St+art India’s latest work in Chennai aims to spread the message of shared humanity
If you pass by Chennai’s Indira Nagar Railway Station, chances are that you would have noticed a giant mural — of a man and a woman’s smiling faces set side by side — in the works. Titled We Are, the artwork that kick-started on World Aids Day last year is a collaboration of the St+art India Foundation with TANSACS (Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society), Tidel Park Chennai and Southern Railway. Supported by Asian Paints, the mural, we learn, aims to de-stigmatise the disease while sharing hopeful stories of survivors.
Spreading the message of shared humanity through this work, We Are is the work of street artists Siddharth Gohil and A-Kill.
Talking of the theme they are working with, Siddharth, who’s known by the street name Khatra shares, “Art has played a central role in creating AIDS awareness from the very beginning. It has been pivotal in delivering messages, expressing feelings of longing, loss, solidarity and collective responsibility. Traversing the idea that there is no outward manifestation of the disease, and that we are all in this together whether or not we live with it, St+art proposes portraits of people that are celebratory and empowered. Building a community of commitment and shared responsibility is the focus of the approach. Therefore, these faces will be diverse yet familiar.
The 27-year-old’s first association with the collective was back in 2014 during their very first Street Art Festival in which he, along with a fellow artist painted a tribute portrait of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as a tribute in the street of Shahput Jat.
The Delhi-based artist tells us that although the mural was supposed to be completed in 20 days, it got delayed due to the unprecedented rains in the city. When asked what we can expect, he adds, “The red ribbon, which is an international symbol of AIDS awareness will be seen running through the station facade. The colour red was chosen for its connection to the idea of passion — not only of anger, but also that of love. Therefore, the colour palette will be motivational and re-instil ideas of what global solidarity means.”
Talking of how they approach these expansive murals, Siddharth shares, “Most of the time I prepare a couple of digital sketches first before I work on a huge surface. It gives you an idea about scale and proportions. In spite of having pre-plan drawing or sketch the final output is always slightly improvised because the more you get involved in the process on the ground, the better will b your understanding of the mural.”
He further adds, “This is an era of digital art and cutting edge graphic design but still we seek for something extraordinary and astonishing and I guess street art and installations fill that gap. Seeing and experiencing something painted on a 100ft wall in person can never give you the same experience on a small screen. Street art creates a visual environment and starts a dialogue consciously and unconsciously. You might miss something important while scrolling on-screen but I bet you can not miss a huge colourful mural while walking down the street.”