Meet Harsh Raman: The Emerging Street Artist from Delhi, India
Visual Art has always been both highly revered and underappreciated. It is a question of accessibility – most art exists within the physical restrictions of art galleries, bounded by restrictions of status quo. The emphasis lies on the word ‘most’, because art has diversified (or rather, it has perhaps gone back to its roots) in a visual forum that can be accessed regardless of who you are: Street Art.
The problem, of course, is that street art is highly underrated in India – usually when it makes an appearance, it is usually in the form of political (or politically incorrect) graffiti. In amidst all of this, Harsh Raman, the Creative Director of Harkat Studios, is taking a stab at ‘spreading ideas through street art’ in various places in New Delhi, from Haus Khas Village to G.B. Road.
Raman shared his experiences being a different kind of avant-garde artist in TEDxNizamuddin, at the India International Centre, Delhi. For him, art has always equivalent to liberation, but the inaccessibility of the beautiful experience of art, and its relative absence outside the four walls of the studio, made him explore: with street art, “it didn’t matter who you are, but what you had to say”.
Raman first turned to street art when he found that the company registrar would not accept his mother’s name while registering Harkat Studios, asking for his father’s name. Raman felt the need to speak out against the oppression of women – with the aid of the NGO Patkatha, he turned to an all-women German graffiti crew to use street art as a forum to depict women empowerment. They chose G.B. Road, the red light area of New Delhi, as the locale.
This become a personal experience unlike another, with Raman interacting with prostitutes as young as twelve in order to gain an insight into their lives. Once the work was over, sex workers personally thanked them, and asked them to paint upon the walls of the brothels. The trio and Raman turned to perhaps the oldest form of street painting – making splashes with bright colours on the wall. This spread into the brothels in the area, all of which began working towards painting their walls in an event this year.
As Raman points out, street art was the most egalitarian form of communication, one which enabled him to make strong socio-political and philosophical statements while at the same time connecting him with a diverse audience. Consequentially, Raman’s forays into street work expanded from merely making art, to establishing personal interactions. He found that, no matter what his depictions were, or what time of the day, everyone always had something to say – there was always someone questioning the purpose behind street art, or whether it held any relevance to begin with.
Raman’s own unshakeable belief was that the purpose behind street art was precisely that it was for everyone. He found the people that questioned him were the same people who offered personal interpretations of his art, the same people who protected his art like it was theirs, the same people who thanked him for contributing beauty to their living space. The art connected people, even as it sent out its hard-hitting messages.
According to Raman, street art taught him much about life, even as he tried to depict life through his art work. One of the walls on which he had depicted his concept of death was broken down, leaving only a shadow of the artwork. This acted as a life lesson for him, making him realize that street art can be liberating – it can never be made permanent, so it teaches you to let go. But while it stays, it creates a long-lasting impact that is free from all boundaries.
Article by Stuti Pachisia
Edited by Siddhesh Gooptu