“Street art is like mithaai; just as a meal is incomplete without a tinge of sweet, my appetite for art too remains unsatiated without street art”, says 35-year-old Ruchin Soni.
Ruchin hails from a family of traditional painters in Gujarat. He learnt the basic tenets of art at home and later went on to complete a post graduate course in art from Baroda university.
Ruchin’s form of street art is a commentary on the loss of wildlife and the unprecedented race to industrialisation. He says,
“It is meant to snap this generation out of its slumber and take critical matters such as deforestation, pollution, and contamination seriously.”
When asked about his inspiration, he adds, “I don’t generally have a pre-conceived notion before I set out to paint. I observe the surroundings and give it colour.”
Like Ruchin, Ashwani too uses street art to lift Delhi’s public spaces, but with a difference. The 24-year-old puts together mobile toilets (picture below) as part of his project basicshit.in and uses graffiti to supplement hygienic practice.
For Ashwani, the process of putting together such ‘installations’ is cathartic. He likes to play with colour, material, and space to express his mind. After graduating from the College of Art, Delhi, he set out to paint the town red.
“Painting murals is cathartic. It adds another dimension to my thinking. When I am not painting, I am involved in my sanitation project, basicshit.org, wherein I sanitise crowded places, construct mobile toilets, and spread hygiene-related awareness”.
Ashwani’s mural at a homeless shelter in north Delhi has transformed a rather drab space. He says,
“The north Delhi mural expresses love. People living in the shelter come from different places in search of opportunities. To fill their lives with some colour, I drew a heart on the shelter which would remind them of home and happiness.”
Both Ruchin and Ashwani break the stereotype of being “incognito” artists. Their art is not made in an ivory tower, but resonates with people, they believe.
“I have never gone under cover on the streets to paint. Till very recently, street artists were frowned upon; since their intent was seen as anti-establishment. Trends have now changed, street art is respected and seen as a way of life rather than a commentary.”
Anpu, another street artist from Delhi, dismisses the idea of being “incognito”.
“Street art is just another form of expression. It does not have to be secretive. It is as much mainstream as any other work of art is.”
The burgeoning of street art is not merely a Delhi-based phenomenon. Chennai, Bengaluru and other metros have long had their own street art.
Recently in Bengaluru, street art was used as a weapon to express discontent against civic authorities (image below).
The fangs of the anaconda lying in a market in the Yeshwanthpur area of Bengaluru, did what years of appeals and protests failed to do: embarrass the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).
And in Chennai, Paintbox is undertaking what Ruchin, Anpu, Ashwani and others of their ilk have stepped out to achieve in Delhi.
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