Dances on the wall

Street art

Dances on the wall

A traveller by art and heart, the French-born Cambodian street artist, Jerome Chifumi, recently had a brush with the City. Armed with one idea and several brushes, he breathed life on the walls of Church Street Social and Alliance Francaise, which can be best described as wonderfully messy at first glance.

As one delves into it deeply, Indian dance ‘mudras’ burst from those images. Thrilled to come back to India for the third time, he describes the sub-continent as an “impressive laboratory where everything is possible” and worked hard here to showcase the chaos of the City.

Jerome started wielding his brush at a young age. “The idea of exploring street art exploded in my mind when I was a boy and I began to discover the process thereafter. I studied communication and art and after graduation, went on to travel and was commissioned by a French TV channel.”

    He has been travelling around the globe since then and incorporates the numerous cultural contexts he is confronted with in his work. He finds an inherent connection with Asian culture and the rich traditions of every country in the continent blew him away.

Looking to blur private and public spaces, he says he strives to develop a sense of urbanity in his artform with self-expression.

    “For me, street art is artivism (art and activism), but as a travelling artist, I am pressed for time and hence, have a limited understanding of the politik of different places. So I prefer to explore themes and give it my personal touch rather than make bold political statements.”

His work is an intersection between tradition and the modern that range through broad cultural themes. He adds, “In India, my artworks are related to cultural themes. I use the typical dances of India as the main theme and through that, explore new possibilities of colours and compositions. I first understand the culture and the architectural heritage of any place when I arrive. Then, I develop on my idea and start to draw. All my pictures are location-centric and capture the vibration of the local environment such as Cambodian temple patterns and Italian churches.”

His main projects in India included beautifying the music festival, NH7, in Pune. His idea of developing a music fan’s hand and mixing it with a symbolic image of a lake grabbed eyeballs there. His objective is also to participate at the ‘St Art’, the street art festival in New Delhi.

He proudly says, “Cities change with globalisation but the old-world charm amidst modernity is an inspiration for many street artists. People are very proud of their roots in many parts of the world which is humbling to see. Though cities change, the mind remains the same.”

 Though he didn’t have time to work with local artists here and has many on his ‘wishlist’ that he would like to collaborate with, he is completely in love with the street art in India. “I can see it the shops, walls, trains and stations. I like that people are surrounded by art here. The scene in Cambodia, on the other hand, is completely different. This country lost its culture after the war and one can find very few artists. Street art also faces a ubiquitous challenge of availing permissions from higher authority. I'm currently curating a street art festival in Phnom Penh, ‘The Cambodia Urban Art’.”

Jerome is happy that the artform is slowly being recognised in the mainstream realm.
   “The pioneers of street art had a very different approach then. Now, it is massively followed and supported by people and institutions. Self-expression is being encouraged now, which will take street art a long way.”

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