Parveen Arora in Karnal The Karnal civic body organized a unique contest: paint the walls of a flyover at National Highway. The messages for the 'smart city' got rich expressions from the contestants who came from various parts of the country
A wall is a wall, either it is plain, filthy or distorted. Yet it is much more than that when it becomes a canvas painted in multi-colours highlighting a culture. Street art in Greece's capital Athens is said to be the biggest in the world. You can see an excessive amount of graffiti at every available space throughout city. Every available wall, shop front, brick wall or obscure alley is a canvas waiting to be filled with artistic optimism, political reference or social satire.
Some inspiration has travelled as far as to this city. Scores of young artists recently came together and turned the barren retaining walls of the flyover at ITI Chowk on the National Highway into a colourful graffiti. It was first such attempt by the Karnal Municipal Corporation (KMC). The civic body organized a painting competition, offering many young artists a platform to showcase their talent. Civic officials plan a “colourful story” sketched on all retaining wall of flyovers within the city limits.
Civic officials say they received a huge response with 150 teams participating from across the country. They came from Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Uttarakhand, UP, Delhi, Rajasthan, MP, Assam, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal and other places. Two artists from Delhi, Peeyush and Rajesh, assisted the civic agency in organizing the event. The two have set up a unique art concept 'Uneditioned Art'. “The word uneditioned is not in the dictionary, it lies in our heads. For us it means art without the traditional boundaries. It can assume a form just anywhere…with one's own ways of doing it,” says Rajesh.
The first prize went to the young artists from Art College, Delhi, comprising Urmila Majumdar, Sunil Xess, Milan Kumar, Rahul and Suraj, who painted multiple faces of Indian culture. The second prize was won by students from Government College of Art, Chandigarh, (Sunil, Deepak Singh, Jashandeep Kaur and Robin). Students from College of Art, Delhi, (Deepa Khushwaha, Deepak Kumar, Shubham and Deepak Kumar Mehato) won the third prize.
Young artists with hearing impaired came from Government College of Art, Chandigarh (Anmol Kanwal, Harman, Pankaj Sharma, Ashish Rathore, Varsha Badal, Buta Singh, William Singh and Arjun Singh). They also received a prize.
Experienced in wall painting, Delhi's Urmila Majumdar is a B.Sc final year student of Art College. She was thrilled to be a part of the contest and thanked the KMC to hold such a big event. “It is amazing to realize how much freedom you have in public space. When I saw so many artists performing, I became a little nervous; I had no idea what to draw,” she said. Her experience stood her in good stead. “I won the first prize in wall painting in Nanital last year also,” she said.
An MFA final year student at Government College of Art, Chandigarh, Sunil said wall painting is an exciting form of artistic expression. Winning a second prize is a great honour,” he said. For Jashandeep Kaur, a BSc IInd year student from Ropar, it was a big event after her choice of the subject was rejected by her parents. “It was a great opportunity; we interacted with other artists who came from other parts of the country. We all have learned a lot from the competition,” she said.
Moga resident Deepak Kumar is a final year student of Government College of Art, Chandigarh. Wall painting is his interest. He is also a commercial artist. “My interest in painting grew since my childhood when I started sketching and painting huts and cartoon character.” The KMC initiative contributes to cleanliness and beautification of the city, he says.
For the civic body, the initiative was a lesson in seeing urban planning in a different perspective. “We were a little nervous. The entire exercise taught us how residents' participation can improve things,” said Priyanka Soni, Commissioner. “I have seen such wall paintings in other cities, so I thought why not Karnal?” For Renu Bala Gupta, Mayor, has earned a civic stature after being shortlisted as a smart city.
Karnal city's streets are getting an artistic makeover as walls along roads are being painted with messages on traffic rules, 'clean India mission' and women security. “Street art has assumed a new meaning in the city. We have marked several walls along various roads for messages on cleanliness and traffic safety. Students from various schools have painted these roads. We want to show wall painting is a beautiful art,” said Soni.
While it'd take some time for civic agencies to figure out the cathartic effects of the street art, the art as such has invited riveting questions: how to define street art? One thing is certain: street art has become an integral element of contemporary art. Maybe, then, the question before us is not what street art is, but why has it come to be, and more importantly - where can it go from here?