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The Color of Wat er : Tarshito
Katie Lazarowicz

As a part of a world tour Tarshito was seeking a Gond artist to represent India in “The Path of the Wayfarer in Love,” an enormous scroll which will travel to a total of eight countries. Venkat was honored to contribute. He painted a playful a wedding procession in the Gond style, dancing across one 1.5 meter section.

What is the color of water? Amidst laughter and song, filling the vibrant halls of the Madhya Pradesh Tribal Museum, a tribute to the living traditions of India, internationally celebrated Gond artist Venkat Raman Singh Shyam elegantly applies ripples of gray to a creamcolored canvas. Here, shadow is the color of water. Familiar scaly patterns characteristic of Gond painting populate the space of this imagined “river.”The shape of an elephant emerges from shores. This elephant-river will evolve in months to come, taking on a new look, after traveling Italy for completion at the studio of the Italian artist, Tarshito. Once complete, it will return to India, with seven others like it.

Before this painted river flows to Italy, Venkat Raman Singh Shyam will flood his river with more color.

This elephant, he explains, doesn’t live in the water, but soars above it. The form on canvas is only the creature’s shadow in water. This water, which has no color, reflects like a mirror. In the same way, the painting is a mirror of the artist’s imagination. Urtha Haathi, this flying elephant is larger than life. He consumes the entire space of this river. For Venkat this expression is attuned to the larger collective mythologies and origin stories of the Gond. This painting is but one expression of Gond art created with Tarshito, by different artists as a part of this project, Seven Holy Rivers. It began in Bhopal in October, 2017 and will be displayed in Delhi next year 2018. Venkat’s river is only part of the story.



Tarshito arrived in Bhopal with a quieter ambition. As a part of a world tour Tarshito was seeking a Gond artist to represent India in “The Path of the Wayfarer in Love,” an enormous scroll which will travel to a total of eight countries. Venkat was honored to contribute. He painted a playful a wedding procession in the Gond style, dancing across one 1.5 meter section.

The spirit of “The Path of the Wayfarer in Love,” is a global unification through art. The impossibility of traveling to each country led Tarshito to land on the number eight, as a representation of infinity. In July 2017 this scroll began with the Huichol tribe of Guadalupe Ocotàn in Mexico. After India, it travels to artists in, Perù, Australia, Nepal, China, and some yet to be determined places. Figures will populate the peaks and valleys on a “procession” across Tarshito’s new world with a mixed geography.

Visits like this one to India, mark Tarshito’s migratory returns to the subcontinent, His last “solo” show in India was in 2011, on the occasion of the 54th Venice Biennale at the Italian Institute of Culture. For decades, this fiercely passionate designer has returned to India to co-create and celebrate many living traditions in India. His first major exhibition was in 2001, at Delhi’s Crafts Museum. His contemporary process, builds on decades of experimentation with communities of terra cotta sculptors, potters, weavers, and painters representing a full spectrum of Indian tribal and folk artists. Today Tarshito’s work renders forms that shape a new way of thinking about the geography of our world.

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