Street art was once thought of as a western concept. But now it has taken the Indian public space by storm,with a riot of colours on our walls
Under the azure sky, kids playing cricket and Superman in his distinctive and iconic blue costume and red cape stands behind the kid shown as batting, as if the superhero is keeping wicket. That is what you see painted on a wall in Delhi. And that is just the beginning.
The wrestler, angel, superman all the characters suffused with ample colours triggers nostalgia. The graffiti on a wall in the illegally occupied, forested south Delhi neighbourhood of Neb Sarai, created by artist Ruchin Soni is an idea to make something bright and colourful that will appeal to kids and adults.
“In our locality, people don’t let us play, they say we make lots of noise. We can’t even ride our bicycles as the lane is too congested. If our ball goes flying to their house they refuse to give it back,” says a 9-year-old kid. The concept of bringing art, colour and creativity to street is a laudable idea.
“I really like the concept of donating your wall for street art and giving back something to society. While I was painting, the colours came on naturally, and the kids were watching with immense excitement,” says Ruchin Soni, a trained muralist from Baroda. The central idea is to give children the energy and incentive to be there in the open.
‘The world is my canvas’ is the apposite phrase for street artists anywhere. Street art in Brazil and other countries had strong elements of rebellious protest, probably a clamour against social or political evils. However, in India the idea behind street art was not rebellion, but more about interaction with people on the street.
St+Art India Foundation is a non-profit organisation that was born out of just that idea: art projects in public spaces, to make art accessible to a wider audience by taking it out of the conventional gallery space and use publicly available walls.
Talking about his work, Ruchin says, “Street art means a lot to me. It is a medium that provides ample freedom in terms of scale. There is no baggage that I have to create this or that art work and sell it in the market. I have the freedom to do what I like. It’s a new concept in India. There were a lot of people doing street art on their own, but now street art has a novel direction and brought many such artistes together.”
Ruchin has done extensive work in night shelters. His idea was that even the poorest need a lively space of their own, something that they just do not retire for the night but perhaps look forward to being called their ‘home’.
‘Co-exist’ by emerging artist Rutwij Paranjape, from Bengaluru, recreates a visual from everyday life to emphasise feelings of brotherhood and camaraderie.
“Through my piece I am celebrating co-existence. People from different cities and cultural backgrounds commute and co-exist in a metro train compartment for a brief period of time, leaving their differences aside. I find these brief encounters beautiful,” says Paranjape.
A giant harvest moon on the unpainted side wall of the house is an eye catcher near Halasuru Metro station in Bengaluru. Anpu Varkey is a Delhi-based painter and street artist. The structure’s proximity to the overhead metro ensures high visibility. Painting the moon was Anpu’s attempt to establish it as that ‘one big object’ in the sky that we can all connect with.
One of Anpu’s most popular works is the massive mural of Mahatma Gandhi at the Delhi Police Headquarters. She assisted German artist Hendrik Beikirch on it, and it was done for St+Art Delhi, in 2014. The mural, interestingly, was completed in five days. It kept the larger public in mind, the ones who may not be on Facebook or Instagram, but would identify with the idea and pass it around, even if just by word of mouth.
“In an age where everyone is seeking connections using platforms like social media, we miss something as big as the moon, which we hardly look at anymore. The moon represents our collective hopes and desires,” feels Anpu.
St+Art India’s effort is to bring art to busy cities in novel ways through festivals. The capital has seen a surge in street art over the last three or four years. Restricted to popular art hubs like Khirki Extension, Hauz Khas Village and Shahpur Jat in the early days, works by now well-known street artists like Daku, Anpu Varkey and Yantr are leaving a big mark on walls as well as in people’s mind and building facades across the town.
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