by Vatsala SethiDec 31, 2022
'Har Ghar Kucch Kehta Hai' (Every home says something), an old Indian adage, was the tagline for Indian brand Asian Paints' latest foray in public art. The brand has a long history and has been bringing colour into people’s lives for the last eight decades. The Indian paint company, along with St+art India Foundation, returned to Mumbai’s Sassoon Docks for another edition of the Mumbai Urban Art Festival (MUAF), the endeavours don't confine to just street art, mural and installations. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Mumbai Port Authority (MBPA), the two unveiled a one-of-a-kind project, titled the 'Asian Paints Art House'. Building on Sassoon Docks' innate connection to the ocean, the art house created by Indian designer Ayaz Basrai from India-based The Busride Studio aims to represent a tidal node in the ocean. The unveiling was followed by the announcement of Asian Paints' Colour of the Year 2023.
The metallic illusory shade 'Silver Escapade' is the Asian Paints Colour of the Year 2023. For the last 20 years, Asian Paints has been conducting its own colour research in relation to trend forecasting in India with ColourNext. This year's colour symbolises a fluid interaction between time and space—both virtual and physical. “Revealing a shade evocative of time travel and technology, it is also the colour of child craft, wellness, and auspicious new beginnings in India, a hue of hope, festivities, and glamour," shares Asian Paints in an official statement. Relating the colour to the mind of a traveller moving through physical and digital spaces, magical stories from our childhood, and silver linings of the unfortunate times the world witnessed in recent years, the colour extends a multitude of analogies.
The Asian Paints Art House also adorns an installation named Bungalow that artistically explores Silver Escapade as a colour. Created by UK-based environmental artist Steve Messam, the sculptural installation uses inflatable textiles and follows a similar thread to Messam’s iconic work with spikes. The press statement continues, “A large silver form fills the first-floor veranda representing the bustling city of Mumbai, brimming with ambition. The billowing forms of different sizes and angles show the coexistence of people who migrated from all over the country in search of opportunity. It reflects light and transforms the colonial style building lifting the focus up and out."
At the opening of the Art House, Asian Paints and St+Art India Foundation introduced five NFTs, created by Indian visual artist Amrit Pal Singh. Over the last two years, Singh has made a signature style for himself through Toy Faces. Driven by nostalgia and childlike wonder, the collection celebrates individuals and characters throughout history and fictional stories to remind you of how they inspired you when you read about them for the first time. For MUAF he collaborated with five individual artists—Atia Sen, Neethi, Osheen Siva, Santanu Hazarika and ZERO— to create a playful celebration of various styles and mediums.
“Our aim was to design a maelstrom that pulls together currents in the Art House, creating an energy vortex. The Art House was created using waste, debris, upcycled fabrics, and other bits and pieces found around the dock. It will also consider what a 'home' can be, inspired by creative living and modular design," shares Asian Paints.
Asian Paints and St+art India collaboration has always focused on a collective vision of beautifying public spaces and democratising art. Founder and Editor-in-Chief, STIR, Amit Gupta spoke to Amit Syngle, Managing Director & CEO of Asian Paints Ltd. and Hanif Kureshi, Artistic Director of St+art India Foundation on this particular aspect on the MUAF. Talking to STIR about how the city at large gets involved in initiatives such as this, Kureshi shared, “All of these are activating a dead space within the city. Before this, there was nothing happening here. This intervention has activated the space and obviously activated the economy around it as well.” Adding to it, Syngle said, “The number of people who are coming here now shows the hunger of people to kind of really absorb art. Absorb art in a more democratic manner rather than going into a museum coined into four walls, to see what art means.”
Kureshi spoke on the festival's curatorial approach saying, “The theme is based on water. One building is called the Intuitions, and the other one's called Illusions, between the sea and city. So it's intuitions between the sea and city, illusions between the sea and city. But water is a base because this dock (Sassoon Dock) is where the city was built. This is where the fishermen lived and even today, they continue to live. So while we are talking about all these audiences, it's also the native inhabitants of the city who witnesses the same thing as what we are witnessing. It definitely responds back much stronger to the site and the cultural context.”
Talking about the curatorial aspects the brand is involved in, Syngle shares, “The whole larger objective of democratising art is about invoking people to get experimental with colours and really absorb colours in a very strong and creative manner in terms of what it does. Any theme to which it gets attached to, whether it is water or a local community, gives a picture of more permanence. It's not something which has come in and would go away just like that, it’ll stay in people's lives for a longer period of time. Therefore what we see today as a brand is if we stand for Indian art and craftsmanship, it would give us a very strong platform in terms of what we can do to bring colour into people's lives. An extension of that colour is the whole area of art culture, which brings joy to people’s lives in a strong manner.”
Along with the Art House, another location, Illusions was opened. This section of the landmark project reflects on some of the complexities of our transactional reality, by proposing alternative, fluid, and expansive views. Illusions is the next instalment in the city-scale venture taken on by MUAF to including landmark murals, experiential exhibitions and immersive installations across several locations.