Concept Note: Parameshwar showcases the pourakarmikas of Malleshwaram in his piece. Always connected to the silent and constant cleanliness of Malleshwaram, pourakarmikas are the early morning workforce that maintain the streets. His piece is a homage to them.
Param, having been an artist with Geechugalu, shares his experiences in public art, the evolution in his techniques and a sense of understanding for diverse kinds of labor he sees around him, with a desire to highlight the unobtrusiveness in the ordinary pre-set of life.
Geechugalu: You have been one of the early upholders as well as an artist in the collective, how has your journey been so far in the public art domain?
Param – Starting from the beginning in public art, it was a very new experience, I used to paint on A4 sizes rather than bigger ones to complete artworks, because it takes time. When I approached working on A3 size, it was surprising for me, I didn’t know how long it would take me to achieve the results.
In public art it’s a big canvas, and the public can see through easily, there is no restriction, no privacy with the artwork and the visualization is publicly visible, so I visualize in an idiomatic way, so there is no restriction, it completely becomes public art that we’re doing for public. I was more interested in figurative, so I took portraits, did a basic style, and a study work.
Back in Dhanvantri road, I wanted to do portrait work, when I first took the portrait of Muniamma, I was a little nervous at the beginning stage. Step by step when I got positive feedback whilst I worked and took a look at my work, it energised me, and that enabled me to work on more.
Gradually my work came into being, as the third work which I’ve done for the project. Dhanvantri Project was a while ago, so I had to check my previous work, and I thought of starting with portraiture again. I’m planning to go further, and work on some other projects with portraiture.
Geechugalu: How did the concept of Pourakarmikas come into being for you?
Param: My previous work was on Pourakarmikas in Dhanvantri, it was long back, about two years at least. I didn’t engage in any street art practice till this time, so I was in a dilemma on whether to start the same thing further. I had to introspect within, on whether I was still on that way of technique, where everything was skill oriented.
So I took the narrative of Pourakarmikas into my practice, which was a milestone, when I could execute it in Malleshwaram with the same level of skill that I showcased two years back. It was easier to start with a portrait, because I have done portraiture before, so I could render a better assessment on myself, on whether I had upgraded or not, when working on a giant wall.
These walls make me go further. I was continuously planning to do monthly one or two paintings in street art. So I decided from this project I would start doing that, Dhanvantri made me focus on a bit of an educational aspect to Fine Art and mural making, which I felt I was lacking in earlier.
But now since, I’m fully into freelancing, I can turn street art into my passion and mode of profession and keep going at it.
Geechugalu: Being an artist in the street art movement, are there any precursors to mural making that you would like to share with an aspiring artist community?
Param: I like the process of scaling in a large mural, we don’t have any borders or anything, just a huge space. We can have a lot of space to cover and work with street art in the concerned environment. The advantages to that are that we don’t have any restrictions in terms of the choice of color, we have the freedom of what we want to exhibit in some way.
Many people ask me if I use grids for my work, which I don’t, so it’s the kind of freedom I have. No one questions imperfection, we have the freedom to define perfection, and go with the flow.
Geechugalu: Are there any nuggets with your volunteers that you would like to share?
Param: The volunteers proved to be all the more helpful for me, I got to learn a lot with them. I wanted to teach them some techniques as well, so whenever they made a mistake, correcting it became challenging. It was a good lesson for me, I was enthralled by the volunteers and their apparent mistakes, which made me enjoy the work all the more. Whatever techniques they deployed, I had to improvise and ideate with those elements, and that was fun. I taught them how to work with blending, and I incorporated the same textures they used in my work and that helped me go further.
Shashank a volunteer, expressed to me earlier that many artists only let volunteers work with a brush for backgrounds and for filling in colors, so he was very happy that he got to contribute on some major components of the mural and that I undertook the process in a way which could be enjoyable for both the artist and the volunteers.
Geechugalu: Had there been any challenges that came up in executing a mural piece in a public space in a state of pandemic?
