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How Street Art transforms dull parts of Cityscapes into vivid representations of local identity

The bustling activity in a crowded marketplace is always exciting when every seller out there tries to steal your attention. There is so much uproar in the air that you decide not to look any of them in the eyes. As you wade through the aroma of hot pipping samosas, pleasant smell of a new fabric, cluttering noises of household materials and much more, there is a high probability that you might lose yourself in the commotion.


Regaining your senses, as you proceed to take your next step, your instinct halts you abruptly before you stumble upon the canvas of an artist.


Yes, you look down to a wonderful painting of an Indian deity gradually taking shape at the hands of a quiet performer. Looking down at the art in progress, all you can sense is tranquility in the air but while you look up again, you are transported back to the world of chaos. The glitch in time and space that the exuberance of art creates is always fascinating. This is how my first encounter with Street art transcended into a never-ending love affair over the years.

Is Street Art, the voice of the unheard?

The evolution of Street art in general from being a hate crime to becoming a positive influence on the society today is nothing short of a surprising anomaly.  It has indeed come a long way eroding the restricted walls of freedom of expression to broaden the space for the voiceless. History scripts the origin of Street Art as an agitation, which initially erupted against discrimination on all grounds. There were times when graffiti on the walls was a serious crime of vandalism. Not to mention, people viewed the same museum art differently when it was out on the streets. 


As a matter of fact, Street Art took its time to get into the mainstream arena only after overpowering acceptance and tolerance from the public. Consequently, this journey of Street Art is a paradox by itself due to one particular reason - Art has always been very complex to define due to different perspectives.

A silent but powerful boom

The Prolific Indian Street Art of today on walls, temples, railway stations and other places has its connections with the powerful movement that started in Mumbai in 2009. Going by the name “Wall Project”, walls running up to five kilometers became the idealistic canvas for painters.


It was started as part of the beautification project to breathe in positivity through depiction of culture and traditions.  At the same time, Mumbai city paintings largely dealt about social issues that needed utmost attention and awareness. But if you feel this initiative might have been the very foundation of Street Art culture in India, you are definitely missing something.


Indian paintings and art work on pottery were widely prevalent during the bygone days of the royal regime. As time passed by, paintings with symbols and religious figures were displayed in public spaces in and around the major cities of India. As the Independence struggle started to kick in, wall paintings with the theme of rebellion were demonstrated for protest and angst against the British.


On the other hand, the post-Independence era of Indian Art was all about Advertisements and political parties. By all means, people in the 80’s and 90’s wouldn’t have missed the glimpse of a Coke Advertisement painting on the city walls or the random artwork on trucks and rickshaws. In fact, wall paintings were an efficient mode of advertising in those days before billboards arrived to the foreground. 


With that being said, Indian Street Art has not only evolved but it also adhered to a particular style for decades and only after 2010, revolutionary ideas with new techniques, art forms and mediums were embraced.

The Transformation

The number of graffiti artists in the country has just exploded to a new high after the arrival of various non-profit organizations that focus on transforming the urban landscapes through art.


St+Art India Foundation is one of the pioneers in this regard who has gone about splashing vibrant colors on the streets of the major metropolitan cities in India. The Lodhi colony in Delhi became the first ever residential district in the country adorned with a Street Art makeover through St+Art. The organization has channeled its aspirations towards evoking the sense of belonging in every city resident through engaging stories that are brought to life on a canvas.


The reclamation of civic spaces like hospitals, airports, railways, schools, colleges, theatres and even Government buildings, in order to make them all the more interactive with graffiti artists from all over the world is definitely a story worth telling.


Chennai being one of the last cities to embrace the Street art culture has still mesmerized me with its lively paintings over the past few years due to the collaboration between the Chennai Corporation and the German Consulate. The Egmore railway Station boasts of a very intriguing artwork shedding light on the Indo-German thought process.


Fortunately, St+Art brought the city of Chennai under its coverage by organizing the first ever urban arts festival in the city, “St+art Chennai 2020” in the month of February. Under their initiative, thematic murals with local touch on the resettlement buildings in Chennai even went a step beyond inculcating an emotional appeal in the mind of its viewers. A well-planned tour along with art based workshops and installations were organized all over the city to inspire and raise the spirits of the people.


Promising Sketch for the future

To be frank, India is not yet on par with other nations that are topping the charts when it comes to Street Art. But it will also be an understatement to say India is nowhere on the map. The growth of Indian Street art in the last decade has definitely led to various foreign collaborations proving how welcoming the country is to the raging Street Art culture.


In my opinion, these creative collaborations have led to some of the most insightful wall paintings in the prominent cities of the nation.


But what I would like to witness in the future are politically charged paintings and Street Art that spark a debate among the public, bringing in various communities together for conversations. The next 10 years will definitely be crucial for Indian Street Art as the country is beaming up with high spirits and streamlined projects.


But two main aspects of Street Art require in depth analysis for the art form to thrive long - Indian Street Art must retain its independent status so that the democratic voice remains with the people forever to preserve its purity. While some people ask how Street Art makes a difference, these paintings become a part of our  lives with strokes of memories deeply etched in our subconscious in one way or the other. After all, Street Art is the common man’s extraordinary reflection of the ordinary world we all live in.


If the street art can capture your attention and help increase the aesthetic appeal of the wall, so is any painting.  If you are an art admirer with interest in Original hand painted artwork, indianartzone.com has something unique to offer for everyone!


Author is a co-founder of Indianartzone.com  

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