Painter, art historian, and writer Gulam Mohammed Sheikh taught art history and painting for nearly three decades at the Faculty of Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda. He has edited a book on 'Contemporary Art in Baroda' that traces the evolution of Baroda as an important center of contemporary art and art education from the nineteenth century up to the last decade of the twentieth century.
The literary sensibility of Gulam Mohammed Sheikh is as fine as his artistic sensibility, for he is also a distinguished Gujarati poet. Says he, " There is a very meaningful relationship between writing and painting. Our painting tradition has been suffused with it. But now we have developed a purist's mode where we have separated the two. This is like saying that when you see you should shut your ears, while you hear you should shut your eyes. You don't. You can't. Those who have studied perception will realize the correlation between the senses."
Sheikh paints on formats ranging from hand-held paper to architectural scale, to bring the world he knows, sees and seeks, into his life; to illumine it in its complexities and contradictions, reinventing art history while painting. The idea of a dialogue has been a very central one in his work and this idea imparts a dynamic quality to his works. The impressions, especially of the early years of life, the tales he heard and the myths he grew up with, found expression as images in poetry first, and later, in painting.
But where his paintings are concerned, Kabir (the legendary poet/saint) has always been his source of inspiration, right from his schooldays. Over the years the theme of Kabir kept returning to him and Gulam Mohammed Sheikh created a relationship between his own images and Kabir's words. He has worked on the 'Alphabet Series' based on his relationship with Kabir.
His early paintings used to have a labyrinth like spaces. Now all his characters are not so much connected in a dreamscape as inscribed in or mapped on a body. Now he paints to stir people out of their cocoons and his obsession with Kabir remains because he thinks that we on earth need an icon, especially now that violence is so much a part of our daily lives.
Born in 1937 in Surendranagar, Saurashtra in Gujarat, this Padma Shree recipient took his Master's degree in Painting from the Faculty of Fine Arts at the MS University in Baroda. Subsequently, he taught art history at the same university and between 1982-1993, he was a professor of painting. In 1987, he was a visiting artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, US, and in 2000, writer/artist-in-residence at the South Asia Regional Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
The Artist lives and works in Baroda.
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