By Ananya Kumar:
“Moment, second, minute, hour, day, date, month,” I speak aloud as I read, craning my neck to comprehend the string of words mounted on a wall in Lodhi Colony. The searing May afternoon heat of New Delhi makes it impossible to look at them for too long and I avert my gaze when the glare of the sun gets intolerable. The words lie parallel to the plane of the ground and perpendicular to the plane of the wall and perhaps, it is this seemingly inane arrangement that leaves me awestruck and fuels my determination to figure them out. Ignoring the protests made by the muscles in my neck, I continue my pursuit. But it turns out I’ve come at the wrong time. A passer-by who is a local resident tells me the catch is in the effect the sunlight has when it falls at a certain angle and the shadows formed as a consequence, tilting from left to right. Hence, the art on this particular wall reveals itself in its entirety only at noon when the sun is overhead.
The Lodhi Art District was created by St+Art, a non-profit organisation that works on art projects in public spaces, as part of their St+Art Festival in Delhi. Starting December 2015, over 25 artists from India and across the world collaborated to create India’s first ever public art district. Located between Khanna Market and Meherchand Market, the Lodhi Art District is a testament to the diversity and eccentricity of the city. With fascinating art work that inspires one to think beyond the obvious, walking through these streets – almost all of which have been painted over – becomes an enthralling experience.
“I believe that all forms of art are a representation of the society,” said Sidika Sehgal, my friend and fellow spectator as she gazed in wonder at the beautifully drawn birds on the wall in front of her. “This art district reaffirms that belief. The street art adds so much character to this city that is already so complex and lively. It has so much soul and that, always translates into beauty.”
St+Art was started in 2014 with the aim of “making art accessible to a wider audience by taking it out of the conventional gallery space and embedding it within the cities in which we live in,” according to their mission statement published on their website.
It has had numerous festivals and art projects in Mumbai and New Delhi, one of the most commonly seen of which is the mural of Mahatma Gandhi on the Delhi Police Headquarters building at one of the busiest crossings in the capital, ITO. It has often been cited as the tallest mural of India and was finished in five days in January, 2014.
“ Street art has become a global phenomenon these days with festivals being held around the world and this has helped it gain momentum in India. The idea to do something like this was always there. We just got together and worked everything out,” said Thanish Thomas, one of the co-founders of St+Art.
St+Art started with the vision and hard work of a few and has now grown into an organisation which has people actively volunteering and participating in all the ways they can.
“I started working with them in December,” said Tanmay Singh, one such volunteer. “This was when Chifumi (a French artist) started his wall. I ended up assisting him and then I started working with them full-time. I did everything from assisting artists to managing paint to giving instructions and (handling) other various logistical operations. I was one of the Lodhi site managers and also helped many artists at the WIP (Work-in-Progress) exhibition at Okhla. Soon, I was given my own wall at the Lodhi Art District and have been working on that ever since.”
As the work they are doing gains more attention, St+Art hopes to expand its operations and find new avenues in other urban spaces of India.
“We’re looking at increasing our base in Mumbai and are targeting cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad. We would also like to shift from the format of a festival and be more project-based,” said Thanish.
St+Art truly makes our streets beautiful and succeeds in adding to the charm of any city.