Art for Art’s Sake!

Ivan Germon (Pronounced EeVon Jermoine) is a graffiti writer (painter?) from France who I happened to meet at Bobby’s place when I was in Mumbai. He is travelling around India trying to write graffiti (or stick pre-written graffiti as the case may be) on walls here in different cities and has infact, done quite a bit of work on the walls of Mumbai.

When he told me he was coming to Bangalore next with his friend Loik, it was a chance of a life time for me atleast! I have always loved graffiti writers and the crazy typography, the colours and designs that they seem to so easily put up using really HUGE walls as canvasses!

After interacting with him and looking at pictures of his previous work, I was really curious to see the process of it being done from scratch. After a quick call to Carlton of Opus, who just loved the thought of it!, we were set to put some colour on the white walls of Opus and to keep Ivan happy, we decided to paint the outside wall that faced the road!

Now Ivan is not your regular graffiti writer, and he is extremely versatile in his style and approach to graffiti. He tries to imbibe the culture of the place that he is writing in and also in many cases mess with people’s stereotype notion of graffiti! He does this by doing things that are completely unexpected of a graffiti writer! My favourite being a guy with an angry face saying “Cut your Hair and Get a job!”

The only guidelines that he had to follow when he was deciding what to paint on the walls here were that whatever he does should not have any reference to Sex, Religion or Politics because all 3 are topics that could easily raise the ire of various factions here and we did not really want the attention or for what was being done to get vandalized later!

So Ivan came up with the idea of an elephant on roller skates, blowing a musical note out of its trunk and a very typical Indian Lorry style writing that says “Blow Horn Please”. His sketch on paper got all of us excited about what the final print on the wall will be like! So off we set to get spray cans to get started.

That was the first hurdle we faced also! Indian spray cans are not meant for graffiti, we get spray cans here whose nozzles are meant to spray on large surfaces and meant to cover a wide area instead of focussed lines with which you can make designs. And the nozzles that they brought from France would not fit the Indian cans, so after much searching and no luck, we decided to give it a shot with the cans we could find itself. Ivan had thankfully carried some cans from France which he would use for the borders and so he was sure he could get something decent in place.

We started around noon knowing that the office going traffic would have subsided on the roads and Ivan started by drawing the general outline of what he wanted to do which was then refined into a final blueprint.

The next step was to cover the larger areas of the design with simple block colours and have a basic illustration ready for detailing and shading or as he calls it – “Adding Volume”.

This is when we started getting a sizeable crowd interested in what was happening there and who was painting and why? When we tried explaining to them that it was an artist from France who was here to just paint for the sake of his art. He din’t want money, was not endorsed, was not promoting any brand, but just painting! Art for Art’s Sake! People were just dumbfounded!

They could not believe that someone would come from a foreign country and paint on the walls here and expect nothing in return but the fact that people would see his painting and smile! But the people who did get it were either in awe or just very happy! We got a lot of Auto drivers who told us that it was a nice thing that this was art that everyone could see and there was no fee for it, we were paid visits by the cops who were also happy that there was nothing offensive being painted and it was smooth sailing all the way!

We stopped for the day after we got most of the painting in place and decided to come back the next day for the lettering and the rest of the details.

The 2nd day posed a new set of problems, the usual way lettering is done (when you want a clean hard line for the letters) for graffiti is freehand and if you don’t find the right cans, you take the stencil route. We decided to try creating a stencil with tape and then spraying inside that stencil and then removing the tape. But when we removed the first line of tape, it removed paint from the walls and some of the graffiti as well! This was something that was not expected and threw us off completely! So it was a LOT of fixing small areas and Ivan, being the perfectionist that he is, could not live with anything but the absolute perfect best!

So after a lot of hacks, we figured out the right pressure and the correct amount of tape and finally managed to get the lettering in place with the last bit of lettering done with a brush infact because it was just impossible to spray and get letters that fine!

After about 8 hours of graffiti writing, where about 4 of them were just because of the quality of the raw materials, we finally managed a brilliant piece of graffiti which I think is a first in Bangalore! Here it is to see for yourself and also the proud artist along with his work 🙂

A huge round of thanks to the folks at Opus who loved the idea and were brilliant hosts and helped in so many little things during the making of this work. From here on, to find Opus, go down Palace road till you see an elephant on the wall on the left side. See it, backtrack about 50 feet, and there it is!

Also, cheers to Ivan and Loik, true artists who do things from the heart and practice their art purely for art’s sake in today’s highly commercial world! I made two friends over the past weekend and will hold you to your promise of hosting me when I come to France!

Gaurav