By Vajra Zayra and Vasundra Venkatesh
Some Bangalore metro stations haven’t looked the same since a group of students from Srishti School of Design decided to do wonders with paint all over them.
Art in Transit is a college project undertaken by the students, their aim is to create a certain visual appeal in public spaces. The bunch didn’t just work on beautifying the metro but also worked on walls on various streets. The students seek to produce interactions through their art.
While studying at Srishti Design School, four student artists — Antra K, Madhav Nair, Shaksham Verma and Tanya Singh — worked on the project.
Verma graduated from the institute in 2017 and is currently freelancing.
“There were no teachers there, only facilitators and each one of them helped me grow as an individual,” he said.
Nair said he was all set to do architecture, and even gave a bunch of entrance exams.
“A friend from school told me about Srishti and I remember applying for their admission test a day before the deadline,” he said.
The artists agreed that working on the metro project was fun and each individual contributed in different ways.
“We were trying to have a really nuanced conversation with space and a lot of my peers spoke to it in their own way,” Madhav said. Among many other things, their conversations included the pressures of urban spaces, the movement and experience and usage of transit.
They also expressed a certain gratitude towards the project because it gave them an idea of what working in the industry would actually be like, intensive challenging and time consuming.
“The only downside of it all was how long it took to finish the piece and I felt like I was chained to that wall for over 2 months!”, said Singh.
Antra’s challenge was that the paintings would never be seen in a different light.
“The metro station is a relatively guarded public space in that it is protected from the effects of weather, sun, etc. Thus, art tends to stay for longer but sometimes, I missed seeing the colours of images in natural light,” she said.
The metro is in fact a commute, a public place and everyone wants to get somewhere. It isn’t anyone’s intention to stand and stare at art and dissect it. Therefore, one of the main objectives of all the artists was to grab attention.
Yet each one had a different incident to share regarding public response to the artwork.
Tanya said some people were angered by the fact that a non-Kannadiga was painting in their space.
“I just concentrate on what helps me further my practice as being involved in the politics of public art is inevitable,” she said.
One of Antra’s first pieces on the metro was a faceless man with one of his fingers falling off, to which a security guard had a peculiar reaction.
“I remember being concerned about the missing head and detached finger because the man’s dress resembled their uniform. I had a moment because I didn’t realize while painting that the attire was perhaps unconsciously taken from seeing the metro guards everywhere. It made me conscious about what I was putting up in a public space, something which I am still learning to work around,” she said.
Unlike all this Madhav had a very organic shift in this style due to all the public response. Most of the people that would interact with his work were there as part of the comic-zine workshop he was hosting.
“ People from a wide range of backgrounds came together and shared stories and responded to public space in a very unique way. My work changed a lot during that period, as it would when you’re sharing your process with people you get to develop in a super-organic way that would never happen if it was done in solitude in a comfortable home studio.”
And Shaksham enjoyed the attention that the Chakra view in Cubbon metro received, the artist recalls people lying down and taking pictures with it.
“I love attention I get for my art, I want people to look at it and spend time on it”, he said.
But what’s next for these artists?
When asked what they want to work on next, or soon in the near future, Verma had huge plans: “I want to establish फील (feel) as a brand.”
फील is a project that he started where he works on t-shirts and stickers, that gained wide popularity.
Singh would love to make album art for artists she loves and work with an animator. “For now these are my plans.” Whereas Nair has wanted to work with theatre and performance for a while now: “Something about that medium really fascinates me.” However Antra has something different to say, “Projects where the brief is eclectic are what I want to work on in the near future — there is lots of scope for exploration in that and the need to be bold and uninhibited in ideas and applications. These could involve pimping up a shop, branding a product or anything.”
The murals can be seen in the Cubbon metro and Mg metro stations, Yelanhanka bustop and Dhanvantri Sheshadripuram.