Interview: Bond Talks about Graffiti in India

Posted by Daniel Ratheiser • Sunday, June 6. 2010 • Category: Arts and Beyond
If you have been to Ladakh lately, or to some of the rather hidden parts of Delhi, chances are you all of a sudden found yourself staring at a – at least for India – still very unusual sight: graffiti. And by graffiti we mean not just some tags or bombings, but instead most detailed, multi-coloured 3D fonts and graphics that inevitably make you think: what is this and how the hell did it get there in the first place???

It is as much the skilled design itself as it is the location and how the art is embedded into the surrounding environment, what makes these pieces so special to both the layman’s and the professional’s eye. ‘Bond’ - the man responsible for these artworks - has graciously agreed to answer some of our questions…

New Delhi, India / © by Bond

KM: Tell us a little bit about yourself...

Bond: My real name is irrelevant but I like to go by the name of Mr. Bond or Dr. Omo. Feel free to choose whatever suits you better. I am 24 years old. After spending some time in Göttingen, Heidelberg, Atlanta and Delhi, I continue to visit University of Leipzig in Germany right now. I like to travel a lot and try to change my style ever so often as well. Since about the year 2002, I use spray-cans as a way of expressing myself and I enjoy it more day by day.

Leh, India / © by Bond

KM: What made you want to become a graffiti artist?

Bond: For sure there are many different reasons why people spray something onto a wall. Some do it for political reasons, some just out of the fun of destroying something; others seek recognition from a certain group of people (the so called “scene”), some for adrenaline, and yet others to create an aesthetic moment that is unique for them and the people around them. For me personally it’s a mix out of all these factors and many more. It’s hard to explain: it’s a special lifestyle and a craving you develop – or you don’t. I had the best moments of my life while finding a spot, organizing the piece (graffiti artists call their paintings “pieces”), actually paint it, take a picture and then say goodbye - in most cases forever.

My passion in graffiti helped me to find some of my best friends and helped me to meet a bunch of special people I otherwise never would have met. I also had the worst experiences through it, getting criminalized, arrested, searched, beaten up. It caused many sleepless nights for me and my family and a fortune of money for lawyers and cleaning costs. I could never stop though and even now I´d say: it was worth it. Life is about highs and lows, about friends and action, about meaning and expression. Graffiti combines all of that. For me it’s a way. It’s my way right now. I chose it and I will pursue it as long as I can and it suits me.

Ladakh, India / © by Bond

KM: What is important for you when you start a new piece somewhere?

Bond: I rather choose beautiful spots over mass visibility. I rather go for the big smooth wall in a Delhi ditch, where hardly anyone will see my piece than the crumbled small brick wall at a main junction. For me the atmosphere and surroundings are what counts. I decide for spots where I have more time than only a few minutes to rather make a beautiful painting than an ugly one. I look for the best walls and the best moments of painting that come along with it. I want to explore the city I live or stay in and find those spots. And every so often the way to those spots is the goal itself.

The letter-combination I almost always write (Bond) has no special meaning. I just decided to use it once and stick to it. That’s also where the challenge lies: to “style” your own combination of letters as different as possible. Give it a new appearance every time you write it. It’s just like with makeup: even though it’s the same letters you use, it has a different feeling depending what colours you use and how you apply the paint.

Modern calligraphy is an expression I think fits pretty well. I have a style which is simply called 3d-style because it is very dimensional. Another one is called “bubble-style” because it is all round and bubbly. Like I said, my goal is to develop as many styles as possible and use them on my name a.k.a. “Bond”. Usually I write letters but just lately I have a faible for hearts, so I try to paint a heart for each of my friends in a different style. Tru Luv.

Manali, India /© by Bond

KM: You have been doing quite some work in India as well, what made you come to India in the first place?

