used by my community, have played a significant role in the concepts behind my paintings. Apart from that, my cousin – Bhajju Shyam and a book called “Akhyan” have been my inspirations. Akhyan by Dr. Vijay Chourasia talks about the history of my people, our culture, Gond Kingdoms and Kings. It is written in the form of “Bana” poems in the Gond language. This book and my cousin inspired me to become an artist.

Akhyan - Book on Gond

Image credit:

What is your signature motif?

My signature motif/pattern are two patterns: One is triangle between two lines and second one is an oval shape, with a dot on top and a line below the point.

I found my first pattern – the triangle, through a tribal fishing net called Gheera. When I was thinking about my pattern my imagination took me to my granny's village where we would go fishing by the river. We would use a special type of net which is triangle in shape.  

Gheera net

Rahul Singh Shyam - Signature triangle

The second pattern came from the shapes that emerged, when the net was pulled up from the river and drops of water that would drip from it.

Droplet signature pattern

Who is your favourite artist?

I have been inspired by lots of artist, but my cousin – Bhajju Shyam remains my favourite. The way he depicts Gond culture in connection with current affairs is incredible.

You can follow Rahul Singh Shyam on instagram @regalactor 

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