Street Art, burgeoning from the legitimization of graffiti; once considered illegal is a much welcome burst of colours in the monotone palettes of our cityscapes. This form of art is greatly dependent on architecture and spaces, which form the canvas for these expressions of ideas; they create an interesting loop between the artist, the spectator and the public by placing artworks which commonly express social and political issues at the heart of the public realm.
Artwork by Haneef Qureshi and Georgia Hill
Street Art today is multi-dimensional, it often includes interactive installations to further engage the spectator and often is a hybrid of different art forms like graffiti, sculpture, photography etc. But unlike carefully curated museum spaces which seek to showcase art in limbolike spaces where the art is not subjected to the vicissitudes of time, street art seeks to step out of that framework and engage with its context. It does not seek perfection, but rather embraces imperfections and is almost brazen in its display and in doing so, it becomes more consumable and relatable for the spectator. It sparks a conversation, an engagement and seeks to re-socialise urban space.
Artwork by Saner titled Balance in Mind and Spirit
An increase in the popularity of this democratised art form has led to the revitalization of many small neighbourhoods. From Shoreditch in London to Wynwood in Miami, all these neighbourhoods have been transformed through artworks and become destination outdoor museums for the public. The St+Art India Foundation, responsible for many prominent artworks we see around the metropolises of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad seek to transform the urbanscapes of these cities with art rooted in social matters. They are credited with the creation of India’s first Art District in Lodhi Colony, Delhi. Lodhi Art District has over 30 artworks by prominent artists from all over the world showcased in this primarily residential neighbourhood.
Map of the Lodhi Art District
Before this insurgence of street art of cityscape in this area, the Lodhi Colony built in the 1940s to house government employees was a relatively quiet and unassuming neighbourhood, one among many in this megalopolis. It is a pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood and being a residential colony has relatively less traffic, but the reason for this being the most suited as a backdrop for the Art district- the uniform facades which provided an ideal backdrop for artists and the layout of the neighbourhood, with easily navigable repetitive blocks. Both create an ideal open walk-through gallery which has transformed the image of the Lodhi district. The artworks now function as landmarks and are visited regularly, furthermore; there are curated art walks around this district and has led to the creation of a public gallery woven into the fabric of the city with social interstices between the artists, the visitors and the residents of this neighbourhood who have gained a new sense of place in the city.
Artwork by the Aravani Art project Artwork titled Colors of the Soul by Senkoe- the tree and central opening has been strategically used
A city and its architecture provide the backdrop for such artworks, they are inextricably linked to the morphology of the city, changing and developing with the surroundings. The characteristics of the wall play a crucial role in the conception of these works for e.g. The central arched opening in the Lodhi District becomes the key unifying element visible across all the artworks and it becomes interesting to then see its representation in each artwork. There is an overall transformation due to street art, it has changed the experiential quality of functional everyday spaces like sidewalks, metro stations and invoked a dialogue between the users of those spaces. It has enabled a re-invention of the way we perceive art, not within the confines of a museum space curated to perfection; but rather, present in the physical world, active and playful. These temporary urban interventions or tactile urbanism elements activate people and spaces, they challenge the functional and rigorous framework of cities with providing interaction spaces in areas not intended for those purposes. Mikhail Bakhtin (theorist and philosopher, 1968) coined the term carnivalesque, signifying a blend of play, art and life; similarity street art ‘plays’ with a place, offers some solace from the order of the city and adds an element of whimsy to the everyday.
Street art of our cityscape seeks to humanize the modern environment by appropriating itself upon the planned urban landscape, this site-specific art is often centred around current social issues and affairs. In the daily bustle of the city, these artworks try to inspire some reactions among strangers, try to make them pause and escape realities; even if it’s for a few seconds.