Gulammohammed Sheikh

Born in 1937 in Saurashtra in Gujarat, Gulammohammed Sheikh did his masters degree in painting from the Faculty of Fine Arts at the MS University in Baroda in 1961. He was awarded the Commonwealth scholarship and went to study at the Royal College of Arts, London from 1963-69. Subsequently, he taught art history and painting at MSU, Baroda for about thirty years. 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. Sheikh is also a poet, art critic and historian.

Sheikh spearheaded an art movement which rejected the abstract and non-representational and focused on resurrecting the role of the narrative for a socially reactive figuration closely linked to the living concerns of people. He created a visual language that imbibed and discarded influences while being open to experimentation and academic influences. His early work may be seem to be occupied with an investigation of the subliminal reaches of human existence. His work from the 1960s and 1970s can be seen to be informed with a consciousness of the surreal in the seemingly mundane. Given his academic influences, he draws images from Indian art, European art and political events to create is own narrative. Being a poet and writer himself, Sheikh has always been inspired by Kabir, the legendary poet/saint. Over the years the theme of Kabir kept returning to him and Sheikh created a relationship between his own images and Kabir’s words.

The autobiographical reference has been an important part of his practice. Musings on place, on the cultural environment of the individual are of importance, to him; the physical and the transcendental meet in his work. His work has been exhibited widely in India and abroad.

He published his first set of poems, ‘Athwa’ in 1974, and he was regarded as a pioneer of modern Gujarati poetry. He has also edited a book ‘Contemporary Art in Baroda’, which culminates a decade-long research and documentation project. His contributions to visual arts and literature have been awarded by the Lalit Kala Akademi, Bombay Art Society as well as the Padma Shri from the Government of India.

Sheikh lives and works in Baroda.