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Aussie street artist paints massive wall art in Mumbai

The Dadar art was 'difficult' - it challenged the Aussie artist Fintan Magee to get out of his comfort zone and create something new

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If you ever cross the Dadar suburbs of Mumbai city, a massive mural painted across outer walls of four tall buildings will put some pep in your step. The artwork features two hands holding flowers – an ode to the vendors in the area who are witness to the changing urban landscape of this fast-paced city.

Deserving full credit for this project, is Australian street artist Fintan Magee. It took him five whole weeks, two assistants and a strong will to battle Mumbai’s scorching heat to complete this mural.

The Brisbane-based artist spent a considerable amount of time in Dadar’s market – where flowers are fresh heaped, fragrant and colourful.

“The Mumbai project was definitely difficult,” Magee tells Indian Link. “The walls were big and there were too many windows. The image had to be split up as I had to paint one theme across four buildings. Good thing is such projects help me branch out, get out of my comfort zone and give me an opportunity to make something new!”

Fintan Magee
Artist Fintan Magee (Source: Supplied)

This isn’t Magee’s first painting in India – in 2019, he created a mural in Goa featuring three local workers holding the base of a Roman column.

Magee is celebrated world-over for his socially and environmentally engaged works. He uses large-scale murals to depict intimate moments and communicate political and social viewpoints.

His Dadar mural comes at a critical time when Mumbai-based activists are at loggerheads with the state government over a Metro car-shed construction that will wipe off a portion of the luscious and vast Aarey Colony – also dubbed the ‘green lung’ of the city.

When asked if his mural is hinting at that, Magee says: “My mural is a statement on the dignity of hard work and the beauty of craftmanship. It also portrays the fragility of nature in a developed city like Mumbai.”

But he adds that he loves our interpretation. “I wasn’t aware of the fight the activists are having with the authorities here. In hindsight, Mumbai does need a Metro to decongest the city. But I did notice this on my trip here that the city doesn’t have any green space either. There is definitely a need to treasure the green space.”

Magee says he is glad his work in the public eye can make people think and form different perspectives. “Art takes a life of its own sometimes,” he smiles.

A giant Fintan Magee mural
A Magee mural in Georgia (Source: Supplied)

Magee has been painting professionally for close to 10 years now. He doesn’t shy away from crediting his creative parents – architect mum and sculptor dad – for this. “I’ve been drawing from a young age; it was always there in me,” he says. “Growing up, dad had a studio so naturally there was material around to experiment with. I think it is important when you are young.”

What about other influences?

“There were always lots of books around. My dad had a big book on English painter David Hockney (who had a major contribution in the pop art movement of the 1960s). I grew fond of his works. And also, there was Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig.”

Magee was also obsessed with drawing planes and dreamt of becoming a pilot. But his colour blindness came in the way. “When I realised I couldn’t become a pilot, I became an artist, which I realised is the second-worst job to have if you are colour blind,” he laughs.

But that doesn’t surprise us. After all, many great artists are colour blind, including Frenchman Edgar Degas, Englishman William Blake and American Mary Stevenson Cassat.

“It was hard to tell colours apart when I was younger as I always got them mixed up,” he confesses. “I’ve had to learn colour theory. When I choose colour schemes, I have to read the labels correctly to ensure I don’t pick the wrong shade. With experience, I can proudly say I’ve got it under control.”

A giant fintan magee piece in Newcastle
A Magee mural in Newcastle (Source: Supplied)

Most of his recent work is monochromatic – either all browns, all reds or all blues to make it “easy for me”.

It probably helps also that the sites of his paintings are picked for him, by the commissioning authorities.

But he does plenty of research before delivering the final work.

When we ask him to pick his most favourite works so far, he doesn’t choose street art, rather a piece of personal art – a set of 12 paintings that were displayed at Melbourne’s Backwoods Gallery during the pandemic. Titled ‘Nothing Makes Sense Anymore’, “each painting acts as a kind of chaotic, codified storyboard of the year”.

“I’ve never set time aside for exhibitions, as murals take up a lot of my time. What I liked about this project is that I got time to be alone with my work.”

Magee has now got projects coming up in Sydney, Brisbane and overseas in Austria and Switzerland.

“I do my best to keep myself busy,” he laughs.

Read More: Meet the Aussie architects building anganwadis in India

Prutha Chakraborty
Prutha Chakraborty
Prutha Bhosle Chakraborty is a freelance journalist. With over nine years of experience in different Indian newsrooms, she has worked both as a reporter and a copy editor. She writes on community, health, food and culture. She has widely covered the Indian diaspora, the expat community, embassies and consulates. Prutha is an alumna of the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bengaluru.

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