When the machine turns muse

To those who are not-so-passionate about motorcycles, the genre might seem absurd, even redundant.

Once considered a frivolous hobby, motoart is about recollections and associations and has seen a rise in the number of art enthusiasts embracing it, especially in the city.

On a wall in a garage in Khar, a motorcycle stays frozen in its mid-wheelie stance, sans slings or chords but with the power of paint, because it is an artist’s hand that has crafted the stance. The acrylic on canvas painting is on display at Garage 52: The Motorcycle Collective, the city’s one-stop shop for all things motorcycle. It is part of a motoart exhibition being held in the space and is a fine example of motoart, a genre of art that holds the motorcycle as its muse. Co-founder of the garage and avid biker, Joshua Crasto, who often donates the space for exhibitions of this kind, tells us more about this obscure art genre. “Motoart is art that revolves around motorcycles. It draws inspiration from motorcycles or even the act of riding,” he shares. The biker recalls how a motoartist he knew once created MotoGP winning motorcycles from 1949 to 2016, a series of 49 famous bikes.

To those who are not-so-passionate about motorcycles, the genre might seem absurd, even redundant. After all, a simple web search can throw up hundreds of bike-themed wallpapers – all featuring impeccable detail, clarity and a phenomenal amount of pixels. Alternatively, one could whip out the ubiquitous phone and capture a flawless photo of the fancied motorcycle, every single time. So, what’s the point of motoart? Is it a case of a frivolous hobby being christened with a fancy name? Mumbai-based motoart enthusiast, Nimesh Cardoz feels otherwise. The 29-year-old engineer who is the proud owner of three bikes and specialises in painting acrylic on canvas renditions of motorcycles, explains why fellow-riders often commission paintings. “A painting is different from a photograph because you put yourself into the artwork, whereas photographs are quite impersonal. Also, painting allows room for interpretation and abstract symbolism, so you can work around ‘motorcycle concepts’, which involves re-imagining a bike or its parts creatively,” he shares. Recalling a recent commission by his latest client, an adventure sports junkie, who wants paintings that capture him in snowy, sandy and mountainous terrains, Nimesh underscores how motoart freezes in time memories of special rides. “People connect with certain paintings. Motoart isn’t about getting a frame to fill a wall – it’s about recollections, associations and memories,” he avers.

Artwork by Motoholic WorksArtwork by Motoholic Works

But motoart isn’t restricted to canvas and is manifested in various forms. Nidhi Agarwal, the founder of Motoholic Works, enjoys painting with coffee and usually uses her fingers to create espresso renditions of motorcycles. She also makes bike-related paintings, graphic stories and everyday objects made from bike parts. The 32-year-old motoart enthusiast has worked as a motorcycle designer with prestigious companies like Royal Enfield, Honda and Yamaha and has now decided to use her skills to create art full-time.

(Image Courtesy: Nimesh Cardoz)(Image Courtesy: Nimesh Cardoz)

“Designing art is different from designing bikes professionally because the former is done for the self, while the latter is for others. There are no briefs attached in art. So I got more inclined towards creating motoart,” she says. The artist has displayed her work at Rider Mania, the annual gathering of Indian Royal Enfield Motorcycle owners held in Goa, Riders Music Festival and Garage 52 in the past.

Ganesh Shinde, an Associate Creative Director at Ogilvy & Mather, is another motorcycle enthusiast passionate about riding and painting. Eager to pursue both passions, he often paints during his long bike rides, capturing on canvas things that fascinate him on the trip. His Instagram account, Miles on Canvas, is full of paintings that capture his bike in scenic locations, sometimes a hilltop or forest, or silhouetted by a fiery sunset or even at a quaint tea stall, where the stall and the bike enjoy equal pride of place on the canvas. Shivaji Ghosh, co-founder of MotoMachao, a motoart collective made up of four artists points out how his collective focuses on helmet painting.

Talking about their artwork, he says, “Machao means making a ruckus. We are big fans of apocalyptic and zombie artworks and most of our artwork feature these themes. We also are heavily influenced by old-school retro garage styles involving stripes and geometric patterns.” Since they paint on helmets, MotoMachao’s artists use unique mediums. “We airbrush using synthetic paint. That's our primary medium. We use hand brushing on handmade helmets. We also use acrylics massively. We also use sharpies to detail. We experiment with leafing (gold and silver flakes), neon and phosphate paints too,” he says.

Mumbai-based artist Mahesh Talape, who has been making motoart for the past four years, focusses on painting unique renditions of Royal Enfield Bullets. He says that his paintings cost anyway between 5000 to 20,000 rupees. Most of the artworks fall in this price range because the artists are aware that their artwork is patronised by a niche group. However, they hope more people discover the genre. "People belonging to the riding community, the old-school motorcyclists, they know about custom artwork and motoart. The larger community is yet to get onboard," says Shivaji, while Mahesh says, "Thanks to social media, more people are discovering motoart. I hope our audience expands soon."

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