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Public Art of Bengaluru

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The city has a robust artistic community, who, through public art have raised questions on infrastructure and social issues

The power of public art was recently proved by visual artiste, Baadal Nanjundaswamy. His installation of a life-sized crocodile on a gaping pot hole at Sulthanplaya Main Road, was a searing statement against the authorities for their neglect in repairing a pot hole and a broken water pipe. His work hit headlines. There is a wide artistic community in Bengaluru that has been conducting artistic interventions that don’t always make it to the media, but are inspiring, nonetheless.

A tour across the city will reveal public spaces and walls on which attractive art work can be seen. There is the stunning art work by Shilo Shiv Suleman that adorns some walls in the city, including one at Jyoti Nivas College , calling attention to such issues of expression of youth and feminism. Church Street has some cool art on its walls. Unfortunately there are invariably vehicles parked in front so you need to go around them to have a look. There is also wall art by BBMP in places such as Shantinagar and Mekhri Circle. Among the most vibrant public art work is under the Double Road flyover, which was initiated by Jaaga. The deep red and bright yellow backgrounds with different motifs and human silhouettes in black covering the pillars are sure to capture your attention.

The process of public art is often collaborative, involving both the community and the artists. Take the example of Jeevan Xavier, whose unique mobile auto art work, Along the Way had three beautifully decorated autos travel across the city, recently. It involved the vision and dedication of Jeevan.

The material was made by a local liner, Chandrakumar, and the installation was primarily meant for locals, who don’t have access to elite galleries. “Public art is an accessible tool,” says Jeevan. “It is a mechanism that individuals and communities use to further the human spirit.”road-pothole3

The Under Flyover Project at Double Road had participants from different backgrounds. Involving Jaaga, Ilaka, a design and art collective, and supported by Goethe Institut and Public Art Forum, Germany, the project was created to encourage sustainable urban living.

Says Archana Prasad, founder-director of Jaaga.in: “This project was a continuation of our work in urban art. We have done work at Malleswaram, with BMTC buses. For this project, we partnered with a German artist group. We wanted to do work that would last six months. It wasn’t that they just went to the site once and painted. The artists kept re-visiting the site. Every week, they met and went to the site to execute the work. I first selected a group of 10 artists, which included visual artistes, performers, writers and filmmakers. I invited the artists to choose a space from three different locations: the flyover, a private property and a mud tank next to the Hockey Stadium in Shantinagar. All of them chose the flyover. BBMP and the community were very supportive. The basic premise was that the artists had to take public safety and public sentiment into account.”

Speaking of what constitutes public art and tracing its journey in Bengaluru, Archana says: “It just depends on how you think of public art. There is a strong artistic community in Bengaluru who has been doing artistic interventions. Mural art was conducted by BBMP in 2009. Government-sponsored murals were actually public art. It was done to promote Karnataka’s tourism. Well before that, there were contemporary art groups. So there is a legacy.”

The activation of artists into public space, Archana says, has used art as a strong tool to infrastructural issues. “Artists have made comments on the rapid urbanisation of Bengaluru and the loss of heritage. I believe artists call out the problems of society, whether emotional, political or infrastructural.” And the mood is not just one of angst against a system, she adds. “The artwork is playful, not necessarily angry. Most of the public art work is trying to push towards a more positive outcome.”

Jain University students, Meghna Goyal and Ketaki Dixit says the paintings on Double Road flyover is one of the best public art work they have seen. “It is quite eye-catching,” says Ketaki. Meghna adds: “The black and yellow combination is stunning. It’s excellent work.” But they admit that they don’t always notice public art on a daily basis. “But art spreads happiness. It brings a smile to your face.”

Fadhi Muhammed, born in Kerala and raised in Bahrain, is seen busy clicking pictures of the wall art in Jyoti Nivas College. He says: “This caught my attention,” says the photo journalist, adding: “Wall art is powerful because it represents many social issues.”

Source : the Hindu, July,2015



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