A powerful tool

Street art

A powerful tool

Blank walls are a shared canvas and we’re all artists,” said Carla H Krueger. Nothing captures the essence of street art more beautifully than this quote. A growing phenomenon in Indian cities, street art has had its share of limelight in Bengaluru too.

Who can forget the life-sized crocodile that Badal Nanjundaswamy drew in a 12-feet-long pothole! The installation grabbed national headlines and directed attention towards the lackadaisical approach of the BBMP officials. Lesser known but equally stunning visual works also adorn some other busy streets in the city and provide a welcome relief from the unbreaking landscape of glass and concrete we see around us.

“The street art scene in Bengaluru is picking up slowly. As of now, we have quite a few street artists but not enough street art,” says Ullas Hydoor, a well-known name in the city’s art scene. “Everyone is always so busy here. Street art is a revolutionary tool that has the power to bring people together and make the city a much happier place.”

Poornima Sukumar, founder member of Aravani Art Project and owner of Studio Luna, says, “Many people come up to us while we are painting. Quite a few times, people, including children, have joined us in painting. Ultimately, it is not the recognition that the finished product brings but the happiness in the process behind it.”

Until recently, the art scene in Bengaluru was almost non-existent. Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath and Venkatappa Art Gallery were one of the few limited options for art enthusiasts in the city. But in the 80s and 90s, winds of change swept across the city and art exploded. Galleries sprung up, artists broke away from the traditional styles, festivals started being organised and new life was breathed into the field of art. But street art happened much later which is why it is still in its nascent stage.

Artists feel that compared to other cities, the growth of this form is also much slower in Bengaluru. Reasons range from resistance from authorities to lack of public interest. “Governments are not supportive of any art,” says Badal Nanjundaswamy. “Every art form is not an act of rebellion. For example, when I drew that crocodile on the roads, I wanted to draw the BBMP’s attention to the roads. I wanted to say ‘here is one pothole, come repair it’. It was my civic duty.”

Poornima

Sukumar talks about another pressing problem. “People can also help by giving us walls to paint on. We don’t deface walls or write nasty things. We turn them into works of art. But right now, we are in dire need of walls to paint on. Also, more street art festivals will be great. But that requires money and often we end up running after sponsors.”

It is true that the artists get recognition only for a fleeting period after the completion of their work when public interest is at its peak. This is despite the fact that the first ever street art festival in India was held in Bengaluru. Archana Prasad, the brain behind the artistic community space ‘Jaaga’, elaborates why street art is important in cities. “Street art is just one part of the wider form called public art and it is the strongest form of social commentary, even though some of the works may be temporary. When art moves outside of galleries and becomes more accessible, there is curiosity and community involvement.”
Despite all odds, this growing bunch of artists is firm on ploughing ahead.

Ullas has started his next project in which he plans to use organic and natural colours and is waiting for the monsoon to arrive so that he can try out ‘moss art’. Poornima is already involved in a painting project involving the transgender community in Bengaluru.

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