Artist Saner bridges Mexican and Indian culture in his mural for St+art's Lodhi Art District

Over the last four years, St+art (pronounced start) India has pushed art out of museums and exhibitions to the streets of India, with festivals and exhibitions that celebrate the diversity and joy of street art. This not-for-profit organisation commissions artists from around the world to reimagine and transform cities, primarily in residential areas. In Delhi, their effort for greater artistic expression in the city’s landscape led to the creation of India’s first art district in Lodhi Colony in 2016.

This November, in collaboration with Asian Paints, St+art commissioned renowned Mexican street artist Saner to paint a mural in Lodhi Art district. Saner’s mural will kickstart St+art’s second street art festival in Lodhi Art District, to be held in 2019. In this conversation, Saner speaks to Firstpost in between breaks from painting his sprawling mural.

Mexican street artist Saner painting a mural in Lodhi Art District. All photographs by Akshat

Mexican street artist Saner painting a mural in Lodhi Art District. All photographs by Akshat

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Throughout the interview, Saner, whose given name is Edgar Flores, was calmly mixing paint. His wife was sitting in a plastic chair next to him and his paint cans, dealing with emails and organising his schedule. For somebody who had been in Delhi for only a few days, Saner was strikingly at ease in the space. He later explained to me that he had spent the better part of his first week exploring the streets of Delhi to get an understanding of the city. The result was the mural in progress — a crossover of Mexican and Indian culture, of people wearing his signature masks. “I tried to find a bridge with different patterns, textures, textiles, and many colours in common. At the beginning it looks like we are separate, but we have a lot of similar things and dissimilar things between us,” said Saner.

Saner wants the mural to be a visual conversation between the two cultures. The left side will feature a person in a tiger mask representing Indian culture, and the right will feature a person wearing a jaguar mask, representing Mexican culture. Bright colours and bold patterns, which are part of a lot of Mexican and Indian art, will tie the two cultures together, in the middle of the wall.

Saner has often used masks in his work, a radical symbol of his heritage from pre-colonial Mexico, or Mesoamerica, that draws from a Mesoamerican folk religion called Nagual. Nagual is grounded in the belief that people can transform spiritually or physically into their animal counterparts, attributed to them based on their personalities. The animals, from a parallel plane, are considered more ‘real’ than the human forms.

In Saner’s work, the humans wear masks to conceal their face, but reveal their true, animal nature. “They’re fictitious masks, but we [humans] try to use them for every moment of the day. When you use it, you are the real person. So, I want to paint these kinds of characters with masks to try to discover the real person, but also create a new version of it which is powerful, with animals,” said Saner.

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With an emphasis on bright colours and patterns, Saner wants his mural to leave people happy. “We don’t want aggressive themes. I’m not comfortable with that because we leave after two weeks but the pieces stay for a long time." He went on to explain that he hoped people will look at his mural, feel proud of their neighbourhood, and try and protect it from gentrification. The mural is scheduled to be finished in a week, and will be right opposite Harshvardhan Kadam’s work called Vishwaroopa.

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Updated Date: Nov 27, 2018 18:13:47 IST

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