“Going, going, gone … ” read the words underneath an Instagram caption posted by world-famous street artist, Banksy. The political and mostly controversial artist was referring to the self-destruction of one of his paintings titled ‘Girl With Balloon,’ which had just sold for £1m at a Sotheby’s auction in London, October 2018. The stance against anti-establishment and capitalism, is something that is being continued by artists worldwide.
Earlier seen as an act of vandalism, street artists weren’t always appreciated in the way that they are today. Now, in our own city, apart from the Bean Bag, Poker, and Massage signs spray-painted across trees, blank-walls, and train compartments, we’ve had a gradual burst of murals taking over the concrete. In a collaboration between the St+art foundation and Asian Paints, Canadian street artist, Young Jarus (Emmanuel Jarus), painted his first artwork in the country, across a building in Mahim East.
Since its inception in 2014, St+art has organised 11 festivals and four exhibitions in seven different cities of India. With the intention of making art more democratic and a part of our everyday lives, multiple buildings and walls across Dharavi have become a showcase for funky murals sponsored by the not-for-profit organization. On a hot Saturday morning, Jarus is spotted high-up on a hydraulic lift, surrounded by cans of spray paint. A realistic portrait of a local tying bamboo has come together, adding a splash of green and orange to an otherwise plain building.
Originally from Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada, the 26-year-old artist is popularly known for his figurative and portraiture murals across the globe. Having been a part of art festivals in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, the United States, Sweden, Ukraine, Mexico, and Denmark, to name a few, Jarus is largely inspired by the locals he interacts with, and the initial vibe of a place. “I like to make art in little communities such as these, because I enjoy being a part of their daily lives. It’s also nice to see familiar faces everyday as I go about painting,” he says.
As a child, the artist would paint alongside his grandmother, who was a watercolor artist herself. Between the ages of six and seven, he doodled in class, and became a more serious painter post high school. “I started doing graffiti illegally in my spare time under bridges and on trains, and eventually was given an opportunity by the local art festival in my city,” Jarus explains. After his first big mural in Rochester, New York in 2014, there was no turning back.
The well-defined and sharp brush strokes, intense expressions, and 3-D effects, often make Jarus’s subjects look like they’re going to walk out of the walls, and into the buzz in front of them. With a painterly, and Renaissance-like quality, his murals are alive in their own skin. “This is because I’m inspired by Renaissance and Realist artists Sargent and Homer,” Jarus elucidates. The artist is convinced that we’re currently going through a new-age renaissance of sorts owing to the encouragement, and exposure art is now getting on social media.
When Jarus is not painting large concrete facades, he’s creating landscapes and abstracts on canvas in his Toronto studio. He enjoys experimenting with acrylic and spray paints, and has a soft spot for drawing graffiti on freight trains.
His art uses light and shadow, to define faces or his subject’s attire. When painting, Jarus can be found with his headphones on. His inspiration playlist ranges from hip-hop artist, Frank Ocean to violinist and vocalist, Sudan Archives. But even if it’s the tunes of international artists that keep him going, Jarus manages to strike a chord with his local surroundings. Inspiring tunes long after the artist has gone.