Chennai graffiti artist Vijz brings Tamil pride to city’s walls

One of Chennai’s oldest graffiti artists Vijz develops different fonts in Tamil script while painting freestyle

On the walls near the cab pick up point at Palladium, the Tamil word ‘Thaazhmai’ (which translates to ‘humble’) is painted in bright bold blue and orange. “All artists think they have these invisible crowns,” says its painter Vijayaraj, cheekily. “We are constantly comparing our works, trying to be better than the others. So I wanted to remind ourselves that we should all be humble in what we are doing. Only then can we learn something new each day.”

Across the city, under flyovers, in restaurants, offices and malls, you can find Vijayaraj, aka Vijz’s works. He also recently participated in St+Art India’s graffiti jam, where around seven artists from across India got together to paint the walls of a compound at Kannagi Nagar. On a 12-foot high wall is Vijz’s work: the word ‘Chosen’ is in monochromatic tones.

One of Chennai’s oldest graffiti artists, Vijz is most famous for his Tamil lettering. He is the founder of the city’s five-member Tamil Graffiti Crew.

“Tamil is a beautiful script to write. The sharp lines, angles, curves… you can experiment with all of these,” says Vijz. In one of his works under a bridge in Erode, Thiruvalluvar and Bharati’s faces are painted next to a farmer and his bull. In the centre is written ‘Enna thavam naan seithen tamizha naalai pirapatharku’ (What penance did I do to be born a Tamilian!). Tamil pride is a recurring theme in Vijz’s works.

Chennai graffiti artist Vijz brings Tamil pride to city’s walls

Chennai graffiti artist Vijz brings Tamil pride to city’s walls

The artist has developed different fonts in Tamil script, painting even the alphabets, and common words in Tamil. “These are not things you can sit and develop at home. They come out when you are painting freestyle,” he says. The skill of an artist, he believes shows only when he/she is painting freestyle. “It shows how much he has practised and how confident he is. Every time I freestyle, I can come up with a different font.”

Though he paints in Tamil, for eyes not familiar with his work, the lettering can sometimes be too complicated to read. “When you are painting graffiti, you have to make it complex, for it to look stylish and personalised,” he admits. Which is why the use of monochrome can be helpful, he explains. “It shows the structure of the letters more clearly and you can understand the pattern and foundation of the letter. If I am too complex with my lettering, I will reduce the variety of colours to make it easier to read.”

Chennai graffiti artist Vijz brings Tamil pride to city’s walls

Vijz has been taking his art form to others who also want to learn Tamil lettering. Many of his graffiti crew members are also part of his dance crew, All for One. So this community is like a milieu of people who appreciate the hip hop lifestyle.

Chennai graffiti artist Vijz brings Tamil pride to city’s walls

And yet, he does not believe in the ‘rebel’ side of graffiti — that it needs to be a covert action done without permission. “You need to ask yourself what is graffiti to you? What are you trying to say? Is it just about your skills, or do you want to convey something to the world? You can’t just go around spray painting your own name everywhere,” he says.

For Vijz, it is about sharing those words that have influenced and transformed him. “Artists can’t speak through words, so we speak through our works.”

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 8:25:36 AM |

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