City Hangout – Pavement Art, Mandi House
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Circles and squares rippling with wavelets. A sphere with a labyrinth. The word ‘Aah’ drawn in calligraphic style. And many other shapes. All of these are made with white chalk on the leaf-strewn pavement – including on a manhole.
What are these? Artworks? Secret codes? Symbols left behind by a lost civilisation? These indeterminate patterns cover a corner plaza of the Mandi House traffic circle in central Delhi.
This sunny afternoon, busy people are walking on these chalk drawings without throwing even a cursory glance at them. A guard on a break from duty at a nearby building is having his lunch by the pavement. He has no idea about the person, or persons, behind these drawings. He, however, rushes to give his review – “they have no meaning”. But then, the Mandi House circle has at least two rock-like sculptures installed by the roadside whose meaning might seem unclear to many of us.
Truth be told, the artworks currently on exhibit in the galleries of Triveni Kala Sangam, just a few steps away, are also all enigma and abstraction.
Soon, scrap collector Man Singh appears with a sack on his shoulder. “These drawings are done by a man who is padaa likha (educated),” he informs in a conspiratorial whisper. Akhil, the attendant of an adjacent public toilet, throws more light on the mysterious artist. “He is always dressed in suit-pant.”
The designs catch the attention of a passerby. Amrita Chauhan looks fascinated, saying, “Mandi House is full of interesting people.” She is implying that being a theatre district, “the area teems with artists and actors, and may be one of them decided to use the ground as his canvas.”
It is not uncommon for artists to discreetly showcase their work in public spaces without giving away their identity.
Last year, the internet was abuzz with the sighting of a monolithic metal pillar set up by an unknown person in the remote red sandstone canyons of Utah in the US. Can this Mandi House man be a similar sort of artist? One wonders if this work will fade away due to Delhi’s harsh climate or stay, encrusted with the patina of forthcoming seasons.
On further investigation, a discovery is made. Under the bushes that skirt the plaza lie half a dozen chalks.
PS: Some evenings later after writing this piece, The Delhi Walla spotted the artist. His name is Rajdeep Singh. See last photo!
The art beneath our feet
7. (artist Rajdeep Singh)