Meet the artist behind the Maara-themed street installations in Chennai
R Madhavan and Shraddha Srinath starrer, Maara takes viewers to a magical world — one that is replete with paintings, picturesque locations, rich colours and captivating stories. To bring the spirit of the film alive and spread it across the streets of Chennai, Amazon Prime Video, as part of their promotions, tied up with independent artist Chris Blair (Silverbrush Studio), who within six days, created three street installations in the city. The wall artworks that capture the essence of the movie in myriad colours and shades can be found in Besant Nagar, Egmore and Valasaravakkam.
“Amazon approached me with this concept of painting large murals for their film Maara, as part of their promotions. Later, I had a discussion with director Dhilip Kumar and Amazon officials, whose brief to me basically, was to watch the trailer, and create art for the audience so that the viewers could connect with the movie besides having the design purpose of an advertisement. Apart from that, I had complete freedom to come up with ideas.” says Chris, who is an artist based out of Kerala.
Talking about working on this project, Chris further adds, “Maara is an adaptation of the Malayalam film, Charlie, which is a movie that I have always held close to my heart. So I came up with three concepts in three prime locations in Chennai. The art was designed considering the location in mind, which was confirmed beforehand by Amazon. For instance, the one in Beasant Nagar, the art was designed showing the flow of the sea, with the element being a woman who was in flow with the sea and the big fish. It was inspired by Maara's title design as well as the insights that I got from the movie’s trailer. ”
“The second design, which I call the 'Book of Magic', shows a stacked set of books, with the top book opened and elements such as leaves coming out of it. The way I see it, the book is a portal to the colours and magic from Maara's life. In both Maara and Charlie, the story revolves around a girl who comes to stay in the guy's room, where she happens to find his sketchbook, which makes her curious to know more about the man and that, eventually, changes her life. This particular art was done in a four-storey building in Valasaravakkam. And the last design was made using the concept that is Maara’s life - which involves art, adventure and his quest to explore,” shares Chris, who adds that the main challenge was to complete the project, two days prior to the film’s release.
“There was a heavy downpour in Chennai during those six days. It was quite a challenge but I'm glad that we, as a team worked in tandem and pulled it off on time. I would like to thank Aswin Suresh, Aswin B, and Emil for being strength throughout the project, and also a very special mention to Mr Gurpreet for coordinating this project with me.”
Talking of how he approaches his work when it’s on such an expansive canvas, he shares, “My process is different for different artwork. There have been times when I start with nothing and go with the flow to create something. Then there are works that involve weeks of study, research and ideation in order to reach a point of clarity as to what it's going to look like in the end. But like here, when working with reputed clients, I need to have the exact picture of how it's going to be. So when the walls were allotted to me, I had to do a site visit to understand locality, shape and dimensions of the wall, also the texture of it which could be used in the design. I have previously worked on a large rock two years back, in a forest where I painted a larger-than-life-sized woman, with two majestic white peacocks using the shape and texture of the rocks. It has survived the rains and the sun and is now ageing beautifully in the forests of 900 Kandi in Wayanad. So the canvases have a lot to do when conceptualising the design for my work. That being said, there are works where even after having the exact picture and clarity, I have improvised when I felt like the artwork demanded more.”
At a time when digital art and graphic design have taken over, we ask Chris how he thinks such projects are important and he responds, “When Amazon approached me with this project, I connected with it as an artist more than a designer because it was bringing back the culture of hand-painted advertisements that is dying slowly after digital media took over. I personally know a lot of senior painters who used to survive on painting boards and lettering and are now struggling to survive. I am very thankful for Amazon, for such an opportunity, to bring hope to create an art revolution. Besides, we need more colours in our cities, making art more accessible to the common crowd. At a time when art is becoming expensive to see and to feel, such projects would be a great initiative to let it reach the real crowd.”
And how does he think projects like this would help the artists? “The art culture in India is growing. I was in a phase of life where I didn't know what I could do with art for a living. It was difficult for me to choose a career out of it. But there are a lot of opportunities today in India for the creative minds, and it's easy now to choose the path less chosen. I hope the advertising industries see the scope of going back to traditional painting for advertising so that there are more opportunities for artists, and hence more art for everyone.”
Apart from this project, Chris has also done a few commercial as well as residential projects in the city. Some of his works can be found in The Slate Hotels in KNK road and Athma Cafe, which is at Kattankulathur.
“I was always an artist at heart and wanted to make a career out of it. When I started my studio in 2016, I had this vision of using the possibilities of combining art and design. Although they are very different, when mixed correctly, it can do wonders,” says Chris, who after completing engineering, also did a course in Graphic Design and later worked as UI/UX Designer for a company in Delhi. “ Soon, I took a call, resigned my job and started my own company. The design job, however, helped me in working with deadlines, learning the design process and approach to find a solution — all of that made a big difference in the way I now make a concept grow into art.”
Currently juggling work between Chennai and Kerala, Chris is working on a branding mural for an experience stay in Vagamon, alongside a few street art projects for an upcoming web series.