India’s most famous street artist Jas Charanjiva’s murals always astound.

When you grow up 15 minutes away from Mick Jagger, you’re destined to be as much of a rock n roller. Jas Charanjiva’s art has journeyed through America, Canada and India. She’s the co-founder of Kulture Shop, an art/lifestyle brand and India’s premier artist collective. She’s been part of the skate-punk scene in San Francisco, run a club in Hyderabad and finally settled in Mumbai. Jas has worked around celebrities that most people will encounter only on television (think punk rock act Blondie’s Debbie Harry and pop artists Scissor Sisters). What excites her most though is to just go out and paint. The streets are her canvas. You’re invited to step out.

(Photo Credits: Kulture Shop)

She loves to tell stories...

“My 6th grade teacher had once in a report card said that I wrote fiction in a way that it was beyond my years. And that I had the potential of becoming a notable figure in literature as a woman of colour. I had soon forgotten that, and only remember her stopping me at the door as we were all filing out of the classroom. She gently grabbed me by the shoulder to say that I should think about writing fiction for a living. I had just turned in a short story titled, ‘Can I Help You? Asked the Devil’.”

David Bowie intrigues her..

“I discovered Bowie when I was six. As a creative child who daydreamed of superpowers and had an unusually early interest in supernatural subjects, I was drawn to Bowie. I came to realise much later when looking back that I had to become an adult to truly appreciate him and his work at the level I do today. As a storyteller and as an artist who creates work built on a concept, my love for Bowie's music and process is far deeper than the average listener. Bowie was a storyteller and he was conceptual. Bowie's career has been a strong inspiration to me for the last two decades. I sometimes have to play his documentaries in the background to keep me going as artist when I feel like giving up for the night. Growing up loving and respecting the same man your entire life other than your dad, one feels comfort through a companion who doesn't have to be physically present to be present.”

Her first taste of underground art...

“I grew up in a strict home. I was 12 and living in California. I wasn't allowed to hang out with boys, sleepover at friend’s homes or join the swim team. My parents were always concerned about what would the other Indians in our town think. I found their fears ridiculous. This made me rebellious. My outlet was the skate scene, music and art. This was a lovely combination and it's one that still sits with me as an adult. The skate scene introduced me to collecting stickers other than the Hello Kitty kind, to the punk scene, and to graffiti. The stickers reflected the rebellion I was starting to relate to. I received my first professional skateboard and I started to appreciate the cool art that existed at the bottom of skateboard decks. To me this was art that was made by rebels and I turned out to be right as I learned more about it.”

Her defining moment...

“I lived in the Western Edition, a neighbourhood in San Francisco, between 1996 and 2001. I approached the owner of a record shop on Divisidero. Every couple of weeks, they would paint an 8x8 foot version of a new album cover for their store front. I decided I wanted to paint the next record. I was asked to come in on Sunday morning and start. This record store was directly opposite a small church called The Church of John Coltrane. Each Sunday, the sidewalk outside their door was overcrowded by people who couldn't get in. You could hear the music and the sermon from inside. While I was painting, I found myself wishing I could communicate something of relevance to these people from the store window. All of a sudden, replicating the album cover seemed so insignificant. From then, I knew I wanted my art to communicate messages and make statements.”

Don’t Mess with Me....

“Today, I'm known for my artwork called Don't Mess with Me (also known on the streets as the Pink Lady). This a piece I created while watching the protesters take to the streets after the infamous Delhi gang rape at the end of 2012. While everyone was saying "Something has to be done", I saw a lot of woman fighting with anger saying "We're not taking this anymore. And no one can tell us to stay home or tell us what we should be wearing." The Pink Lady represents the rape victim who spent her last days fighting for life and any woman who's fallen victim to abuse of any kind and to those who continue to fight for women's issues. This art work was made for Kulture Shop where it's being sold on various lifestyle products. I sometimes see women buying Don't Mess with Me for other women who are fighting breast cancer now. I'm humbled by this.”

(Photo Courtesy: Jas Charanjiva)



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