Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh as a painter draws inspiration from diverse sources – from Renaissance to Indian classical paintings, his interest in the traditional arts is of great significance in the development of his own painting and writing. During his stay at the Royal College of Art, London, he traveled widely in Europe, especially in Italy to see the work of the early Renaissance masters. The Sistine chapel and the works of European masters left an indelible impression on his mind. He internalized their style to create his own vocabulary of art.
Sheikh was born in the small town of Surendranagar, Gujarat in 1937. He decided to study painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda (M.A. Fine, 1961) because it was considered to one of the most significant art schools of India. Subsequently he went to the Royal College of Art, London, (M.A. 1966). After returning he was offered a post of a teacher of art history and painting at Baroda. He taught there for about thirty years.
The Group 1890
A group of likeminded artists came together in New Delhi in 1962 with the noble intentions of making art lovers understand the “phenomena in their virginal state.” Naming themselves Group 1890 (which was actually the number of a friend’s house where they held their meetings), these artists pondered over the state of Indian art and its rich heritage. They were disillusioned because they felt that Indian artists must not look either to “memories of a glorious past” nor try to “catch up with the times” to create potent art. They must wipe away the memory of hallowed times and start from degree zero, so to say.
The main forces behind the group were Jagdish Swaminathan, an artist and critic with a leftist orientation and Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh. In their somewhat sweeping manifesto, the group declared that they “reject the vulgar naturalism of Raja Ravi Varma and the pastoral idealism of the Bengal School, down through the hybrid mannerisms resulting from the imposition of concepts evolved by successive movements in modern European art.”
Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh has held exhibitions of his work widely in India and abroad Some of his most prominent exhibitions are :
Sheikh is also considered to be one of the most significant thinkers of Modern Art and has lectured widely on same, around the world. His students feel that “he imparts a comprehensive and synthetic understanding of modern art”.
- The Baroda Group Show, Bombay (1959),
- Group 1890, New Delhi (1963),
- Cinquieme Biennale de Paris.(1 967),
- Pictorial Space, New Delhi (1 977),
- Six who declined to show in the Triennale, New Delhi, (1978),
- Place for People, Bombay and Delhi (1981),
Some of Sheikh’s paintings are enveloped in seeming mundaness but there is also an undercurrent of the erotic. His interest in several traditions of world art makes his paintings a tribute to the collective world art history. His paintings are never insular; he lets his paintings construct an identity of its own through the art tradition of the world. Which is why it’s so easy for the physical and the transcendental to meet in his work.