Ram Singh Urveti 1998 acrilyc on canvas 158x110 cm

With Jangarh Singh Shyam, Ram Singh Urveti is one of the most important figures in contemporary Indian tribal art. Encouraged by Jagdish Swaminathan, he was one of the first to make the transition from ephemeral art to painting on canvas in the early 1980s.

Some of his more important murals are in the collections of the Museum of Man in Bhopal. His paintings celebrate the spirits of the Gond tribe but their subjects are formless. Evanescent, they belong to the world of spirits: buffalos, totems, men, shamans, offering pots, serpents, and trees intertwine, and are transformed into bizarre forms, the stuff of dreams and tribal stories. This effect is accentuated by the absence of outlines, except for around the eyes.

Ram Singh Urveti 2011 acrylic on canvas 122x91,5 cm

Ram Singh Urveti’s drawings have the same enigmatic power found in art brut. His work has affinities with that of one of the great names of outsider art, Scottie Wilson. The inextricable yet organ- ized snarl of the lines in black ink is also seen in a tangle of wax ribbons, typical of Gond bronze sculptures, as his tribe are also known as sculptors.

As seen in the art of many tribal artists, trees are omnipresent in Ram Singh’s paintings. His interest is concentrated on the trunk of the tree, an evocation of serene power and a concentration of energy that, like a mountain, seems indestructible. Thus his spirits often take the same stocky, thickset form of this part of the tree. They occupy, structure, and organize an important position on the canvas. The motifs and their arrangement have the same simplicity and effectiveness as flags. These spontaneous erections—in the same way that termite mounds are referred to as spontaneous linga—of dressed stone or tree trunks imbue his canvases with the heraldic aspect of animist standards. The visual naïveté reinforced by the rounded forms is also evocative of another current form of art, graffiti. In the art of both tribes, the one on the streets of New York and the other in the forests of Madhya Pradesh, the poetic ingenuity of the popular arts can be found.

Ram Singh Urveti 1996 acrylic on canvas 120x90 cm