Fine lines and dots fill up human, animal and inanimate forms that form unique narratives – two spiffy girls on a motorcycle, the hustle bustle of a crowd with skyscrapers in the background, a grazing cow and many more. Richly detailed and painted usually in monochrome, these paintings were made in the Jogi art form – a contemporary phenomenon practiced by a single family – The Jogis of Rajasthan.
A unique style, Jogi artwork is made using paint or a ball point pen on paper depicting what the artists witness around them – urban landscapes crowded with people and towering buildings, birds, animals and character studies. Developed by Ganesh Jogi nearly four decades ago, the art form reflects a new India through the eyes of artists straddling the modern and traditional and fits effortlessly in a contemporary décor scheme.
(Clockwise LtoR: An urban landscape, a foraging bird, character study of a city girl, in Jogi art form)
Born in the Jogi caste, Ganesh and his wife Teju were once devotional singers. In the tradition of their forefathers, they went from one neighborhood to another at daybreak, singing bhajans to wake people up. In exchange they got grains, clothes and sometimes money. With changing times, their profession became unviable and in a sad turn of events, the couple moved to Ahmedabad to become daily wage laborers making a thin income with which to support their growing family. A chance meeting with Haku Shah, the eminent writer and cultural anthropologist encouraged Ganesh Jogi try his hand at painting.
When first asked to draw, Ganesh was almost thirty-five years old and said he didn’t know how to hold a pen! Haku Shah persevered and eventually Ganesh began painting. In the beginning he drew what he knew – animals, trees, water ponds, fields and scenes from village life. He was soon joined by his wife Teju who experimented with different mediums, added colors to the drawings and drew character studies of women in urban settings.
(Jogi art evolved from being a black and white art form to one that now also uses bold color schemes)
As their family grew, more members took to the art form and started creating their own iconography and individual styles – their eldest son, Prakash drew energetic, free-flowing forms, daughter Somi creates colorful abstracts depicting a chaotic and crowded world and Govind creates poetic visuals through a series of intricate dots and dashes.
(A 2nd generation Jogi artist immersed in his work)
At first a depiction of Ganesh Jogi’s vision and experiences, the art form has emerged as a beautiful artistic tradition, stunning in its simplicity and attention to detail. With very contemporary subjects and a unique perspective, the narratives in Jogi art make it a beautiful and conversation-worthy addition to an urban home.
(The unusual perspectives and themes of Jogi artwork like these make for great contemporary art in an eclectic home)
Image Credits: Jaypore, Delhi Crafts Council