Splashes of colour, black-and-white narratives and plenty of pop culture—that best describes the graffitti at the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale. We take a look at some of the more head-turning and headline-making ones.
Some like it hot
No prizes for guessing this one. Guess Who is the hot potato of this year’s Biennale. Giving a desi spin to the cultural icons of the West, the Banksy of Kochi has made plenty of headlines. This picture—of Marilyn Monroe as a Malayali bride—adorns the wall at Cabral Yard. Faizal Khan, a journalist and one of the Biennale’s curators, says, “In an age where ideas clash, violently more often than not, the Monroeseque image probably represents a melting of cultural boundaries.”
God is in the detail
This stylistic graffiti is rich with nautical imagery, possibly referring to Kochi’s maritime history. There’s even a sporty side to it. Jitish Kallat, artistic director of this year’s Biennale, says: “It has been really exciting to see a proliferation of imaginative graffiti on the streets, some of which almost border on mural painting in terms of the degree of attention to detail. The historical precinct of Fort Kochi has temporarily become an open air gallery.”
Flirting with danger
This anonymous graffiti adorns a wall on Bazaar Road, in Mattancherry. Though it doesn’t directly broach the oft-spoken debate on tobacco consumption, it eloquently depicts the danger of cigarette smoking. Anees Salim, creative head of the ad agency Draft FCB Ulka, Kochi, says, “What I like about this graffiti is its boldness and retro look. It’s cheeky, and I believe that cheekiness is the soul of a good graffiti.” A cracker of fun!
The little princess
Hamburg-based stencil artist, Tona, specialises in street art. He’s been in the art scene since the late 1990s and his works spring from his engagements with the culture of the place he visits. Many of his graffiti, including Little Princess, are strewn across the streets of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry. Bose Krishnamachari, the curator of the 2012 Biennale and a celebrated Indian artist, says: “It is always interesting to see cutouts as graffiti, reflecting local aesthetics and culture on poster spaces.”
Is it the creepy realism of reality television? Or a wormhole to a parallel word? See how a little tinkering of the election symbol has opened a can of worms. Shelton Pinheiro, executive creative director of the ad agency Stark Communications, says, “The very essence of graffiti involves a subversion of mainstream art and aesthetics. This series of images—which play around with popular election symbols—prompt viewers to take a closer look at the seemingly-innocuous political dynamics at work around us. In a world eager to stake claims and take credit, the anonymity of the artist also adds to the subversive quality of this series.”
Eyes wide open
Eyes don’t lie—or do they? They are the windows to a person’s soul and this graffiti by Thrissur-based artist Dinesh PG, at Cabral Yard, gives a peek into his oeuvre. It’s as if nature is all-seeing. Or perhaps it’s the human tendency to anthropomorphise nature. However, contemporary artist Upendranath TR has a different take on it. “Dinesh has done this work just the way he does his beautiful paintings. I feel it is like a surveillance camera eye, open to the personal lives of others,” he says.
Reeling it in
Graphic artist Anpu Varkey is back with her fish-themed work at Cabral Yard. Renowned contemporary artist Sudhir Patwardhan says, “Fish are everywhere in Kochi—in the sea, on your plate, in the air and on the walls! This one has a sly look and seems to be slipping away, out of a net. Hooked yet?