Murals give Lodhi Colony a new identity
Art and life go hand in hand as you walk through the streets of Lodhi Colony. Visuals, language and colours all come alive at once. Known as India’s first art district, Lodhi Art District boasts 52 murals by famous national and international artists. These murals marry Lodhi’s landscape to pictographic abstraction. For any visitor to this place, it is an eloquent experience of how art can change anything it touches.
Created by St+art India Foundation and supported by Asian Paints, the Art District is attracting a large number of people. Lodhi Colony now has a new identity. For years, since the colony was built, the walls of the buildings were mostly white. Today, funky shapes and pop colours catch your eye and, of course, your attention.
“Lodhi Art District has been a big project and the response from the locals has been overwhelming. People have facilitated us in so many ways by opening their doors to us while we worked. This Art District brings to light the power of public art and how it can completely change a place. This is also a way to give back to the city a contemporary cultural offer, open and relatable to a large audience,” says Co-founder, St+art India Foundation, Giulia Ambrogi.
Yes, art has changed this area, which has put this place on the traveller’s map. Tourists, international and national, can be seen taking guided tours here.
This collaboration between Asian Paints and St+art Foundation is a commitment to change the neighbourhood into an inspiration through colours. In fact, with that thought, Asian Paints has initiated a campaign – Donate a Wall. People can now donate their exterior wall and contribute to making India beautiful. The process to democratise art is ongoing.
This ‘open-air-art museum’, as Ambrogi calls it, brings the world of art closer to people.
True. Art should not always be confined to galleries. It should also be out there to become part of everyday humdrum to make life interesting. The art scene thrives in this district. But is it a movement?
“Street art is a movement not just in India, but across the world. Every piece of art makes you think. If you see, most of the time, public spaces carry monotonous messages like advertisements, public messages or sometimes political messages,” says artist and designer Hanif Kureshi, Artistic Director and Co-founder of St+art India Foundation.
Adds Kureshi, “It is about time art reclaimed its due place too. When you put art out there on the walls in a street, it makes a person think and wonder. It gives passers-by an artful relief for a moment. It plays with their imagination. The purpose is to open up the imagination of the common man. People who are busy in their daily lives have stopped relating to art. These wall arts/murals are easy to relate to. They make art simple.”
No wonder then that Asian Paints has taken this movement to different cities across India. Similar art districts are coming up in cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Nagaland, Chennai, Coimbatore and Bengaluru.
In many instances, art changes your perception towards everyday things. You may not acknowledge the role of art every day. However, once you become conscious of it, it communicates with you to make life different.
“There is art in everything we do,” says Poornima Sukumar, a muralist, community artist, and illustrator. She uses wall painting as a community engagement medium. “Art is an importance part of everyone’s life. Art meets activism as we paint about issues that prevail within the given geographical space. We explore their stories and sense of space,” she explains.
Currently spearheading the Aravani Art Project, Sukumar says that through the projects “we intend to capture stories of community, freedom, dreams of acceptance and hope for possibilities.”
Most of the murals in Lodhi Art District capture several relevant issues to create awareness. “Our effort is never to make any negative work. Instead, we use public art as a medium to create awareness about diverse locally and globally relevant topics from women empowerment to climate change and more,” Ambrogi shares.
“Going forward, we would like to cement our work in building along with the government policies towards public art and contribute to the Smart City Mission by creating other art districts across various cities in India. Furthermore, we want to support the local art scene as well by working with local artists to revive traditional art forms, some of which are fading, and bring them to contemporary life. Our aim is to bring art to all,” Ambrogi adds.
While walking through the Art District, observers can see that many murals have messages starting with climate change to women empowerment and more. If you stand in front of the murals to watch the details, you can see far more than what is actually in the paintings, because then all the visual cues that the artist has painted come alive.
Anpu Varkey, a New Delhi-based painter and street artist, who painted one of the first pieces in this Art District, says, “Public art allows people to engage with an image in whatever means it deems fit to an individual; it alters maybe their state of mind for a few minutes. It becomes interactive, where you (painter) are there to directly speak to a person if he/she so wishes. Art doesn’t change life, it upholds it.”
She explains her mural in the Art District as, “Emerging from a dreamscape, perpetuating the flow of lava, the tree posits to consume the entire building, shadowing the menace of our minds.”
Now that the work at this district is complete, it is attracting a lot of young people, who look at it as a place to be creative. Many youngsters can be seen recording music videos here as well. “It is about leaving an artful environment behind and creating an area of interest for the city,” Ambrogi notes.
Let’s face it. Art enlivens a place and changes the space with its presence. It communicates with the viewer. Most of all, it gives the area a new identity.
And so, the subtle journey of Asian Paints continues. Its noble efforts in communicating socially relevant themes through art have simultaneously uplifted the landscape of Lodhi Colony.
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