tClockwise From Left: Quintessential India,

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Subculture Subculture tClockwise from left: Quintessential India, as portrayed inside a tunnel at Bandra Reclamation; Peek-a-boo in Mumbai’s coolest suburb; Graffiti artists involved in The Wall Project leave their mark on an ancestral wall in Bandra village. Wild A couple of spray cans and a streak of madness can go a long way. Follow the journey of graffiti across India. Text Simar Preet Kaur Photographs Parikshit Rao 36 style Fly lite July 2009 Y ou can see it splashed on a massive wal
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  Subculture Subculture Wild style A couple o spray cans and a streak o madness can go a long way. Follow the journey o grati across India.  Text Simar Preet KaurPhotographs Parikshit Rao ou can see it splashed on a massive wall in one of the world’s highest markets, in the medieval-lookingLeh Bazaar, set in the barren mountains of Ladakh. Ubiquitous prayer ags, shops selling traditional Ladakhi boots, Kashmiri vendors barbecuing mutton kebabs, and lo and behold, European-style grafti in bright shades of  yellow basking in simple anonymity. How do you explain it? Y In a country that has one of the oldest arttraditions dating back to the frescoes of the Ajanta Caves, it was only a matter of time until this modern art form made itsway into our country. Call it Aerosol Art if you want, but the story of grafti is a complex and colourful one. Kilroy was here Grafti seems to have begun in 1943, when the famous phrase ‘Kilroy Was Here’ rstmade its appearance in the USA. In the 1970s, the young NYC writers took to the city’s outdoors and soon, entire masterpieces were running across the subway system. Most experts regard it to be the inception of ‘modern grafti’. Movies such as Wild Style and  Style Wars , which showcased hip-hop culture in association with grafti, introduced the world to the possibility of streets dabbed with bright dashes of colour. Political stencils, July 200937 Fly l ite July 200936 Fly l ite t Clockwise rom let: Quintessential India,as portrayed inside a tunnel at BandraReclamation; Peek-a-boo in Mumbai’scoolest suburb; Grafti artists involved inThe Wall Project leave their mark on anancestral wall in Bandra village.  SubcultureSubculture June 200923 Fly l ite July 200938 Fly l ite q T self-indulgent tags, ’80s-style scrawling, sponsored commercial art– the streets of the world capitalstoday are abuzz with psychedelic artspawned by mixed intentions.Closer home, the only form of  grafti we previously chanced upon included incomprehensiblescribbling outside public loos,or at best, downright uproariousmessages on trains that broughtto mind images of Katrina Kaif look-alikes awaiting phone callsfrom daily commuters. Then thereis the vandal advertising for beanbags in Mumbai, not to forgetthe rare smattering of restaurants with grafti-covered walls, suchas Ghetto in Mahalaxmi. Grafti though is not a mere indoorsindulgence; we’re talking about artthat is more of a subculture. What began as a little message on the wall, today involves morecreativity, spontaneity, a youngerfeel and a lot more adventure. Awriter rides on adrenaline, strivingto be srcinal and earn appreciationfrom other writers for his work andthe risk undertaken. There are writers who can do wild style grafti in 15 minutes, but usually a mural, dependingupon the size of the wall and safetyof the spot, takes several hours. Anelaborate mural on a large wall can takeup to a month. Introducing grati Popular perception says grafti isrestricted to the progressive Western metropolises. However, there are plenty of walls in far-ung locales around India that are living art exhibitions (unknownones at that) created by namelesswanderers. During my several years of vagabonding I came across enough wall art for India to look New York squarely in the eye and say, “This is how it’sdone mate; a heady cocktail of the art of the West on the antique walls of the East.”A walk down the ghats   of Varanasi willreveal many artworks on the ancientwalls, from a reclining Shiva and worldpeace messages to quirky Frenchcatchphrases. Eco-awareness across   p Above: Varanasi’s travellers have letbehind a legacy o grafti inused withHindu sensibilities.Let: A portion o a painted house onBazaar Road, in Bandra.  