Gandhi in kaleidoscope

 Riot of colours: Artist Eduadro at Churchgate standing in front of his Mahatma Gandhi mural.

Riot of colours: Artist Eduadro at Churchgate standing in front of his Mahatma Gandhi mural.

A larger-than-life rendition of Mahatma Gandhi at Churchgate station is making people stop, stare and take selfies. It’s a beautiful mural depicting a pensive Father of our Nation pensive. He’s clutching a book and walking stick, alighting from the bogey of a train coloured green, yellow and red. The work of art has been created by contemporary artist Eduardo Kobra and his friend, Brito Pereira Agnaldo. The duo has religiously reached Churchgate station everyday recently, taken up a post at the makeshift workspace room created outside and begun painting.The resultant mural has kick started the 2017 edition of the St+Art Mumbai festival. The façade of Churchgate isn’t the only wall that has got a colourful uplift; Dharavi and Sassoon Docks are next in line.

Gandhi joins the ranks of other historical figures that Kobra has given life to, on walls and streets, across the world. It’s his signature: a rendering of historic imagery at iconic locations. There’s David Bowie in New Jersey, Oscar Niemeyer in Sao Paolo, Albert Einstein in Los Angeles and Bob Dylan in Minneapolis. “I like people from the past, especially those who have fought for independence or been part of a civil rights movement,” says 41-year-old Kobra. “I’ve painted Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and Abraham Lincoln. These figures have had an impact on the life of others and fought for a betterment of their lives. I do this so that the world doesn’t forget about them.”

Forget me not

This is Kobra’s first visit to India and he seems completely at home. He nonchalantly poses for photos on zebra crossings, telling photographers which angle is the best to capture the whole image. The artist weaves through traffic with the ease of a seasoned Mumbaikar; and isn’t bothered about the paint spatters on his clothes, hat and fingers. He doesn’t even react when people stop and stare at him.

If it was possible and language wasn’t a barrier, the Sao Paolo-born Kobra (fluent in Portuguese but cannot speak English) would point to the mural and explain why he thinks Gandhi is a significant figure. “He [Gandhi] started the freedom movement and as an advocate for peace,” he says. “He is the most important historical figure associated with India. Yet, it is sad that people don’t continue his teachings. May be my art will give them inspiration to follow on his path.”

This is Kobra’s second rendition of Gandhi – he earlier painted a piece as part of a peace exhibit in Rome in 2014. This time, he visited Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya for research. He created 20 small paintings before selecting the one that occupies the front façade of Churchgate station. The setting is fitting because Gandhi’s mode of transportation was the railways, to be with the masses. The station was a stage for him and his freedom movement. “This station is frequented by everyone, rich or poor. It’s a great equaliser,” says Kobra.

We are sitting on a pavement, near the signal outside the station, which offers a direct view of the mural. It is something that Kobra does often – he takes a break from work and walks the different lanes nearby, trying to see which angles work best and how the mural’s appearance changes in different directions. Otherwise, he and Agnaldo rarely take a break from work.

Evolution and revolution

Kobra started painting in 1987 at the age of 12. Back then, he imitated other artists, creating whatever he liked, and using street art to express himself. Now, his work is concentrated on historical figures, people and things from the past and sometimes, even animals. He uses a combination of techniques – painting with brushes, airbrushes and aerosol cans. But Kobra distinct characteristic is his affinity for bright colours, geometric shapes and patterns, bold lines, and shading. “Thing have changed. People have started accepting my work. Initially, no one did,” says the artist. “Thrice, I was caught for painting on the street, which was considered illegal then.” Kobra even spent a night in a juvenile prison. “Now, people invite me to come and paint for them,” he laughs.

He is one of the world’s finest contemporary artists and has a packed schedule to prove it. Kobra has has visited five continents and 30 countries; the USA alone has 40 murals of his. This is the 13th country he has visited this year. “Earlier, countries like UAE, Italy, England would not authorise such works,” he says. “Now, they have started realising this is an important art form and it has a positive impact on people. Sometimes, the artists in the street are on par with artists whose works hang in galleries.” Kobra intends to return to India soon. “I want to paint more historical figures and discover local artists,” he says.

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Printable version | May 18, 2022 12:20:56 am |