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Wall Art Festival 2023: Bridging boundaries through art

The third edition of the Wall Art Festival focuses on bringing joy of colours and art to streets of Indian cities, which will bear the testimony of stories created and shared

Jace's fun tribute to Chandrayaan 3 with the special appearance of Gouzou.
Jace's fun tribute to Chandrayaan 3 with the special appearance of Gouzou. (Jace)

Bengaluru has turned into a vibrant canvas for artists this week for the three-day Wall Art Festival hosted by the Alliance Francaise network in the city. The artwork on the walls of the Alliance Francaise Bengaluru and the streets celebrate India’s recent moonshot, the blending of Indian and French cultures, and the shared passion for storytelling told through graffiti created by French artists.

The Wall Art Festival, launched in 2021, is a way of celebrating freedom and creativity through painting artworks on walls of different cities to bring in a sense of community and visibility to different ideas and expressions. The ongoing Franco-Indian event at Bengaluru is part of the third edition of the festival, held jointly by the French Institute and the French Embassy in India, from 1 to 21 October. It will be covering 13 cities in India and, for the first time, expanding its horizon to Sri Lanka’s Colombo. Four artists will be touring the cities to paint some wall art and find inspiration for new artwork.

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On Monday, Bengaluru welcomed Jace from Reunion Island, an overseas region of France, who brought with him the famed Gouzou, a faceless yet recognisable character in his paintings seen in over forty countries. “Bangalore is a bustling city with inspirations everywhere. I have been walking around to get a sense of the place and observe daily life that can be part of my future artworks. The energy of the city is unmissable,” Jace tells Lounge.

For Jace, it all started at the age of 11, with painting his bike in vermillion red. The vibrant makeover that seemed to give life to objects became his way of expression and exploration. He travelled to Reunion Island, painting artwork, influenced by hip-hop movement and ‘lowbrow art’, which is rooted in comics, punk music, and graffiti.

Two decades ago, to make his art relatable, he created a faceless character, Gouzou, which has since become his way of communicating his ideas and stories to people. “When I started doing street art, I didn’t have permission to paint on the walls so I had to draw quickly. I created this simple, faceless character who can represent anyone. Gouzou could be you or me so it's a personal touch,” Jace explains. Gouzou is also part of his work at the ongoing festival.

Jace painting one of his artworks at Alliance Francaise Bengaluru.
Jace painting one of his artworks at Alliance Francaise Bengaluru. (Alliance Francaise Bengaluru)

In one of his paintings on the walls of Alliance Francaise, Bengaluru, Jace has showcased Indian and French chefs bonding over food, both depicted as Gouzou characters. In another, we see a vibrant dance performance by a Parisian lady, with the France flag colours highlighted, a way to give a glimpse into the culture of the country. On one of the public walls, Jace has painted a tribute to India’s successful Chandryaan-3 launch, with a Gouzou character, donning a turban, and hoisting a flag on the moon. “I heard about the success of the moon mission and wanted to paint it in a fun way. I used a paper plane to show the landing and Gouzou hoisting the flag on the moon,” Jace says.

Jace’s first visit to India was Lucknow last week and he will be heading to Pondicherry later this week. Talking about how street paintings are a way of engaging people with art, Jace says, “I have noticed that there is not much street art in the two cities. Street art is a way of adding colours and vibrancy to walls, a way of discovering new art and artists, and bringing people together through the expression of life and love. Importantly, in today's time, street art is a way of bringing humanity to the streets.”

The three other artists on tour include Aashti Miller (who goes by the pseudonym Millerink), an Indian artist known for her representation of the amalgam of architecture and art where spaces, places, and faces merge. Her first stop was at Trivandrum where she painted a geometric, blue mural, capturing the city’s urban layout through its waterways, as reported by The New Indian Express.

Jace will be at the festival in Bengaluru until 11 October. Millerink's next stop is at Bhopal on 15 October. The festival will close in Chandigarh on 21 October.

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