Thursday, October 22, 2015

Street Art to "Make the politicians work"?

Well, that is what happened in the city of Yekaterinburg, the fourth largest city in Russia, named after Yekaterina, the wife of Tsar Peter the Great. The city is the industrial and cultural center of the Ural Federal District, and public transportation in the city includes the metro, trams, buses and "trolley-buses".

The citizens in Yekaterinburg were not very happy with the state of the city roads, particularly the size of the pot-holes and made use of street-art in a novel way. Almost overnight, some of the larger potholes on the roads were used for remarkable street graffiti. Caricatures of prominent politicians in charge of and accountable for road repair were drawn cleverly around the potholes.

     The faces were those of recognizable prominent politicians like the governor, mayor and deputy-mayor of the city. The portraits were also captioned with quotes from past speeches of the politicians promising to fix the roads.

Needless to say, the faces drew a huge response from the general public and the politicians alike. Action was swift, and the potholes with portraits around them were quickly painted over.

The vigilante artists were ready, and had filmed the entire process. Their response, equally swift, was to paint captions saying "Painting is not fixing it".

The artists seemed to have won the day, as the next lot of workmen who came, repaired the potholes. Taking no chances, they also repaired all the other major potholes in the city.

 The advertising agency that ran the street campaign got their share of recognition, winning awards in four different categories at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, 2013. The citizens benefitted too as a special project called "Ura.Ru Roads" was launched, where citizens could upload details of roads that needed repair, and action was now more prompt!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mandana art

The Meena tribes of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, India, trace their ancestry to the Matsya tribe of the Matsya kingdom (both "Meena" and "Matsya" mean fish in the Sanskrit language) that flourished in the 6th century, B.C. The women of the tribe decorate the walls and floors of their house with motifs drawn with a paste of ground rice and milk, or with a mix of lime and chalk powder. The floor and walls are first prepared by applying a paste of cowdung, a local clay and red ochre. This form of art, known as "Mandana" art, draws upon the surroundings of the village women, like birds, animals, leaf and flower motifs.

Madan Meena, an independent visual artist, recently held an exhibition of his paintings at The Triveny Gallery, New Delhi.  Using his personal association and research in the region and the Meena tribe, he has evolved his own language, using the traditional Mandana forms and a contemporary interpretation.

Three characteristics of the Mandana Art are:
the use of simple geometric forms: triangles, rectangles, circles; the community method of working, with groups of women painting together, each adding their own creations and embellishments; and the use of small motifs drawn from their surrounding objects, specially natural flora and fauna.

Madan Meena used similar techniques, presenting a "Bara-Masi" (or twelve-month) representation of Mandana art. He made clever use of the plant motifs and birds, specific to a season. For example, the peacock motifs in this composition represented the spring season.

The Ranthambore national park area in Rajasthan once served as the hunting grounds for the Maharajas of Jaipur. Now they serve as a major wildlife tourist attraction, abounding in tigers, leopards, hyenas, sambar deer, nilgai, bears and jackals, besides a large number of smaller animals, birds and plants.

The artist has used the wild forest setting with a similar Mandana treatment in this composition called "Ranthambore Dreams".

Elsewhere figures of kings, queens, and figures from folk tales and legends have been used, in interesting ways. The compositions have used the "Bundi" method of miniature painting, prevalent in Rajasthan, in the Bundi and Kotah districts.

It is interesting to think of more such possibilities: a marriage of various traditional drawing techniques in India, and themes drawn from urban, modern lives.