The national capital is hosting the sixth edition of St+art Delhi Festival, an annual celebration of street art and a meeting point for its world-renowned practitioners. Nibedita Saha reports.
The sixth edition of St+art Delhi 2019 was kicked off last week at Delhi’s Lodi Colony area. The event, organised by St+art India and supported by Asian Paints, celebrates an art form that has only just begun to make inroads into Indian culture: street art or graffiti.
First organised in 2014, St+art Delhi is the flagship project of the St+art India Foundation, credited for creating India’s first public art space, the Lodhi Art District. Every year, artists from around the world participate in this event, conducting workshops and painting murals in the national capital.
A new addition to the festival this time around is an immersive art exhibition, entitled F(r)iction at KONA, put up in the Jor Bagh area. It explores how art interacts with nature and technology and can be read as an artistic statement on how local communities can participate in public art initiatives.
Every year, St+art Delhi welcomes artists from different countries. This year is no exception. Over 30 participants—include street artists, musicians, chefs and performers—have arrived from around the globe for St+art Delhi 2019.
One of the participants is Yip Yew Chong, a well-known street artist from Singapore. “The Festival serves as a platform. The artworks become the talking point. And the people interact. It is the beginning of great friendships, and aids mutual understanding of our world’s diverse cultures,” Chong told Guardian 20.
Walls in the Lodhi Art District now feature some of Chong’s murals as well, done in his characteristically colourful and vibrant style. For these murals, the Singaporean artist chose simple themes that can connect with the viewers. His subjects, too, are simple: a girl reading, a street market, a sweet shop, a chai stall etc. His semi-realistic style, halfway between reality and fantasy, lends a special charm to his murals.
“I hope these scenes will trigger some fond memories in the residents. I hope to bring a smile on their faces through these mural reflecting their daily lives,” said Chong.
For this edition of the festival, more than 20 new murals have been created at the Lodhi Art District, and many of these are by street artists of international renown.
Daan Botlek, an illustrator and artist from the Netherlands, is also a part of St+art Delhi 2019. “It is always a pleasure to come India as the conversations and exchange that come from here are a huge inspiration,” he said.
About his art, Botlek said, “My work does not relate or respond to a certain culture, worldview or ideology, Rather, it displays anonymous human beings doing some sort of unexplained basic activity… People from all walks of life have different explanations for these images, and somehow they seem to especially resonate with Indian people.”
Over the last six years this festival has emerged as a prominent platform for street artists globally. Indian street artists in particular have found it a helpful and inspirational forum. In a country where street art is still in its nascent phase, having a full-fledged festival dedicated to it certainly opens new doors.
One of the Indian participants here, Sajid Wajid, a Mumbai-based self-taught illustrator, spoke to Guardian 20 about his St+art experience. “This festival always allows me to be true to who I am as an artist, and pushes me in just the right way to take things to another level,” he said.
In its imagery, Wajid’s work marks a departure from reality but without losing sight of the social context. Talking about his mural at the Lodhi Art District, he said, “The mural is an ode to Indian women in all their glory. It celebrates not just women, but also femininity and all its maximalism.”
Another social-minded street artist participating in the fest is Tellas, from Italy. He has contributed to the F(r)iction at KONA exhibition. “Delhi is a city which never stops and this constant traffic along with the aromas, colours, noises but also the wild nature in each every corner of the city is what inspired me the most. I walked around the city and that gave me the inspiration for my work Spontaneous Garden, exhibited here,” he said.
Tellas’ other artwork, named Terracotta, is inspired by the terrocotta-like reddish colour that can be seen on many of Delhi’s historical monuments. “The integration with the surroundings is what inspires me in doing public art. Everything comes out of the composition in an organic manner, except the colour palette, which just comes out of my mood,” added Tellas.
For the ongoing festival, St+art Delhi has collaborated with many international organisations, such as the European Union, Singapore Tourism Board, Australian High Commission, the Japan Foundation, New Zealand High Commission, Instituto Camoes, Instituto Cervantes, Pro Helvetia, Italian Embassy Cultural Centre, Polish Institute and the Mexican Embassy among others.
St+art Delhi 2019 is on till mid-March