Mies’ adage “Less is More” does not hold much truck in Indian visual culture. The decorative richness and the intricacies of narrative detail found in classical Indian painting and sculpture are a direct influence on popular visual culture, from Bollywood posters to colour schemes for buildings to the decorative chalk Kolams found on floors outside homes and in temples. The cacophony and richness of colour, form and detail are consistent in every aspect of life in India.
Viewport’s recent visit to Kochi, Kerala coincided with the second edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, an exhibition of contemporary international art, with still one more month to run. While most of the artworks were housed indoors in wonderfully atmospheric colonial buildings and former spice godowns across the city, (our favourite pieces were by Xu Bing, Anish Kapoor and Iqra Tanveer) street art could be found on public walls across Fort Kochi and nearby Mattancherry. Daubing walls with political slogans, posters and advertisements is par for the course in India. Any blank wall is a potential canvas for a political party or advertiser of corrugated roofing, cement or spark plugs, a practice that is carried on in the commissioning of these pieces. Art is no longer confined to the gallery or the museum, but is made accessible to the man in the street. They blend so effortlessly with the ‘authentic’ markings that one has to do a double take to identify them. Is that not a sure sign that the organisers have succeeded in bringing art to the city?