Art comes to town: Thiruvananthapuram's Arteria project helps beautify the city

Through Arteria project, tourism department is inviting independent artists from all over South India to help beautify the city.

Published: 04th September 2021 01:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th September 2021 01:40 AM   |  A+A-

The Palayam Underpass which is decked up with narrative illustrations as part of the art project

The Palayam Underpass which is decked up with narrative illustrations as part of the art project. (Photo| BP Deepu, EPS)

Express News Service

Walking out from Thiruvananthapuram Fine Arts College, with graduation in BFA Painting, was the courage that made Alina Ifthikar paint one of the high walls of the museum compound with narrative illustrations. 

Elated for having made her dream come true, Alina says, "I have always looked up at the Arteria paintings etched on the walls of our capital city and wished to do the same one day. With the ongoing Arteria edition, it has come true and now I can say with pride that my wall art also beautifies the city."

Alina is one of the youngest among the total 19 artists who are engaged in the third edition of the Arteria project launched by the state tourism department in association with the district tourism promotion council (DTPC).

Filling the sprawling blank walls in various parts of the capital city with multiple hues and subjects, the artists are on the move to turn the walls into a canvas of creativity. The art project which features contemporary mural paintings on high walls by renowned artists is a way to enhance the beauty of the historical city, Thiruvananthapuram.

In the third edition, people can see wall paintings on the Akkulam bypass at Kuzhivila Junction, compound walls of St Joseph School, Museum compound walls and Palayam underpass.  

The current edition, which is a Rs 56-lakh project funded by the government, has many specialties, says Arteria curator Ajith Kumar G. "This time, the artists will be adorning walls that are also quite away from the heart of the city. The height of the walls painted is also much higher as compared to previous editions. The height goes up to 20 ft to 40 ft, almost that of a three-story building," he said.

"This time, we are giving the chance to young and aspiring artists to showcase their talent, rather than experienced hands in the previous editions. This edition will be a good exposure to these artists in terms of experience as well as financial benefits during the pandemic when chances for displaying their skills are less. This time, the paintings talk aloud on visual aesthetics," he added.

According to Ajith, the work was scheduled to kick off on August 25 but it was delayed due to the ongoing bad weather.  PS Jalaja who paints murals on the wall at Akkulam bypass sharing her concerns on unfriendly climate.

"Every time we were getting ready to paint since August 25, heavy rain drenched the walls. It is her first Arteria project and plans to paint portraits of various women especially those who are confined to their household chores. The lockdown has confined us to our houses. I think it has been a double elockdown for some sections of women," Jalaja said.

"Earlier also, they were confined to the four walls of their houses. With the lockdown, their work in their households has increased with more members being forced to be at home all day. Imagine the cheerful faces of those women when the restrictions are lifted. Thus, my paintings for Arteria series will be of the cheerful faces of these women. The portraits will also feature transwomen," adds Jalaja.

Safety concerns

Though the Arteria project has received warm response from the public, Anil Kumar Pandala, former project director of TRDCL, says the continuing art project is illegal. "The roads of our state are mostly narrow and artworks on the walls of these narrow roads make it narrower. Also, the artworks would distract motorists, which increases the risk of accidents. I will be sending a letter to the Kerala Road Fund Board about the same. Having artworks on the walls of  underpasses  are also against the law. More lights are installed in the underpasses to give more visibility to motorists and artworks will reduce the same," asserts Pandala.

Palayam Bypass gets the Anpu signature

Popular visual artist Anpu Varkey made her debut in Arteria with the third edition. The Pala-born artist was raised in Bengaluru, where she was groomed as an artist. Popular for her street art and graffiti works in Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi, the artist shares her excitement to be part of the capital city's art project.

According to her, the 7,000 sqft wall art at Palayam underpass road is the first long-wall painting of her career. "My participation in the Arteria project happened very instantaneously. Usually, I go around the place before getting my creative juices flowing, and checking if I can do it. But this painting will be relatable for anyone who sees it. I was fascinated by the beautiful Chandrashekhar Nair Stadium. Though the moving traffic behind me can be annoying, I enjoy working on the painting," she says.

The reception for the artwork is overwhelming, says Anpu. In awe of her work and effort, some people gave her food packets as she was using sky lifters and cranes at the Palayam underpass.

"Art inspires all. A b-boying artist came to me and shared his love for art and promised me that he will bring his friends along and perform in front of the wall once my art is completed," she says.  She says she will keep coming back to the capital city for more.

Do these artworks need to be preserved?

Ask Arteria curator Ajith Kumar G about the chances or the need of conserving these colourful artworks on walls and he says, "I think it is up to the public to develop the behaviour of keeping the wall arts tidy and not vandalising them. As an artist, I think these spaces must be refilled with fresh paintings after three years. It will make way for new artists to present their artworks."

The Arteria artworks have become a pride for city residents and there is a need to conserve them, says Federation of Residents Associations Thiruvananthapuram (FRAT) president MS Venugopal. According to him, the artworks enhance the beauty and glory of Thiruvananthapuram, a cultural hub of arts. "Ours is a heritage city as it houses century-old buildings and roads since the rule by the Travancore kings," he adds.


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