The Happy Wall Project
An artist uses a canvas to make art. Imagine the impact art can have if the canvas is the whole city.
Graffiti has always been viewed as a form of creative expression and when artists are free to explore a bigger, public canvas, the result is one of passion and beautification. Some may argue that solid paint on walls is most appropriate, but conformity is a long-gone practice for artists. Divya Ramachandran is the owner-founder of Happy Wall Project, a voluntary project that unites lovers of art and creativity enthusiasts to paint walls around the city.
“I understand Art has a unique way of touching people’s lives and after having studied art in Milan, Italy, I was keen to bring in the sophistication on a more basic yet powerful level,” explains Divya. She has worked at Indus international and Srishti College of Art and Design and is currently head of the Art Department at Ovya Art Academy. Divya connected with artists and art-enthusiasts with her work and career with whom she started painting walls in schools and the response was incredible.
Divya and her team’s work is visible across many government schools and public property across Chennai and Bengaluru and depicts finesse and character. The projects came about after government schools took interest in having their walls adorned with art and soon, word caught on. Corporate companies, artists, art galleries, many collaborations have caused colourful walls around the city and their work has expanded into villages and localities.
As the projects gained momentum, establishing a voluntary organization was their way of connecting with more artists who were interested in this art form and art-lovers who wanted to see more of it. “Art has a way of bringing people together and we were able to do that with the Happy Wall Project,” Divya says as she tells us about the many volunteers, artists, helpers who all want to pitch into this novice concept. Oftentimes, projects have over 70-100 volunteers and artists where they divide sections to work on and it all comes together in a matter of 1-3 days. “But I must add that it is important to enjoy the process of creating it, to love the end result.”
Regarding the contents of wall art, Graffiti was initially considered rebellious and lacking sophistication. With their projects, Divya and her team focus on representing an area, institution, people, and life there in the project. Sometimes, different concepts are used to showcase a social message. How is it that art on the street can represent deep emotion and perfection? “Well, wall art is not just freehand spray-painting, we make sure to plan everything carefully when working on a particular campaign. Since art is a wonderful medium of communicating creativity and ideas, we make sure to do our research and plan for months and weeks, mood boards and stencils. This is how we can ensure that the execution is as beautiful as the intention.”
India’s interest in wall art is evident across many localities and properties and Divya believes that this art conveys the progression and compassion of a place in its approach.
Divya’s work has also been exhibited in art galleries like Wandering Artist, 136.1 yoga centre- a Chakra exhibit and at Dakshin Chitra-heritage site in Chennai. Several projects have also been a part of corporates and their CSR outreach in schools where the Happy Wall Project is hired to beautify their walls. The Malleswaram project is noteworthy, in collaboration with Geechugulu and Saksham. Another is a CSR project with Ford and each artwork represents various concepts.
Divya admires the works of artists like Cornbread, known as the world’s first Modern Graffiti artist and is a youth activist and icon. Another one of her favourites is Tracy 168, whose artwork connected graffiti and the established art world. She also admires the women empowered, rebellious and expressive works of Lady Pink.
“As a woman, I have believed in the idea that No woman made history by following the rules. As an artist, I know that it is important to inspire others in such a way that it creates impact.” Divya finds teaching art most fulfilling as she says, it can lead to new levels of creativity and expression. “Art should be encouraged as much as any other field. It can be a source to discovering new talent, skill and beauty each day. Art is changing forms and mediums and we change along with it, growing each day with practice and perseverance.”
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Interviewed and transcribed by Maryam Syed