“The power and visibility of the street’s stage have brought the world’s diverse subcultures together to share the same space………..often, street cultures are old-meets-new phenomena, and their originators are the individuals who manage to find inspiration from both the relics that linger in cities and the innovations that spring forth from those communities.” (Gastman, Roger, Caleb Neelon, and Anthony Smyrski. Street world: urban culture from five continents. Thames & Hudson, 2007.)
The depth of the statement can be understood in context of Jaipur where contemporary artists working on the streets across India were invited to adorn the walls of metro stations. The subject matter that these artists have employed to create works not just represent their own oeuvre and style of engaging with the public spaces but also reflect an attempt towards incorporating the cultural elements of Jaipur as a city.
Most of the artists who were invited to paint murals in Jaipur are associated with the ST+ART street art events thus the images that they created are a continuation of the visual culture associated with this movement with emphasis on large murals.
This article therefore attempts at tracing these recent activities around public art in Jaipur, and highlights two aspects to these activities. The first aspect delves into the activities that aimed at creating avenues for interaction with a section of audience of these works, while the second point presents an overview of subject matter dealt in the murals paintings taking place in Jaipur specifically in the month of March 2017. Although the walls of the metro are still being painted, this article focuses on the four works that have been created in the last few days on metro stations in Jaipur.
Supported by Jaipur metro, the current public art activity was initiated by Cartist organisation specialising in vintage car restoration, and regularly hosts cartist art festival which invites artist from across India to paint on the cars and auto rickshaws which are then driven through the streets of Jaipur. Paintings done on the metro walls were intended to take this concept of art on the move from cars to the metro walls in the vicinity of markets and moving traffic.
The commencement of this public art event was done by inviting students and artists of the city to create drawings and painting inside a moving metro while passengers became spectators of the activity. Thus inviting people to not just observe the artists work in their immediate environment but also interact with them as part of their own daily commute. Since 3rd March was observed as “I want you to be Happy day” worldwide, the artworks were created on the theme of “Be happy”. Culmination of this activity took place at the Ram Nagar metro station wall which served as the canvas for first mural painting on metro walls.
Painted by Delhi based graffiti artist Akhlaq Ahmad “ WE LOVE JAIPUR” mural painted in vibrant colours , has quickly become a rage on the social media with people using it as a selfie zone. Having initially created the “We love Chandigarh” and “We Love Delhi” graffiti in Chandigarh and Delhi respectively, Akhlaq brought the same theme in Jaipur as a continuation of the series.
This mural forms an interesting relation to the Second mural painted by jaipur based artist Shrikant Ranga on the opposite wall directly in front of the WE LOVE JAIPUR mural. Taking images from tourist books and post cards, Shrikant created a collage of folk dances, costumes and the architecture of Jaipur. Using the prominent shades of pink and geru colour, this was the first time that Shrikant created a large scale mural. These two murals facing each other on the walls of Ram Nagar metro station form a dialogue in an attempt to incorporate identifiable elements that represent and celebrate the popular image of Jaipur.
The third mural was created on the Shyam Nagar metro station by a Delhi based artist Arun Sharma at the parking space walls of the metro station. Managed and maintained by an all women staff, the Shyam Nagar metro station mural was an endeavor to decorate the space on occasion of women’s day on 8th march. Although the theme of the mural does not incorporate any direct association with female oriented subject matter, it however brings in a social topic of water conservation.
Arun is a graphic artist who researched on the folk arts of Rajasthan mainly the “Pabu Ji Ki Phad” and incorporated the narrative style of these folk paintings in his work to create the Shyam Nagar metro station mural. Although “Pabuji ki phad” uses red to highlight the “Veer Rasa” to visually depict folk deity Pabuji’s story, Varun however used blue colour as a prominent element to suggest the theme of water conservation.
The forth wall to be painted in this event was of Vivek Vihar metro station by Bangalore based artist Poornima, who creates murals in collaboration with “Aravani Art Project” an NGO working with the transgender and LGBT community. She had previously created murals in Bangalore and Dharavi which projected the face of prominent activists or members from transgender/LGBT community.
For her work in Jaipur she utilised the portrait of transgender activist Pushpa who belongs to and works with the community in Jaipur. To give a more historical relevance to her topic she researched about the Mughal courts where transgenders were prominent members, therefore incorporating the Mughal floral motifs to the mural.
The activity of creating this mural was not just an effort by the artist but active participation by the transgender and LGBT community members within Jaipur.
In the hindsight the creation of this mural was crucial as it amassed a regular gathering of commuters, and people from the vicinity either staying there or crossing by who would stop to view the work in progress. Unlike all the rest of the mural being painted for the metro walls, this mural brought the concept of art in public spaces to a full circle. By conceiving a work which instantly invited the attention of people to the theme and encouraged them to interact with the community members that it strived to highlight. The mural thus converted metro station into truly a public art space.