Published: 20th March 2019
Meet Anpu Varkey, the 'street' artist who's making walls all across India pop with colour
Anpu Varkey narrates her experience of traveling across India and painting at public forums — and her fascination for dousing walls in a whole load of paint
Plain white walls, dirt and urine-stained walls, walls layered with political and movie posters alongside the customary 'Stick no bills' sign — lifeless walls that stretch for miles across our country. While most of us have grown to ignore these walls on a daily basis or maybe just tsk as we go by, others take notice. But is that all they do? No! They bring to life the not-so-common phrase ‘every wall is an opportunity’ and this statement is every street artist’s anthem.
I have far too many favourite pieces of artwork. I like my artwork less for the work I put in and more for what people have to say about it
Anpu Varkey, Artist
One such artist (and I had the opportunity to check out her work) is Anpu Varkey who makes India more colourful and gives empty walls meaning. A proud alumna of The MS University of Baroda, she also studied at Byam Shaw School of Art in London. When asked how she visualises the public forum for her artwork, she explains, “I travel across cities in India and when I come across sites, I ask around to see if I can display my artwork on the site. Mostly, I visualise my work only after I see the site and the ideas that flow through are pretty spontaneous and often, based on the ambiance in terms of community. I try to paint a picture that the local community can connect with. Most other times, I am invited to do pieces of my work in public spaces and my clients either allow me to get creative or they give me instructions on the kind of art they expect of me. But I am always challenging myself to be better than I was with every painting.”
Art for Bengaluru: Anpu’s artwork is also displayed along Bengaluru’s Cubbon Park road on the recent Metro construction called Jumping trees in the year 2018
If you happen to stroll through Chennai's Egmore Railway Station, take some time to notice the otherwise-evident wall art in all its splendour. Or if you're driving down Bengaluru's Cubbon Park road, give yourself the opportunity to witness her glorious artwork on the recent Metro construction. Now, to my knowledge, most works of art on public forums carry a message. So, naturally, I wondered this of Anpu's work too. That was until I realised that her perspective of art is different. "I’ve been painting walls for only nine years, but I’ve worked on canvas for over two decades and I focus on expressionism and what each individual can identify with," says Anpu, who is based in Bengaluru.
Touring Tibet: Anpu had the opportunity to do a project for the Tibetan Community. She painted a Sarus- red-crowned crane. A spirit bird glittered by the setting sun
While painting on a canvas is relatively easier, especially when factors like size, comfortable ambiance and time work with you, painting a wall is not as simple as it sounds. So, how does Anpu do it and what is it that pushes her to continue sharing her colourful thoughts with the rest of the world? She explains, “There have been instances where people have come up to me and said, ‘Madam, you have given me a reason to notice this wall that I would’ve ignored otherwise; do you want some tea?’ or ‘I wrote a poem on one of your pieces; here are some chocolates’. I never knew that my art would evoke emotions and that is my biggest source of encouragement.”