Bond: Graffiti writers tend to travel a lot which has to be connected to the idea of having pieces everywhere. Not only in their block, in their city, in their country, but in the whole world. So, usually if a writer goes some place he never has been, he drops a piece (paints a wall). There are a few holiday-pieces in Delhi, but they were usually done quickly and are not very skilled. New situations require new skills and it usually takes a while to get accommodated to a new brand of cans, new surroundings, the climate and various other aspects that affect the artist during his work.

I myself have been to India three times already now (always more than 3 months) for various reasons (to volunteer in an NGO, as a tourist, for doing research for my thesis in anthropology) and I always find new modes of painting (for example, I use more brushes, since cans are very hard to obtain) and skill my knowledge and handling with the local paint selections. It’s getting more and more fun every time.

Ladakh, India / © by Bond

KM: What do you have to say about the current state of graffiti and the ‘scene’ in India?

Bond: Up front I have to state that a ‘graffiti scene’ as it is defined by role models like USA, France and Germany, to name a few of the – in my opinion – countries with the most skilled “writers” (the term graffiti artists often refer to themselves) and the oldest scenes (20 years or more), in India’s urban environment is still very, very young.

During the last year or two, I could see a few writers ‘getting up’ (a writer who starts spraying his name is trying ‘to get that name up’) in Delhi with very simple works like tags (one-coloured signature of an artist) and throw ups (one-coloured outline) on flyovers and street walls. I don’t know about other parts of India since it’s a huge country and I could hardly have been everywhere by now. But I think in Delhi something is definitely happening and more and more people are interested in the Hip Hop movement - in which graffiti traditionally plays an important role, inspired by music videos and movies from the USA. With acts like Snoop Doggy Dogg featured in the Soundtrack of the Bollywood movie ‘Singh is King’ and crazy crossover mixes of American-style rap with more traditional Hindi Pop (NERD, etc.), it’s just a matter of time when Indians grasp that graffiti is an important visual part of this movement, which musically is happening already.

Manali, India / © by Bond

In this sense, the scene is fresh and not yet out of childhood age. You can hardly see any bent letters on the road yet – especially not attractive ones, if you ask me. However, I think the biggest obstacle for graffiti to take off in India is the high price of spray-cans. One can is around 200 Rs. and therefore unaffordable for the biggest part of the Indian youth. In the West, a common way to get spray-cans was the so called “racking” or stealing from big paint shops and home improvement suppliers. In India, the moral standard regarding thievery is fortunately too high to ever make this happen. So rich kids are the only ones left who could start a graffiti movement out of boredom, in search for new kicks. I don’t know though if I like that. Something is missing there.

New Delhi, India / © by Bond

KM: What were your experiences while painting in India?

Bond: I only had the best experiences so far. Most people that I met really liked what I did and that I took some time to make an ugly spot brighter. I think most Indians have a thing for vibrant colours, so the motif itself doesn’t necessarily has to be understandable if a diverse variety of colours is given. Of course I felt unsafe in the beginning, because I brought a natural fear from Germany where I had been caught several times, faced trial and paid high fines. I’m sort of traumatized from those experiences but still don’t want to give painting up. Also the public opinion regarding graffiti is really bad. “Destruction of public property” is a common label for the activities of my scene. On the other hand, this is one factor why many kids do it, to break out of the restricting system and to express themselves via paint the way they want to, when they want to and where they want to.

The spots I choose in India usually are sort of fucked up already anyway. I stay away from government buildings, traditional or religious things as well as private houses (with guards). The spots I choose nobody really cares about. My approach therefore is not a classical-anarchic one. Like I said, it’s simply the aesthetic moment I look for: a nice picture and a good atmosphere. In Kashmir I probably painted the highest piece ever (Gulmarg, approx. 4500m alt.). Nobody will ever see it again, though.

Tenerife, Spain / © by Bond

KM: Who are the writers that you respect and admire the most?

Bond: One spells “Mom” the other “Dad”!

Leipzig, Germany / © by Bond

KM: Thank you very much for this interview and all the best for the future.


For More Info / Photos of Bond's Artwork visit:

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