Street art enters a gallery in anonymous artist Tyler’s first solo show
Subverting the belief that graffiti does not belong in galleries, anonymous artist Tyler gets their first solo show in Mumbai
A Valentine’s Day special: on a wooden frame are stencilled the letters I and U. Between them where one would expect a heart stands an exploded spray paint can, its metal body contorted to an amorphous shape. Is that a broken heart? It is hard to say.
This canvas is one of the latest additions in Method Art Space, a gallery with branches in Kala Ghoda and Bandra, that currently holds Mumbai-based anonymous street artist Tyler’s much-talked about, often political works. The artist’s first solo show brings their wide repertoire straight from the walls into the white cube space: a welcome change that subverts the belief that street art and graffiti do not fit the ‘fine art’ ideal.
“I paint what I am,” opens Tyler, who believes that a lot of their own personality reflects in their work, which is largely mischievous, tongue-in-cheek takes on what happens around them. “Everything that I had done as a mischievous child reflects on my art, when I look at it now,” they add. Further, the medium they have chosen only aides this need to remain “simple and approachable”.
The artist adds, “I shouldn’t have to explain my art to anyone. I don’t have any art education and never wanted to be an artist. All I wanted to do was express myself.” A lot of things that didn’t make sense in the society, ultimately became the starting point of Tyler’s vast body of reactionary work that comments on political and societal happenings, on an almost daily basis; many of them are painted over or whitewashed. “I wanted the medium to be as real as possible.” But having said that, Tyler believes that it also important to keep their reactions simple in terms of details and embellishments, since “there are bigger problems in the world than me right now.”
In street art, the placement is perhaps as important as the subject, according to Tyler. On the streets, Tyler has always chosen the most ignored walls as canvasses. And so, do they think that a gallery space confines the scope of their works? There are two sides to this coin.
“When you look at street art, you are not there to buy it. When it comes to a gallery, there is a lot to keep in mind in terms of the aesthetic since I am putting the work up for sale. The viewers are essentially looking at it from different angles,” says the artist, whose Walk of Shame series on the streets of Mumbai, featuring many Bollywood names, journalists and politicians, created a furore that led to his Instagram account being deactivated for a day.
The primary intent of the artist who prefers walls over canvasses still remains the same. “In this country, there is no concept of free art. I want to give the people that opportunity. They can choose to admire it or spit on it, but at least there is accessibility,” says Tyler. “It doesn’t matter if I don’t see a particular work of mine on a wall, a year later. It only makes me want to do it more. It’s like maintaining a little library of my own works.”
Tyler’s works will be on display at Method Art Space, Bandra and Kala Ghoda, Mumbai till March 7