In January she was atop the Police Headquarters Building in Delhi painting Gandhi smiling at the traffic bustling past. Around the same time she was scouting for an appropriate wall in Shahpur Jat to paint a furry cat fiddling a ball of wool. Summer was spent in Berlin, working with renowned German artist Hendrik Beikirch on a project and also painting rooftops around town with her cat stencil.
Delhi-based artist Anpu Varkey goes where her feet take her, leaving footprints on the walls behind. “What I make depends on the space, the place. With the street you can go and do these little things,” she says.
The MS University post graduate, who has maintained a studio practice for almost a decade, attempted wall art for the first time in Bremen back in 2009. “The artists with whom I was sharing my studio initiated me into it. I started doing small scale stencils,” says the 33-year-old. It was Khoj’s Street Art Festival in March 2012 that, however, initiated the drive to spray paint and lug her emulsion paints across the Capital. Among the group of more than five artists, Varkey’s work stood out — the stencilled cat navigated visitors through the winding alleys in Khirkee, to the painted walls in different hues.
That was just the beginning. Two years hence, people might not be familiar with Varkey, but her art is discussed in numerous neighbourhoods across India. At Church Street in Bangalore her squirrel nibbles on a column, and in Pune her cat in black and white lounges on a flyover. At Kochi Biennale in 2012, Varkey collaborated on a humongous dragon straight out of fairy tales.
The summer heat now has the artist cocooned in her Masjid Mod studio. The spare time indoors is being used to pen a comic book dedicated to her muse, two-year-old pet cat Jabaa. Scheduled to arrive in book stores in a month, the self-published no text only graphics publication follows the cat as it goes about its daily routine, from feeding to chasing flies. “I’ve been working on it for some months now. It came on its own, he (the cat) suggested it in a way,” says Varkey. The room is filled with her larger-than-life canvases, mostly portraits of family and friends. “I don’t have any gallery sponsoring me, may be not many people are interested in youngsters,” says Varkey. A participant at numerous group shows, her first solo was at Guild Gallery in New York in 2008, followed by one at Khoj last October. Titled “Residual”, this featured portraits as “hyper-real realm of being”. Made over several sittings in her studio, Varkey notes that there is a short story to each. She admits the studio works haven’t taken-on as well as her wall art, but that does not mean prioritising the latter. “I’ll try to maintain all the practices. They balance me out. I always wanted to make larger than life canvases. Now I have the whole wall. But then to conquer that wall you need to understand what to do with the scale, which comes from my studio practise,” she notes.
The next wall that’ll have her hues? It could be any place across the world.