Located a few meters from Triveni Kala Sangam and Lalit Kala Akademi, the Punjab Bhawan may not boast of the same artistic lineage, but in recent weeks the building has caught the attention of passers-by for the many themed paintings with various colors on its facade.
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A team of artists worked on compositions ranging from phulkari motifs to agriculture, charkha to sportsmen playing hockey and gulli danda. “Memories play a vital role in the imagination and when people see something familiar to them, they connect with it,” says Prateek Sachan, 27, co-founder of The New Art.
The organization working on the hand painted wall art is the brainchild of Sachan and Ritesh Verma and was conceived when the two were chemical engineering students at IIT Delhi. Choosing not to sit for on-campus internships, the two wanted to work in the arts space in India and start their own businesses.
“We did a lot of exploring in college and that’s when we were exposed to the street art scene in India,” says Verma. It was while working on a renovation project at the Swami Vivekananda Hostel in Satna, Madhya Pradesh, in 2017 that they really realized the potential of mural art in India, as the murals they did in the hostel lobby attracted attention and appreciation.
“We were doing some rebranding, digitizing and providing other services at the hostel, but we also decided to collaborate with some artist friends and paint some of the walls in the lobby. It went very well and that’s when we realized the potential opportunities in the category,” says 26-year-old Verma.
With no artistic background, the groundwork was to grasp the nuances, build a team of artists and designers as well as understand how street art works in the country.
“IIT-Delhi has a very active fine arts society and many of the initial artists were our friends. After the trip started, we contacted several others and built a network of artists we liked,” says Sachan.
Over the years, the team has worked with several organizations including Indian Railways, Universities and over 30 metro stations in the NCR (National Capital Region) – from Janakpuri to Vasant Vihar metro station. Delhi Metro was their first official customer in 2018.
Each project, notes Verma, requires specific research and the work often sends a message or represents the environment. For example, while the mural at Mandawali Metro Station urges commuters to preserve our diverse flora and fauna, Johri Enclave Metro Station features portraits of renowned musicians such as Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Shubha Mudgal and Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia.
The artwork at Dabri Mor-Janakpuri Metro Station uses wings to depict how the metro is a safe mode of transportation. “The wings are representative of how the subway represents freedom, liberty and the strength of women. They also act as an image point,” says Verma.
In recent months, the organization has also painted other cities, including Allahabad, Lucknow, Kanpur and some in Gujarat. Also in Kolkata, their team worked on metro stations across the city including Phoolbagan, Bengal Chemicals, Salt Lake Stadium and Karunamoyee. At Sealdah Metro Station, the painted walls represent the “Art Forms of Bengal”, while the mural at Howrah Maidan Station depicts the “Sports Culture of Bengal”.
“There’s a lot of appreciation and curiosity around street art from people,” Verma notes. Sachan adds, “All of us, even those unconnected to the industry, have a very intuitive sense of what looks good and what doesn’t.
Even as they currently work on mural art projects across the country, the team is looking to expand their business, mediate between artists and potential buyers, and branch out into painting on canvas.
“Most of our projects have been business-to-business, but now we want to reach out to customers so they can get something for their home and reach out to artists if they want to commission something specific. We want to become a single solution. We also plan to have an inventory of painted canvases and prints. We’ve chosen a niche, which is hand-painted wall art, and now we’re going to expand our portfolio,” says Verma.