Street art is a great way to communicate with people: Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra
Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra, on creating a Mahatma Gandhi mural at the Churchgate Station for St+art Mumbai
St+art India is coming to Mumbai for its second edition here. A festival that celebrates street art, St+art Mumbai brings Brazilian artist Eduadro Kobra to the city, to paint Churchgate station. His work features a mural of Mahatma Gandhi, painted along one side of the busy station building. Kobra is a street artist best known for his colourful murals and chequered patterns featuring prominent public figures. His work has featured in New York, los Angeles, Sao Paulo and other places. He spoke with Firstpost about creating the mural for St+art:
How did you get involved in the Churchgate station initiative? Is this your first visit to Mumbai?
In 2017, I had already painted in 12 countries, when I was contacted by St+art India Foundation. Their proposal was so interesting that I decided to accept this project and to come to India, to work in the iconic city of Mumbai. It is an interesting opportunity to paint in such an important location within the city.
Painting at a train station was a very catchy idea; coming to think of it trains are a way of connecting people and it is an element that is characteristic of cities all over the world. It’s the first time for me in India and it's very exciting for me to discover this country which is so incredibly energetic.
Your work in other cities seems to have largely focused on major national/ international figures. Can you talk a little bit about why?
I have this world-wide project, “Olhares da Paz” (translation: ‘faces of peace’), which represents what peace can look like.
This is one part of my work, when I paint historical figures as part of this project. These are connected by virtue of them being important personalities as regards the concept of peace. These include Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and John Lennon, personalities who are connected to the global movement of peace. Or what I’ve done in Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics which is called — ‘todo sum umo’ (meaning ‘we are one’). It represents indigenous people from all over the world, and speaks about the many ways in which they are different from each other and the same in-spite of being from different parts of the world — after all we are the same.
For me this project is an ongoing one. Here in Mumbai for the work I am doing, there are three main elements. First, being the train station which is such an important part of the city, the element of the train here is fundamental. To prepare for this, I have been reading the architecture of the façade, and have created an anamorphosis that makes the façade look flat, when seen from a specific point. The second element is the importance of Gandhi as a figure representing peace, with whom I wanted to create a strong connection — with the element of the train along with the train station. I have already painted Gandhi in other contexts, because he is a personality for whom I have great fascination.
In a world which is turning more and more violent and aggressive, Gandhi is a symbol of peace and non-violence through history. In general, I work on different projects but always in relation to history and memory. That’s why another one of my project is related to the history of music for which I have painted many figures like David Bowe, Jimmy Hendrix, Janice Joplin, who all have a historic relevance in music. The two pillars of my work are history and memory.
Why pick a railway station for this project?
As I mentioned before, I have different ongoing projects which revolve around the concept of memory, history, and peace. I feel that the young generation in this digital world are losing the understanding of those concepts and knowledge about the past in general. Therefore, I feel that doing this project in the streets is very important, to bring back the figures that are fundamental to our histories. Another one of my projects that I care about is the work against animal cruelty. I have been working with Green Peace to create murals that talk about animals that are tortured in different ways, for example being trained to go into zoos and their use for entertainment.
How would you describe your artistic style/ sensibilities?
Concerning my artistic style, I have learnt in the streets and I don’t have any influences from art history, I am a self-taught artist. Many artists influenced me that I have learnt from just by looking at their works like Keith Haring, Basquiat, the Mexican muralists, as well as the first graffiti writers in New York in the '70s. Over time, I turned my style to much more realistic images.
Why, according to you, is street art significant and why should it be supported/popularised?
Because it is democratic and is a great manner to communicate with people. Everyone — people from different sections of society can understand and relate to street art works and it is also a way to interact with the urban landscape.
Churchgate is a busy station, Mumbai is a crowded city; often people disregard and deface their surroundings public monuments. Is this not a concern for you, that the art will get damaged soon?
Street art is ephemeral in nature and is normal that pieces decay over time. I would definitely love for this piece to stay for the longest time and to be maintained if possible but street art changes along with the changes of cities and that’s why documentation through photos is relevant. As an artist you cannot expect that your piece will last forever.
Street art isn't as widely seen in Mumbai as in some other parts of the world. What is your impression of the city’s public art scene?
Actually, in many parts of the world, street art is a recent phenomenon. If you think about Japan, China or many other countries for that matter. Obviously, you have in Europe, the US as well as in Brazil, and cities which are very famous for street art but eventually (it) is a fairly recent movement in the world, and not specific to Mumbai. This is a phenomenon, that has started in the last 10 years in many countries if we don’t consider historical forms like graffiti in New York in the '70s and muralists like Diego Rivera in Mexico or the or the Pichadores (Pichação pinters) in Brazil or Keith Haring and Basquiat in New York. And I am extremely happy to contribute to this nascent movement in India with my work.