Subculture Fact le How to goJetLite and Jet Airways have regular fights toMumbai, Leh, Delhi, Varanasi and Bengaluru,the main centres o grati art.Where to stay Typically, grati art is ound in the morebudget-riendly, backpacker-riendly areas o these cities. Most o them also have high-endaccommodation options or those lookingor them.For more in July 200940 Fly l ite Goa is displayed on walls sprayed with the message, ‘I die for some plastic, moo!’ accompanied by cow caricatures. A couple of years ago Bengaluru reinstated its political stance with ‘Down with Bush’ written on streets all over the city. Move up north and you see more evolved signatures of overseas grafti artists backpacking in the mountains; in Leh, Kashmir and Old Manali. Delhi, Ahmedabad and Kolkata have their share of bona de masterpieces in odd spots, but perhaps the best case is that of India’s biggest, most chaotic city, Mumbai. And what betterplace in Mumbai than Bandra, its hippest suburb with a history of  cultural innovations that it loves to aunt, much like the quintessential Bandra cutie who goes to church every Sunday wearing heels. By the people India has a rich tradition of wall painting by way of political signage,advertising or even Bollywood related artwork marking the latestreleases. There is plenty of open public space to capture, but obviouslynot enough people with the time and inclination to go spray wallswithout substantial reasons. This is a highly individual form of art, andindividuality is a rare quality in the country. Add to that the lack of spray cans and nozzles, which are imported from Thailand and the UK,if at all, and sold at a price range that can hardly be afforded by a manfrom the masses who wants to express his own views.Luckily for bohemians though, the art on the rock continues to roll. In acountry that has been steeped in music and nourished on colour, thereare many such places out there, with free art produced by unknownwanderers. Some leave signatures – such as the artist Jonas Ihlenfeldtfrom Germany, who has painted hisname in ornamental letters – a Europeanform of calligraphy – in several places,including the main bazaar of Leh, a smallguesthouse wall in Old Manali, and somerelaxed parts of Delhi removed from thescrutinising eyes of authorities. Thereare other Europeans too, with marks leftbehind to discover.  The writing on the wall Leaving mountains aside, zoom in onMumbai and its teeming millions. Thebest example of efforts towards makingthis city colourful and more pleasant to stroll through, is The Wall Project. It began a couple of years ago in Mumbai, withartist Dhanya Pilo and few others at thevoluntarily, many Indian artistsand a host of artists from othercountries, especially France. They have created over 60 grafti pieces across Bandra, from Bazaar Road to theReclamation area and from the slumsof Dharavi to Kala Chowki.These founders now act as coordinatorsas well, bringing in international artistswho hold ad-lib informal workshopson the spot they plan to spray. Theyseek permission from the locals; evenask what they would prefer on theirneighbourhood walls, and keep thisart form congenially public-friendly. You might catch a bunch of artists on a sunny Sunday, thoroughly enjoyingcore of the project, and has now evolvedinto a small movement in itself. Manypeople joined in as time passed, includingthe housekeepers of the walls painted,shopkeepers who offered their wallsexpressing artistic spontaneity, orproducing a consciously thought-outartwork. A similar project is in its nascentstages in Bengaluru, and is supported by just about anyone who cares to convertthe outdoors into an open-air palette.They plan to extend it across India, andwe are not complaining.It is easy to get addicted, to want to explore further, to nd such hidden works of art on anonymous walls. And you can.The next time you head out on the road,give their work more than a mere glance. With inputs from grafti artists Jonas Ihlenfeldt and Shaxeb S. p Above: Grafti on the bankso the Ganga, Varanasi.Below: Discover the best o grafti at Bandra Reclamation. t Clockwise rom let: The Gonsalvesgrafti is one o the largest in Bandravillage; Random art amid others inMumbai; A French musician practiceshis Santoor on one o Varanasi’s ghats.The grafti behind him asks ‘Will youkiss me?’in French.
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