Be it celluloid or canvas, Varanasi is in vogue. Now an artist is planning to paint all over the city

Change is in the air. There is a clamour for newer ideas and a stress on renewed vision. And it isn’t just restricted to politics, this urgent need for transformation is emergent in various walks of life. Suresh K. Nair would have been satisfied with his teaching job at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) — he teaches in the mural section of the department of painting — only if he hadn’t stopped ideating. A curator and artist, Nair has come up with an interesting prospect of decorating the holy city with art. He, along with his entourage of nearly 100 students, plans to paint the walls of significant places in the city — airport, railway stations, bus stands, schools, universities, street walls and cantonment area etc.

Called ‘City Decorative Project (CDR)’, Nair says the art will reflect the essence of the city, which has been attracting travellers for several thousand years. “People have been coming and going to Banaras from the beginning. Fascinated by the city, travellers, monks, scholars like Al-Beruni, Huen Tsang, Ralph Fitch and Fa-Hien visited it and it continues to receive tourists. I think, the murals won’t only beautify the city but also become a great source of information to the travellers. It’s a mass communication project which will enable a greater understanding and appreciation of the city,” explains Nair.

Like with every mural, the technique and the material will be determined by the surface but what will run commonly through each work is the portrayal of the present day Varanasi with its rich past. “Using a range of mediums like mixed media, cement relief, terracotta, metal enamelling, we will paint the city’s journey. We will draw from the popular rituals, customs practiced by the residents of the city and we will also include traditional arts of the region. We intend to get on board a few mural artists of the Sankat Mochan temple. The murals there are in such a bad shape and we hope to restore them,” says Nair, who trained in mural art in Santiniketan.

Calligraphy, texts in different languages, portraits will also be an integral part of the visual vocabulary employed in the project. Subject matter will also depend on the area. “In the cantonment area, we are talking to the Air Force officials. They want us to do something very contemporary on the evolution of aircrafts. They have even given us some text to be used in the work.” The work on around four to five walls measuring 200 feet each will begin soon.

An itinerant artist, Nair feels he has contacts in different countries from where too artists can be invited to contribute to the project. Holding international mural camps in Varanasi will be another way of adding to the project.

While CDR is still in its initial stages, as a pilot, Nair and his students have created art works around an art gallery and a hotel in the city. “Collaborations, funds and permissions are issues yet to be handled. I am certain about BHU extending support but I would need lot of cooperation from the State government. I plan to paint the entire city and even if I paint 20-25 spaces every year, the project won’t finish before 2036,” says Nair.

(To get more details on the project, write to sureshnair71@rediffmail.com or call 09839357915)