Anpu Varkey: When walls became mirrors

Street art is a form of expression. It is a direct reflection of an individual, community or the state of a country. It is a statement, but more often than not a question. In some sense it is an artist’s cry for help amid the chaos of the streets.

Street art can make people smile. It can make people think. It’s a tool that can reach out to a million by just sitting there on a wall.

The mentor of the month for August in Mumbai was Anpu Varkey, a street artist based in Delhi. She opened up an entirely new world for our latest batch of young thinkers; the world of walls. Her concept revolved around discovery and portraiture.

The aim was to ultimately have the student’s self-portraits made with the aid of stencils adorn the wall given to them. She wanted each student to plan out their part of the wall after which using chalk they sketched out their background. Soon with the help of paint and spray cans one side of the wall took the shape of a giant, psychedelic eye, as the other side was transformed into a magical forest with vines and a river.

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Then using a photo manipulation program and a picture of themselves’ the students were taught the fundamentals of editing a picture to create a stencil on a computer. Armed with a printout of their manipulated image and blades they proceeded to cut their stencils out of mount board. Anpu then showed them how to make a second layer for their stencils, which would mean they could use two colours (something like the famous Obama poster). Once that was done came the moment everyone was waiting for; spray painting their portraits on the wall.

Madness ensued as ladders were propped up, spray can caps were changed and then in full guerrilla style the children quickly taped their stencils to the wall, whipped up their combination of sprays and voila! The wall was in full splendour as the children stood back to appreciate their colourful handiwork. Each one stared into the eyes and of their duotone twin on the wall and a magical moment was born. Though that was shattered almost immediately as the children clambered to have another go, and so the fun continued.

The workshop not only exposed the children to a form of art that is just awakening in our country, it also showed them how to make stencils which is an integral part of street art.

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