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With concrete for canvas

Joyston Vaz may have no formal education in the art of graffiti but from the looks of it, creativity is in no short supply. In fact, as far back as the Chennai-based artist can remember, he always did things a little differently.

Published: 02nd June 2012 10:08 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th October 2012 11:53 AM   |  A+A-

Pristine white walls may just suffer a complex if they could talk. Imagine martial arts on the ceiling, industrial space towns tower high and a massive FIFA World Cup stadium a few inches behind your bed. Joyston Vaz may have no formal education in the art of graffiti but from the looks of it, creativity is in no short supply. In fact, as far back as the Chennai-based artist can remember, he always did things a little differently.
“When I was four, someone told me about oil paint,” he recalls and goes on with a laugh, “I didn’t have any, so I just mixed oil with paint and made it myself!” No wonder, his canvasses have extended to unconventional choices such as wallscapes and laptops. “I have a friend’s Bullet that I’ve promised to work on soon,” he says.
It isn’t all fun and games. Apparently, prior to a project, there are several factors involved simply to prepare the space for the artist to work. For starters, the wall has to be painted with two coats of primer, apart from being checked for cracks and leaks. “Some clients can be really touchy about specifics like whether the paint is eco-friendly,” reveals the 26-year-old. “Or how long it will last once sprayed on.”
So everything is discussed in advance in much detail, explains the artist who set up his company Coloured Particles in 2009. “Once I get started, the room usually looks like a killing scene out of Dexter on TV,” Vaz laughs. There are plastic covers everywhere to prevent the paint from staining furniture or anything else immovable.
Spray painting on a wall does come with a set of restrictions. “It’s not a flat and horizontal surface, so a lot of the time, the colours tend to drip,” elaborates the Viscom graduate from Loyola College. One of his projects early on was a special request for a client’s home. “I was very excited about the idea,” the artist recalls, “it was a bleeding banyan tree.” The challenge was to use 380 colours and have them all flow uniformly downward. To get the desired effect, Vaz explains, “We used syringes to inject colours on to the wall and an air brush to ensure every spurt of colour flowed in the right direction.” Further to this, a hair dryer was used to halt the flow of paint for each banyan branch. Talk about thinking outside the box.
There was one unusual case early on in Vaz’s career. A friend who owned a shop on Mount Road (Chennai) requested him to paint something on the store’s wall to prevent passers-by from spitting on it and sometimes even urinating there. It didn’t take long before the problem was resolved. Asked what he had painted on to get pedestrians to respect the space, the artist responds simply, “Why?  Rajinikanth of course.”
Despite the painstaking detail in some projects, Vaz admits that he always looks for a challenge. He says, “I’ve been very fortunate to get some international projects in Malaysia and work with some high profile brand names.” ITC, Titan and Hindustan Engineering College are a few names on the list. Apparently the tougher the operation, the more exciting it is. So what would be the best challenge ever? Vaz pauses for a moment to think. “Something larger than life,” his eyes glaze over. Then he says animatedly, “Probably painting on the side of a 20-storey building.”
Graffiti heights, project next.

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