For the more sensitive Bangalorean enervated by the confused proportions of the apsaras, elephants, gomateshwaras and exhortations against spousal abuse that adorn some of our city walls, the striking images on an underpass in northwest Bangalore would come as a pleasant surprise.

Thanks to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike's ‘Karnataka Vaibhava' beautification initiative taken up last year, the whole stretch of West of Chord Road is a riot of public funded kitsch. So, the minimalistic rust, white and “yellow ochre” of the painting work in progress along a small stretch of the West of Chord Road-Magadi Road underpass, towards Rajajinagar, immediately stands out.

The 20-foot-tall works depict scenes of rural life and nature, in the distinct Warli style as well as that of Karnataka's folk art forms.

Commissioned by the Bangalore Development Authority that has constructed the underpass, BDA Public Relations Officer K. Puttaswamy says the wall-paintings are a continuation of the work started by Commissioner Bharat Lal Meena when he was in the BBMP. The project was sanctioned to promote "heritage paintings", with special emphasis on making the paintings "visually and aesthetically pleasing", he adds.

According to him, this project was sanctioned at Rs. 9 a sq. ft with an estimated 3,000 sq. ft of wall to cover.

Only this time, the wall painting has been executed and supervised by a professional artist, who was chosen following a tender process over a month ago.

Making art accessible

C. Ramesh (38), a fine arts professional from Bangalore trained in visual communication, has made these walls his canvas. He says he hopes to make the public road, “a kind of gallery for folk art”.

“Art usually becomes part of private collections and is inaccessible. [With public art], at least the public can see our culture. It is education cum art,” he says.

A team of around 10 is involved in the project, many of them trained in the fine arts, other painters hired at a weekly rate.

While acknowledging that most people would zip past with barely more than a glance – indeed, anything more may be dangerous – Mr. Ramesh believes that rather than being a distraction, the use of white paint and simple colours would come as a "visual relief" to motorists.

Surrounded by Namma Metro barricades and dug up roads, these paintings may be the only visual relief for the few commuters venturing here for now.

Manasa Prakash, an engineer who lives and works in the area, immediately identifies the images as those in vogue after being featured in a recent advertisement. “They're beautiful. I'd also like to see more rangoli designs,” she says.

Rekha Achar, an architect and road user from Vijaynagar, thinks the works are “very different”, as compared to the “childish” ones elsewhere in the city. But she cautions against plastering the city walls with more of the same. “The paintings look good because they are 20 ft tall. A similar pattern on a smaller wall may not be such a good idea.”

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