Street Art is Taking Over Delhi and Here’s Why
A mural on the walls of Tihar Jail in the capital. (Photo: Pradeep Gaur)
A mural on the walls of Tihar Jail in the capital. (Photo: Pradeep Gaur)

Street Art is Taking Over Delhi and Here’s Why

“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.

A rendition of poetry written by a Tihar Jail inmate on the walls of the jail. (Photo: Ruchin Soni)
A rendition of poetry written by a Tihar Jail inmate on the walls of the jail. (Photo: Ruchin Soni)

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.”

 A 12-foot high mural at Shahpur Jat, New Delhi. (Photo: Ruchin Soni)
A 12-foot high mural at Shahpur Jat, New Delhi. (Photo: Ruchin Soni)

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.”

Ruchin’s mural at the Kashmere Gate flyover in Delhi, where the homeless spend their nights. (Photo: Ruchin Soni)
Ruchin’s mural at the Kashmere Gate flyover in Delhi, where the homeless spend their nights. (Photo: Ruchin Soni)

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.

A mobile toilet with a touch of colour. (Photo: <a href="http://basicshit.org/">basicshit.in</a>)
A mobile toilet with a touch of colour. (Photo: basicshit.in)

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.

A sign outside a urinal constructed by basicshit.in at AIIMS. (Photo: <a href="http://basicshit.org/">basicshit.in</a>)
A sign outside a urinal constructed by basicshit.in at AIIMS. (Photo: basicshit.in)

“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

Ashwani’s mural outside north Delhi’s homeless shelter. (Photo: Ashwani)
Ashwani’s mural outside north Delhi’s homeless shelter. (Photo: Ashwani)

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.”

A mural at Shahpur Jat, New Delhi. (Photo: Facebook/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/st.artdelhi/photos_stream">St.ART Delhi</a>)
A mural at Shahpur Jat, New Delhi. (Photo: Facebook/St.ART Delhi)

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.

Going incognito? Not quite. Work in progress at Tihar Jail. (Photo: Facebook/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/st.artdelhi/photos_stream">St.ART Delhi</a>)
Going incognito? Not quite. Work in progress at Tihar Jail. (Photo: Facebook/St.ART Delhi)

“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.”
–Ruchin

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.”

Anpu’s mural at Shahpur Jat. (Photo: Zoya Rasul)
Anpu’s mural at Shahpur Jat. (Photo: Zoya Rasul)

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).

Anaconda on the streets of Bengaluru. (Photo: The News Minute)
Anaconda on the streets of Bengaluru. (Photo: The News Minute)

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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