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Browse Category > Reference > Jangarh Singh Shyam: A Conjuror's Archive
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Jangarh Singh Shyam: A Conjuror's Archive

by Jyotindra Jain

This volume presents a study of the life and work of the Gond artist Jangarh Singh Shyam.

Category: Art, Reference
Tags: Art
240 x 292 mm | 9.5 x 11.5 in
Hardcover | 148 pages
90 colour illustrations
0 colour illustrations
978-93-85360-63-3 (Mapin)

Rs.1,950.00  | $35.00  | £25.00
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Table of contents  |  Sample Pages  |  Reviews
Table of contents


The Moulding of the Muse

Bharat Bhavan and the Art vs. Ethnography Discourse

Jangarh’s ‘Discovery’

Multiple Mediations and the ‘Secularising’ Processes in Jangarh’s Work

Visualising his Gods


Jangarh, Theatre and Music

The Vidhan Bhavan Mural Project (1996) and the Consolidation of the Pardhan Idiom of Painting

The Narrative Turn

Retrieving the World Left Behind: A Place from Where to Speak

A Conjuror’s Archive

Trapped in Crossing 

Jangarh’s Letter to his Mother

Jangarh’s Letter to his Wife, Nankushiya

The Letter from the Mithila Museum, Japan


Ram Singh Urveti

Anand Shyam

Bhajju Shyam

Narmada Prasad Tekam

Mayank Shyam

Dileep Shyam

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Selected Images


Before any sound critical framework could be evolved around the phenomenal artist Jangarh Singh Shyam as the originator of an extraordinary individualistic idiom of painting, ruthless market forces regrettably came to dominate his art and Jangarh himself became their first casualty. While trying to finish a large commission at a museum in Japan under adverse circumstances, Jangarh committed suicide in 2001. He was 40.

A whole range of conditions, events and mediations associated with Jangarh’s life and his art practice has since remained underexplored. This book is a first attempt to construct an equitable account of the formation of his prodigious artistic body of work that founded his legacy and grew into a movement.  As a prime critical analysis of Jangarh Singh Shyam’s oeuvre, this book also serves as a model framework for the study of a contemporary individual folk and tribal artist. 

Unlike other vernacular artists, Jangarh’s muse was moulded at Bharat Bhavan, a multi-arts complex in Bhopal, where he arrived as a teenager at modernist artist J. Swaminathan’s prompting. Here, though subtly othered by the commanding presence of the art school–trained moderns, Jangarh responded with a sense of elation to various new mediatory processes, such as the use of bright poster colours and the milky white expanse of paper, which led him to say, “The first time I dipped my brush in bright poster colours in Bhopal, tremors went through my body.”

The book probes the efficacy of extra-cultural interventions into an individual artist’s operative and relatively well-grounded indigenous cultural tradition, and asks how the latter interacts with the new, while intentionally reinventing itself. Equipped with a powerful sensibility and a profound nostalgia for the world of his native village of Patangarh that he left behind, Jangarh created, over two decades in Bhopal, a sea of paintings inhabited by gods and demons, shamans and priests, birds and animals—crabs, scorpions, lizards and crocodiles—as well as forests, trees and shrubbery. The entire realm that had remained latent in his mind’s eye over the years thus came to life, image by image, in response to the new and alluring space of paper, canvas or the expansive walls that he turned into a vast and unique conjuror’s archive—opening up a personal space from where to speak.

Published in association with Museum of Art and Photography (MAP), Bangalore.


Dr. Jyotindra Jain was formerly Director of the Crafts Museum; Professor and Dean at the School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU); and Member Secretary of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, all in New Delhi. He was also a Visiting Professor at Harvard University and a Rudolf-Arnheim Professor at Humboldt University, Berlin. An eminent scholar of Indian art and popular visual culture, Jain has published extensively in the areas of his specialisation, and curated exhibitions for some of the most prestigious cultural institutions and museums in India and abroad. A recipient of the 1998 Prince Claus Award for Culture and the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2018, he is presently a member of the International Advisory of the Humboldt Forum, a multi-arts complex in Berlin; a Tagore National Fellow; and Co-Editor of Marg Publications, Mumbai.




Imprint: Mapin

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