All of Nature on his canvas

Gariba Singh Tekam’s Gond paintings have been showcased around the world, and are now in Chennai

Gond artist Gariba Singh Tekam has never travelled abroad. But his work has.

There are living rooms and office chambers in Japan, France, and the US that proudly display art by this humble artist from Madhya Pradesh. He often finds himself travelling to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and cities in Kerala with his paintings. In his 25-year-long career, Tekam has lost count of how many paintings he has created. “Over 100 easily,” he smiles.

In Chennai for the CCI exhibition at the Co-Optex Grounds in Egmore, the Gond artist fondly talks about a lion he’s recently painted. “It took me 25 days to complete it. It is black and white and I created it using pen and ink,” he says. The smaller pieces can be finished in around five days, he says. Sometimes a work might just depict a single element, at other times there are stories woven in using a flurry of colourful dots.

Most of his work is inspired by Nature. “I grew up along the banks of the Narmada, amidst forests. As a child I used to walk a herd of goats and spend a lot of time in the forests. That’s why I feel such a strong connection with all Nature,” says the artist whose work features deer, birds, trees, fish and local tales. Red, bright yellow, blue and green are the colours he primarily works with. “I choose blue often because it is such a soothing shade to look at,” says Gariba.

“I created my first ever painting when I had just moved to Bhopal from Patangarh, a village known for its painters. I was a young boy, don’t remember how old I was. Well-known artist Jangarh Singh Shyam, who was also my uncle, gave me a piece of paper and asked me to paint something. So I did,” says Gariba, who is now 42 years old. He recalls drawing a scene from his village’s Deepavali festivities and a dance form called Karma-Shaila.

Changing times

Gariba says he has noticed changes in the art form over the past few decades. Earlier, in the villages, Gond painting used to be done on mud walls using white, red, black and yellow mud. “We used leaves and fresh cow dung for colour. Then, with mud walls being replaced with concrete and the introduction of acrylic and poster paints, we started using these,” says Gariba.

Eventually he got used to working with the modern day paint brush. But before that Gond artists used brushes made of sticks and grass, and used a piece of Patan

patola fabric to soak in colour. “Back then, people wanted Gond paintings during occasions such as marriage or birth of a baby, now it’s becoming a part of people’s everyday lifestyle,’ he says.

Gariba Singh Tekam is in the city till February 19. His work is priced between ?1,200 and ?50,000. For more details, call the artist on 9425678295.

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