Ways of Belonging

Ways of Belonging

Jangarh Singh Shyam is a site of confluence. A folk imagination and modern expressive modes speak to each other in his works. Amit Kumar Jain looks at the divided figure.

Snake and Mongoose.
Poster colours on paper.

Jangarh Singh Shyam. Snake and Mongoose. Poster colours on paper. 138 cms x 192 cms. Undated. All images courtesy Museum of Art & Photography (MAP), Bangalore.

Post-modern critiques question art categories that were once aligned with the advancement of colonialism and the emergence of new art centres in the West. New debates around demarcations of high and low art, rural and urban contexts, insider and outsider positions, tradition and modernity, and the centre and the periphery, help problematize older knowledge systems. 

 Exhibitions like “Primitivism” in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern (1984) at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the 3rd edition of the Havana Biennale (1987) in Cuba titled Tradition and Contemporaneity; and Magiciens de la Terre at Centre Pompidou (1989) in Paris; laid the foundations for many relevant debates and considerably altered and questioned the way art was perceived (Das 2017, 33). The 1980s thus marked a change: artists from non-academic backgrounds and lesser-known traditions began getting exhibited with their contemporaries from around the world.