In Mumbai’s grunge-rock-hipster-chic circles, he is known as Mumbai’s Banksy. Tyler’s artwork, splashed across the city’s walls are covered by every major publication — the one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Congress leader Rahul Gandhi playing tug-of-war with a map of India went viral on social media and was covered by The Washington Post.
“If only I had a dollar for every interview I’ve given,” he replies when I message him on Instagram regarding a feature on him. “Please try to not repeat the same questions. I would recommend you to read up on a couple of my past interviews,” he adds.
Cocky, I think to myself. Or maybe he’s just had bad experiences with others in my profession. We agree to keep the interview on mail — anonymity is naturally very important to him — and I send across a bunch of questions, keeping his “past interviews” in mind. Also, the anonymity adds an extra layer of cool to his already mysterious avatar.
“I have never intended to base my art around any one particular bucket of topics. Whatever has felt right, and can be emoted is what I have and will continue to put out there. Also, why be afraid to be disruptive and shake up the art space a bit? As an artist, it’s important to realise when there is a need for change, whether it’s coming from external factors or internal pressing issues of our own country. Whatever be the reason, the key is to identify and be reactive AND agile while you can, before it’s too late. For instance, my pieces around global politics were made during the election period in both India and the USA,” Tyler tells me via mail.
Is being anonymous in today’s world easy? Tyler sounds almost Batman-like when he says that anonymity can be maintained as long as you believe the reason of staying anonymous is of absolute importance.
As far as the ideation process behind his artwork is concerned, there is no standard he follows. His work is a consolidation and a summation of things around him. A leaking tap or a flat tyre is enough for him to begin the composition of his next work.
“The essence here is that if you stick to one topic and are afraid of change, you are likely to not get the desired result. It’s important to keep your fingers on the pulse of global affairs and be in tune with changing trends and current affairs. Remaining agile and dialled into what’s going on around you can keep you a step ahead in thinking and creating, while always staying relevant. It’s not all roses every day. It takes tenacity and grit to keep going, stay updated, keep growing, even in the face of dull times,” he says.
I ask him whether there is a desire to capitalise on his success. His answer is well thought out. I’m impressed not just by Tyler the artist but also Tyler the person.
“Success is subjective. One cannot capitalise unless there is a demand for it. Just because people like your photographs on social media doesn’t necessarily mean they will buy your work too. You see the notion of loving what you do isn’t a novel concept — yes, it’s slightly cliched. But it takes passion to be dedicated to your calling,” he says. I almost imagine a mic drop. Tyler out.