THIRTY-FIVE-YEAR-OLD Ram Singh Urveti has only one regret in life. “Had I been educated I would have been able to give more hypothetical imaginations to my tribal paintings”. Educational and financial hiccups notwithstanding, Urveti’s paintings have ricocheted from local to national to finally a global canvas.
He had a chance to spend 50 days in London where he was ‘invited’ by a hotel —World Masala Zone in 2002 to bring alive the tribal art.
Motif painting or auspicious symbols are common to both folk and tribal communities of Madhya Pradesh. Drawn during festivals or rituals connected with seasonal changes, they are ‘ simple’, ‘ naïve’ and ‘ childlike’.
What ‘ difference’ does he feel when he stands before noted artistes like M F Hussain? “They are literate and can infuse more imaginations and give catchy titles, which I being illiterate cannot. Besides, the cost of painting has also spiraled and being the only bread earner for a family of six, it become arduous to sustain.”
Urveti is nonetheless ‘pleased’ that tribal paintings have weathered the artistic vicissitudes and have carved a separate identity for themselves in the world of art “Twenty-two of my paintings are to be exhibited at the National Gallery in London from October 12,” he says with a sense of pride.
“Call it artistic reformation or fast paced innovations and market demands, changes have percolated in the traditional tribal paintings of Madhya Pradesh”, he says.
Thirty-six-year old Venkatraman Singh Shyam echoes “While the basic theme remains un-tampered, changes have crept into style and background. The Gond Pardhan paintings started with ‘ Rekha Chitra’, gradually colours started splashing and then designs also seeped in.”
Besides, he said the paintings, which were static and simple earlier, have today become decorative, elaborate and acrylic based. “ We have to keep pace with the market trends. It is a competitive world and we have to really slog hard to stand apart.”
Venkatraman’s paintings are one among the several Gond paintings to be showcased at the six-day exhibition at the art gallery of Lalit Kala Academy from September 16, to be organised by the Tribal Welfare Department of Madhya Pradesh.
Acknowledging that tribal paintings had climbed on to a global platform he says “ They have become parallel to Mexico tribal art and aboriginal art of Australia.” Venkatraman, who has also toured foreign countries in connection with his exhibitions, concedes “ There is still a lot of scope left to bolster this form of art. I wish it was more known among the art lovers.”