There is an addition to the short list of public art works in the Capital. Chennai-based artist Pravin Kannanur has made a mural on the outer walls of Studio Safdar

The term ‘public art’ often finds itself at the centre of many art discourses these days. Unfortunately, its examples remain absent in our cityscapes, and that’s why the topic has often been springing up in discussions of late. However, to the very few in the Capital, a new one has been added, courtesy newly opened Studio Safdar, which roped in Pravin Kannanur, a multi-disciplinary artist from Chennai, to do a mural at the location.

While Fidel Castro almost leaps out of the metal door it has been spray-painted upon, Safdar Hashmi painted upon a shutter looks very much in action, and so do Habib Tanvir and Mahatma Gandhi, the people symbolising struggle, equality, creativity and peace. But that’s not all that the outer walls of Studio Safdar, with May Day Bookstore and Café on its ground floor area bears. “I am not trying to create a unified grand narrative. There are little narratives that can be read separately but also as a whole. There are references to iconography of western art traditions as well as our folk art forms,” explains theatre and visual artist Kannanur, who has conceptualised the mural. The iconography he was referring to was the Italian master Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ on which he seems to have loosely based the imagery of a few beastly looking men holding chicken leg pieces, eager to devour. Elsewhere a man is shown grappling with a beast. “It’s about the realities we are grappling with. The situations just seem to be slipping away. It’s also about how the same people/ organisations who/ which are rigging the money are actually telling us how to run our country,” says the artist.

Since Studio Safdar — the new cultural space of Jana Natya Manch, or Janam, at Shadi Khampur in New Ranjit Nagar — is located in a building that houses associations like School Teacher Federation and All India Democratic Women’s Association, the artistic endeavour met no opposition. While Kannanur conceptualised it, artists like Vishal Bhuwania, Subroto Sen, Nagamurti M. Preet, Ashish Rajput, Raj Chauhan, Zakir Ali Lallan and others gave shape to his thought and ideas and simultaneously improvised upon it using acrylic and automotive paint. “The elements of the building, like the water pipe, the doors, all in a way add to it,” feels Kannanur, adding that the inhabitants of the area have already started a dialogue with it. “See, somebody ran a bottle cap through it. We didn’t intend to show an injured pig but a passerby defaced it. It was a violent reaction and we also altered the imagery, and just today Lallan re-prepared the surface, made a knife and blood oozing out of the pig. But defacement is also an expression and we will keep this dialogue alive.”

Zakir Ali Lallan, who otherwise paints walls and polishes furniture, says he derived a lot of satisfaction out of this particular assignment. “It’s creative and very fine work,” adds Lallan, who was the first to sign at the mural signing ceremony held on Wednesday.

The mural signing ceremony was followed by ‘Locating the Work’, a panel discussion on public art with art critic Sadanand Menon and Pravin Kannanur.

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At WorkSeptember 24, 2010