The accessibility to modern art, for the most part, is limited to private exhibitions, art gallery showings, or museums. While understandable for rare and classic collections, the average person had limited access to any form of artistic expression in an increasingly sedentary and compartmentalised world.
The mindset was always challenged, even as far back as 1939, where the precursor to street art and graffiti emerged during World War II. It would only be years later that the stigma of vandalism and protest would be removed, and governments and artists would collaborate to develop wall art and installations to contribute to the community and inspire a new generation of artists. Similarly, the history of street art in India was primarily linked to signage or as a mode of advertising for popular movies or political parties. With the advent of digital printing, these handmade signs and wall art started to fade out of existence.
However, due to the artist community’s efforts, there has been a resurgence of street art and installations in modern India, and it grows steadily in the spirit of preservation, expression, and inspiration.
We have listed 15 influential artists that have brought wall art to the forefront for Indian audiences to consume and enjoy.
A-KILL is a street artist and graffiti writer based out of Chennai, India. His pieces use an illustrative and figurative approach to depict people and scenarios he encounters on the streets and everyday life. With a flair for realism, he uses the medium of photography to capture and study his subjects before creating an artwork. Alongside stylised renditions of his street tag, his body of work features the technique of portraiture prominently. Through this practice, the artist aims to create a strong and authentic street art culture in India.
Cyberpunk, neon and realism are words that scream out loud when you check out the work by Chennai’s A-Kill. His work oscillates between representing realistic portraiture on minimal graphic backgrounds all the way to extremely layered and busy graffiti and sketch style pieces. When it’s all said and done, A-KILL’s work is extremely influential to the authentic street art culture scene in India.
Amitabh is a Bangalore based designer and artist whose murals feature an engaging brushstroke style that leads to bold and textured pieces that appear to have their own kinetic energy. The pieces vary in theme but have covered the battle between urbanisation and nature, urban revitalisation and responsibility. Amitabh has also co-curated an experimental art space during his time at Sarai Media Lab.
The unsung hero of the Mahatma Gandhi piece that arguably put street art on the map for India, Anpu Varkey has created large murals and organised street art festivals since 2011. The Delhi-based artist may develop abstract interpretations of nature, humans and landscapes, but all her pieces ring true with a nostalgia that the viewer can easily resonate within a personal way.
Another artist from Gujarat, Avinash Kumar, has a truly unique style. His work is vibrant and witty and jumps between hyper-realism, caricature and geometric styles. A project of note was the “Donate a Wall” campaign in Shillong run by Asian Paints and St+Art India, where Avinash painted a mural on the side of the Rajsthan Vishram Bhawan with a fusion piece bridging the two localised cultures together.
Hanif began training at hand-painted typography at a very young age on license paints and signs. Over time, he was slowly exposed to the other aspects of art and design, which led him on a path to become an influential artist on India’s installation and street art platforms.
With the intention to reclaim the streets from random advertising and a lack of artistic character, he co-founded the St+art India Foundation, a non-profit organisation whose mission is to drive social change and break down cultural barriers through street art. Hanif helps make the street culture better understood by the government and citizens alike while inspiring artists of tomorrow.
Harshvardhan Kadam is half of a duo of contemporary visual artists (the other being his brother) called “Ink Brush n Me”. His spatial experiences are rooted in a surreal and abstract style but have clear messages about the intricacies of human life or are pieces with a cultural significance linked with Indian mythology.
His public art project, SEWD (Searching for Empty Walls Disorder), transforms unused urban spaces into public art landmarks. The project has taken him across India and other places in the world “to create graphic poems and murals on empty spaces and give them a distinct character.”
Jas Charanjiva is an artist and muralist who flies the flag for underground street art with a quirky, hand-drawn pop style and counter-culture rebellious themes. She is a self-taught artist who was heavily influenced by skater culture in California at a young age, leading to a body of work that inspires social change by highlighting imbalances in society.
Jas co-founded Kulture Shop, a platform that highlights indo-global artists and makes their thought-provoking work accessible and affordable.
Munir Bukhari’s street art represents the best of society around us in an impressionistic style. He often collaborates with the St+Art Foundation apart from commissioned interior projects. Munir is most known for his “Heroes” series that depict civil, medical, and other integral workers and celebrates their contributions to society.
Nilesh’s story is one of sacrifice in the pursuit of passion. Leaving his home and family at a young age to escape the orthodox norms to which he was subjected, he made his way to Pune and saw himself through a fine arts education. His murals usually depict characters and personalities of cultural prominence in India, but occasionally he produces anthropomorphised and surreal work leaving the viewer spellbound. Nilesh frequently collaborates with the St+Art Foundation, where his contribution to the Dadasaheb Phalke piece brought him to the forefront of the street art movement.
The Gujarat-based duo has made waves in India’s street art community after their work for the Sassoon Dock Art Project and the Lodhi Art District via the St+Art Foundation. Playful abstraction, cartoon graffiti, and some realism sum up their style, and their art leaves us wanting more.
A professional UI designer, Ranjit Dahiya, craved an outlet for his artistic passion. An avid fan of Indian cinema, his entry into street art began with founding the Bollywood Art Project (BAP), where he creates large murals of celebrities in a classic retro poster style.
An extension of the effect of BAP is in his media startup called Digital Moustache, which bridges the gap between rural lives and technology. A noteworthy project is the artistic transformation of Ranwar Village, which, thanks to Ranjit’s work, is a vibrant street art hub that stands with the best street art locations globally.
Rakesh, who also goes by the alias “M86”, is a mural and fine artist from Delhi who simply loves working on large scale areas versus smaller canvases. His work often depicts nature settings and wildlife in his folk art and geometric style, and he enjoys the challenge of developing work in outdoor settings where he has to contend with fluctuating weather conditions.
A visual artist from Mumbai, Sameer Kulavoor’s pieces comment on consumerism, the state of artisans, popular digital trends and urban development. He explores the impact of culture, politics and economics on our surroundings. Sameer takes a keen interest in sifting through typical human behaviour to shine a light on social responses that are often taken for granted.
A self-taught illustrator and designer, Sajid’s creative exploration is not bound by medium or visual references to the world. This Mumbai artist experiments with shape, colour, and line as a form of self-expression.
Sajid’s work ranges from micro-graffiti pieces depicting abstract human form to large scale murals with themes like feminism, harmony, and community.
Shilo Shiv Suleman proudly carries the banner of social justice while wielding art and technology. Her mural art, via magical realism, start conversations around the injustices against gender and sexuality all around the world with the sole intention to reclaim areas, both physical and mental, overridden with fear and negativity.