Express News Service
Dress right. Black is perfect. Face mask is a must. Merge with the crowd. Keep a story prop ready. Finally, be ready to run. No, it’s not a bank robber’s guide to a money heist. This is a regular day for Mumbai-based street artist Tyler.
He begins his day looking out for a ‘canvas’ that is both public and private at the same time. Public, because ultimately that is what street art seeks; and private, because while working on the piece, Tyler would need to evade the administration.
“I am constantly on the lookout for the perfect location. I try to make sure there are no CCTVs around,” says the street artist, who has recently stirred up a hornet’s nest with his Walk of Shame project. The project takes a crowdsourcing approach to its implementation.
The artist decides who his next subject would be via the comments on his Instagram—which boasts over 68,000 followers. Of course, it invites conversations around cancel culture, but Tyler believes that “having people give their votes creates a sense of inclusivity.
For now, the project has had to take a pause because of the controversy it raked up with names such as Arnab Goswami, Kangana Ranaut and Sambit Patra, among others. But the Controversy’s Child is hopeful that once the uproar dies down, he would be able to “get away with at least 25 names – enough for people to enjoy a long walk through”.
Famously known as India’s Banksy, Tyler’s pseudonym is supposedly inspired by a character in the film, Fight Club. Talking of his art, he says, “Street art is rebellious by its very nature. It is the job of art to show a mirror to society. I believe all artists should rise to it, irrespective of the controversies. We need to ask questions – of course, humour can be a part of it, but issues must be raised.” Being compared to Banksy does not upset this artist.
“He has proved how far-reaching street art can ultimately be. So when someone compares me to him, I take it as a compliment.”
Though Tyler started graffiti work in 2012, it was only in 2019 that he began going political. “Politics and world problems go hand in hand,” says the artist, who has also collaborated with other artists in India and abroad.
How difficult is merging different visions during such collaborations? “Art is all about the freedom to visualise independently. In collaborations, one thought can beautifully merge with another without feeling out of place,” he says.
When he started out with his graffiti work, Tyler would try to get permissions for the same. But in vain. Soon he realised that he would have to do it clandestinely. “Graffiti means vandalising. Naturally, no permissions would be forthcoming. So more often than not, my work happens in the dark hours when there is little movement. But the lockdown was a difficult time. Ironically, it would have been the best of times to work in, what with no prying eyes around.
But I don’t want to end up breaking two laws at one time. So I had to give up my ‘studio’ for a long time,” says the artist, who has often been stopped just when he is about to finish a work or even as he is packing his bags after a session. “Generally when I’m caught red-handed by the cops, I try to make them understand. And mostly they do. But there have also been some pretty sticky situations,” he says.
Like the one time when complaints prompted Instagram to take down his account. Art is selfless, Tyler believes, as it makes people pause and think twice about their surroundings. “Ultimately, I want my art to speak,”he says. We are all ears.