Giving the city a colourful facelift

Painting Delhi

On returning to India after living abroad for several years, Yogesh Saini was finding it hard to cope with the increased traffic, noise and pollution issues Delhi was facing.

He would often get frustrated with the inability to do anything about it – until he got an opportunity to make a “small difference” by painting the garbage cans at Lodi Gardens (thanks to speedy approvals from NDMC). And before he knew it, one thing led to another and he had plunged deep into the world of street art. Thus was born Delhi Street Art (DSA), an initiative to promote public art.

“The idea is to bring art to open spaces and give the artists an opportunity to share their creativity away from galleries and exhibitions. We create art works that are on display 24X7 for as long as the nature elements and humans allow them to survive and remain viewable. Unlike galleries and museums, our exhibits don't get taken down and put away in warehouses at the end of the show,” he tells Metrolife.

Their creativity can be seen across several locations in the city as well as in Rishikesh, Ahmedabad, Simla and Agra. Within Delhi they have tried to transform markets like Shankar Market, shopping plazas like Nehru Place and JanakPuri district centre, as well as locations such as Nizamuddin Women and Children Shelter, National Bal Bhavan, Khan Market, havelis of Old Delhi, and Gurgaon’s IFFCO chowk among others.

“At DSA we are constantly striving to make a difference - not just to the aesthetics of the city but also hopefully to the attitude of the denizens. We also are able to attract a lot of young artists who are keen to explore painting in the outdoors, using the outdoor spaces as their canvas and interacting directly with the art appreciating audiences right on the streets!,” says Saini.

Agrees 18-year-old Sahil Bali, who has been associated with DSA since last year, and says that public walls are the best canvasses. “Before we painted it, the wall in Khan Market was a public urinal. It was our aim to beautify it and act as a deterrent that discourages people from urinating in public spaces. We also spread social messages through our work.” Adding, Saini says that most opportunities to paint walls come seeking them. This, he says, includes people who may have heard about them through word of mouth or on social media and are trying to grapple with issues like garbage dumping, spitting or wall used as urinals.

“They hope that if we create attractive art work, it may encourage people to keep the spaces clean. Sometimes we like a particular location and want to depict some theme or particular art idea. This is when we actively seek permission of the concerned authorities and then proceed to create the art work. The biggest element of success for each of our initiatives is the enthusiastic participation of volunteer artists and other professionals - keen to make a difference,” he says.

So, while the Khan Market wall is adorned with tribal art, the murals near IFFCO Chowk are on the theme of conservation.

Ask Saini how they decide what is to be painted on which wall and he says, “Talking to people in the vicinity, as well as understanding the pulse of the neighborhood often helps us figure out what kind of art may work best for a location and which story we may end up telling. Many a times we have an idea already and then start seeking the ideal location to depict it!”

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