Param: Not much, but there were some disturbances in the wall, with many pipes and electricity wires. Working with such a well organized team and with volunteers, diminished these challenges to a great extent. It aided my practice in a way that now, I naturally think about compromising in certain areas where the volunteers can benefit as well.
I no longer want to stick to entirely realistic blending styles, I now want to explore other techniques, which is why showcasing their skill into my way of techniques was so refreshing. I have introduced a little bit of patch work with this mural. I was a little befuddled earlier because I took the volunteers; this was my first time working with them, but things flowed in a smooth manner as time went by.
Geechugalu: Are there any changes you have witnessed personally in the locale, and if any, what are the changes you would wish to see through your art intervention in the space?
Param: The changes surprisingly took shape as we went ahead with the process, I could witness butterflies floating around in the locality, and it became a part of my piece. The Pourakarmikas themselves are like the floating butterflies of not just Malleshwaram, but the entire city. Their workmanship shows in their major contributions towards the society.
Despite their long and arduous struggles, they have to struggle for a decent pay. For them, access to healthcare, restrooms at the workplace, protective gear, and even sick leaves are largely absent. Stringent provisions in law and policy have failed to guarantee humane working conditions for them. If we don’t do right by our Pourakarmikas during a pandemic, it is well-nigh never.
My piece is a homage to Pourakarmikas, who are brave. They have oriented themselves to unsanitary conditions, and everything from their mind-sets, to the way they carry themselves in a uniform, has a lot to offer to the society, despite their life of struggle.
In my efforts to portray one of the workers for my mural, I was confronted with her nervousness and puzzlement at the beginning. I could somehow tell that she was happy at some degree. When I photographed her and applied my first strokes of paint on the wall, she started visiting the site where I painted the mural every day. She later overcame her hesitation and asked me to send a picture of the piece to her son over Watsapp.
She is the worker who cleans the site in Malleshwaram. So the addition of the butterfly was an allusion to the Pourakarmika’s contribution in making our surroundings clean and pristine.
Geechugalu: Describe a significant event that occurred as part of your public art experience.
Param: One of the most significant things out there for me was that throughout my time in Malleshwaram, there was no restriction in terms of an artistic process. Unlike a sketchbook in a bag, which is limited to my own scrutiny, I got to work on a platform where I’m under public scrutiny. So any negative or positive feedback pushes me to go further because it stems from society.
Geechugalu: Do you carry any personal connections with Malleshwaram? Are there any fond memories from there that you would like to share?
Param: I live in Prakashnagar near Malleshwaram. The environment in Malleshwaram is very delicate, the different sensorial experiences in the environment have a different impact on you each time. Going away from my own studio to Malleshwaram, I experience the people who are gentle and polite and adapt to everyone.
Geechugalu: Was there a moment when you felt vulnerable or found difficulties during this project? Are there any other places where you’ve painted and felt similarly?
Param: There were no difficulties, so to speak, but just bigger walls. In my early days in Dhanvantri, I encountered traffic that moved in a haphazard fashion on the main roads, the buses would overtake. Them witnessing us involved in street art, would stir up some interactions.
It all helped me to further assess my skill in my work process. It offered me a certain happiness, and that taught me to live in the moment. My concept started to revolve around getting reflections from the public.
In Malleshwaram, we encountered a nearby road which was under repair. When we worked late in the evenings, the lighting systems weren’t in place for the backside of the road. Since the workers were still connecting the wires for the street lights to function, there was a muted darkness to the area in the later evenings. Perhaps, our murals could bring some brightness to the area so the pedestrians feel safer.
Geechugalu: How was your experience with Bengaluru Moving x Geechugalu at Malleshwaram?
Param: It was really great, the team knows how to move the project, and take on any kind of challenges. Malleshwaram Hogona was very well planned in a systematic fashion, despite the pandemic. I was honoured to be a part of it, and hope to do more.