Artists are like magicians. With a brush for a wand, and colours for spells, they create masterpieces that inspire and awe the audience. But some artists don’t just create a feast for the eyes. Through their craft, they attempt to bring about a wave of positive change in society.
This is exactly what the generation of young artists are doing today, through their work in public spaces. By creating compelling art on the walls of abandoned buildings and flyovers, the young artists inspire people to think about their responsibilities as members of society. They believe in breathing new life into the neglected parts of the city, through their paintings and sketches. The art could be about anything—littering, spitting or urinating in public spaces. By expressing themselves this way, not only do the artists make good art available for everyone to see, they also encourage people to stop and think about their responsibilities as citizens.
This International Youth Day, Soulveda speaks to three such artists whose public art in Bangalore is inspiring people to be more mindful and responsible. Their insights are as stimulating as their paintings: they talk about what inspires them to do what they do, and how more young artists must take to public spaces to reform the society.
You make art in public places in Bangalore. What motivates you to do it?
Amitabh Kumar: The primary motivation is to continue the practice of engaging with contexts and places and discover tools through which a place can be understood and reactivated. The other motivation lies within the spectrum of performance, where the act of someone willfully applying paint to a public wall is still seen with some humour and skepticism by the onlooker. It is the opportunity to engage with the passing public and the dialogue that ensues that motivates me. The peripheral motivation is to make art accessible, relevant and inclusive in the manner of its staging to the audience.
Vivek Chockalingam: My motivation comes from two factors—context and unpredictability. The context of it is very interesting, as I am making art in a scenario where everyone is going about their daily lives. The unpredictability factor comes from the thrill of working on the streets, often in unfamiliar spaces. Moreover, I look forward to questions from onlookers and their own interpretations of the art.
Rozri Iqbal: Public spaces are often mistreated by the public. The space under flyovers, especially, tends to be a hub for illicit activities, and there is garbage everywhere. If artists use colour to create neutral designs on the walls, people will appreciate the space. When people see artists working here and converting them into beautiful, people-friendly spaces, they feel a sense of consciousness and responsibility. This motivates me.
What do you intend to convey through your artwork on these walls?
Amitabh Kumar: There is no specific message that I want to communicate through my art in public spaces. Working in public places allows the artist to engage with and understand the ground realities of public life much more acutely, and it is this evolving conversation between the artist and the world that the art on the walls facilitates. To the passive (or engaged) onlooker, the act of painting in public places communicates certain basic responsibility regarding public life and the systems that create it.
Vivek Chockalingam: Through art, I wish to create a sense of ownership amongst the public of these public places. I want people to question and ponder over the subjects explained through the art. People in the city lead busy lives and are bombarded with commercial visuals every second of the day. Public art, then, becomes a spot to put a thought. An idea or question gets conveyed through these visuals.
Rozri Iqbal: My public art does not convey any activism or outcry but a simple message that these walls are being taken care of. This sends a very strong message to those who stick posters, write messages or urinate on the walls. The art appeals to the public. As a result, they might avoid dirtying these spaces.
The role of the youth is to be revolutionaries, and have grander visions for development—visions of us growing as humans, beyond the capitalistic and propaganda-driven society.