The wall is his canvas and illustrator Sayan Mukherjee makes Kolkata beautiful street by street. Since 2017, he has created graffiti in many local places, such as the Wykiki cafe at the Swissotel and a dilapidated clubhouse in his Kankurgachhi neighborhood. But it was his murals in Eden Gardens that caught his attention the most. With international cricket set to return to the stadium after a two-year hiatus this winter, its work is expected to find new admirers across borders.
In 2017, Mukherjee received a call from the site, among the most sacred in international sport. “Until then, I had only worked on a few murals in Bangalore. An agency contacted me to ask me to create art for a wall at the entrance to the Clubhouse. I visualized the perspective of a child visiting Eden Gardens for the first time and was mesmerized to see these players in another dimension. The experience was special and will stay with me forever, ”he said.
Mukherjee’s first mural in Eden visualized a child’s first experience at the stadium.
It turned out to be just the start. Mukherjee went on to create another mural for Eden Gardens in 2019, just ahead of the first pink ball test match in India. “While I only had one vertical wall for the first project, I had two horizontal ones for the second. This time we decided to tell the story of a batsman on one wall and a bowler on another. On each of them, the player has passed his para at the Ranji level, to finally play for India, ”he added. The pitch will see India face New Zealand on November 21 in the final T20I of the series. The Windies will also meet India at the venue of the ODI Final on February 12, 2022.
His second mural on the site depicted the journey of a street cricketer to the stadium.
There was something about taking his work to a public place that fascinated him. “I mainly work on a desk or on canvas, and sometimes digitally. A lot of people can’t see my art, and neither can I see them react. However, what sets the murals apart is seeing a passerby react, ”he said. Working on walls also extended his art. “I have to play with a space bigger than any canvas. I try to experiment with brighter colors to make the art stand out. I want to work on more murals, precisely because of how little control I have over them, ”he added.
Mukherjee was passionate about art from the start of his life, when he was a student at Kendriya Vidyalaya Salt Lake. He did his undergraduate studies at the Indian College of Arts & Draftsmanship. After that he worked in the advertising industry for a long time. “I have toured many advertising agencies in Calcutta and my job has brought me to Bangalore,” Mukherjee said. But he never gave up his passion for art.
In 2017, he decided to take the plunge. He quit his full-time job at creative agency JWT and moved to New York City to pursue an illustrator residency program at the prestigious School of Visual Arts. This decision helped him start an independent career in art and illustration.
Mukherjee set out to beautify a dilapidated clubhouse in his neighborhood of Kankurgachhi.
Mukherjee is a master of multitasking and doesn’t limit himself to identifying with a muralist. He has produced illustrations for books, advertising campaigns, drawings and animations. He worked with Ruskin Bond and Rajdeep Sardesai (Democracy’s XI: The Great History of Indian Cricket). He has no intention of slowing down, with local and international projects in his pipeline. However, he makes sure to devote a few hours to the murals each evening.
To celebrate India’s 75th Independence Day, he also created a Google Doodle, which was featured on the search engine’s homepage. The doodle was shared by Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Instagram.
Mukherjee’s latest mural, spread across a 240-foot subway in Newtown, is an ode to the city that shaped him. It mixes the aspects to which Kolkata owes its rich history, like the yellow taxi and the iconic trams, with the motifs of modernity that will guide Kolkata into the future, like the Biswa Bangla gate and the new cafe.
It is inspired by legendary artists such as Pablo Picasso, Irish visual artist Oliver Jeffers and Sameer Kulavoor, based in Mumbai. But his hometown is his biggest inspiration. “I love the murals outside Phoolbagan subway station and Sonagachi subway station. My work reflects the people and places around me, my culture and what I consume, ”he said.