As an artist, I’m interested in the non-institutionalised
artistic practices of India that have the profusion and vibrancy of colour, the
force of raw emotion, an endearing quality of naivety and an essence of
spontaneity that beautifully meld to create an arresting visual. I’ve always
been struck, fascinated and stimulated by this visual language. The interest
and wonder for work of this quality has lead me to first and foremost to travel
across the country to understand the dynamics of creation, its place in the
society, its sources like folklore and mythology.
Over fifteen years, I’ve collected
products created for local consumption like educational posters, matchboxes,
textiles, knickknacks and photographed images of decorations on trucks, bullock
carts and autorickshaws to educate and understand the sensibilities that guide
and infuse the creation of these works with such character. This process has
laid the ground for my own artistic interventions, which has made me rethink my
own skills of fashion and textile design, pattern-making and weaving to find
parallels to make studied versions of these indigenous and local crafts.
In my current work, Along the way..., I work with one my
most loved expressions – decorative vehicle art. Over the past eight years of
living in Bangalore – a major commercial hub – I’ve learnt to appreciate and
distinguish the point of origin of these decorations on trucks and other
vehicles based on the stylistic choices.
The choice of the patterns, the brush strokes, decorative
embellishments, colour, proportion and accessorising, which change based on the
region of origin.
This underlying interest alerted me
to the other kinds of decorative vehicle art and I began to look at autorickshaw
art that is prevalent in Bangalore. I began to photograph the various
expressions of this art form and slowly began to learn and teach myself to
overarching aesthetic and detailing. I’ve spent the last two years
collaborating with executioners known as “liners” of this art practice to
create my own autorickshaw art using the inherent qualities of the form but
pushing it in content, colour, style and material to create something new.
The major motivation of my artistic
practice is to dialogue with the city as well as to stimulate conversation, to
draw the city’s attention away from the glitzy promises of modernity to the
intimacy of the crafts. Along the way...
is a fruition of that desire to converse by playing with the visualness of the
autorickshaw in order to allow people to see the form in its exaggerated glory,
to be surprised or to talk among themselves.
Kumar as we call him is a "liner" from Shivaji Nagar's Darga Compound industrial cluster. I have been working with Kumar for the past three months for my art project "along the way". Above images are of his latest commissioned auto-rickshaw interiors. The owner of the auto-rickshaw has gotten an commercial artist Hidhayat also to work on this to decorate areas his stylized flora and fauna and names of his family members.
The autorickshaw didn’t come fully made from the factory, it
needed to be taken to a workshop to be fitted with a roof and to get the seats
upholstered, this basic requirement has evolved into a craft cluster. Over two
decades ago, autorickshaws were decorated with paintings at the rear window and
posters or rexine-clad interiors and now, it is has become a separate industry
concentrated in six hubs across the city – Nagawara, Shivaji Nagar, Mysore
Road, Krishnaraja Market, Neelsandra and Krishnarajapuram. It has over time
developed its own visual language that is eclectic and hybrid in expression
representing the collaborative spirit of the making. These hubs are a cluster
of auto financiers, brokers, spare parts and motor accessories shops,
upholstery establishments, welders, tinkers, film poster painters, vinyl
stickering artists and metal fabricators.
The final beautiful product is the working together of a network of liners,
welders, tinkers, film poster painters, vinyl stickering artists, metal
fabricators and craftsmen. The art on these autorickshaws spans floral
decorative patterns, national and regional sentiments, family names, religious
and popular cinema iconography as well as quirky one-liners like “Love is sweet
poison”. The practitioners of this artform, or liners, who create the canopy
roof also create interiors of the autorickshaws using rexine as the base
material and the elaborate designs and patterns are a result of techniques such
as appliqué, quilting and piping.
Today, the decorative autorickshaw art involves a lot of manipulating
of different fabrics besides rexine, patterning, stitching, and quilting. It
even includes electrical work and metal fabrication, at times. The resulting
design of the autorickshaw is a collaborative process between the owner of the
vehicle and the liner, the name given to these skilled practitioners. It is the
result of constant negotiation between the skill of the liner, the budget, the
availability and possibility of the fabrics.