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Chennai-based graffiti artist Joyston Vaz paints an impression on the city's mind with rebel art
Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty," said Chennai-based graffiti artist Joyston Vaz to the audience watching him juggle spray paint cans, rollers and brushes at the ongoing Indo-German Urban Mela at Deccan College grounds in the city.
Students, professionals and children listened in awe as Vaz talked about the history of graffiti, its uses and impact on popular culture in India, and encouraged them to try their hand at the rebel art form. "Graffiti ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings and has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to ancient Greece and the Roman empire," said Vaz, handing over the painting material to the participants. The 27-year-old artist was in the city to conduct a workshop on how graffiti evolved into an art form and educate the audience about its different mediums.
Dressed in a white cotton kurta and a pair of cargo shorts, Vaz, even with his pierced eyebrow, doesn't look the rebellious sort. "My association with graffiti started only in 2009 when a friend asked me to decorate the outer wall of his shop to stop people from spitting and urinating on it," he said, with a laugh. What started out as a hurried paint job turned into a passion that forced Vaz to quit his job at an advertising agency and work full-time with street art.
"One of the major differences between graffiti and other art forms is that graffiti is meant for the people and made by the people, whereas other art is limited to gallery space. Graffiti may also express underlying social and political messages and a whole genre of artistic expression is based on spray paint graffiti style," he explained. Talking about the scope of graffiti art in Pune, Vaz was certain about its reception in the city. "Pune is a city of students, it is laid-back and politically and socially active. It is a perfect environment for graffiti," he said. And as if to prove that the winds of change that Vaz spoke of are already blowing through the city, Pune's landscape was recently decorated under the Pune Street Art Project, an initiative that was part of the ongoing Pune Biennale. Harshvardhan Kadam, a Pune-based illustrator and artist who was a part of the project, told The Indian Express, "Instead of art shows that are aimed at the cream of society, we wanted to adorn city streets with creativity. We wish to paint over the walls of the designated locations, bring out the energy in them, and make heads turn." As part of the project, four sites in the city — Katraj Snake Park (which has the largest mural), Sanas Grounds and the walls near Saras Baug and Nehru Stadium — formed the canvas for graffiti artwork. Seventeen artists and 12 students from different art schools, including artists, illustrators, filmmakers, musicians and photographers had come together for the project.
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