Filipino wheat-paste street artist Brayan Barrios has been placing his work on the streets of Manilla since the 2000s and shares with BSA readers some of his recent work today. Illustrated in a hatched hand technique that may remind you of linotypes, Barrios creates one-off pieces that he places in doorways, on corrugated walls, abandoned lots and other marginal areas of the city. These are all his neighbors and he is documenting their lives.
An artist and activist, Barrios always has issues of social justice on his mind. He uses his posters to pay tribute to people in the community who inspire him, sharing a personal insight into the hardships of life and the character of the city. We asked him to tell us about his work on the streets and margins of Manilla.
BSA: The people whom you depict on your work are ordinary humans doing their work, resting or reading. Are these people whom you know personally. Did you ask them to pose for you?
Brayan Barrios: Some of my subjects are people I know personally – like the woman with the sewing machine — a late community leader, and the child freeing a bird – whose mom is also a community leader. They are people I would regularly encounter during my volunteer work in Payatas, a community in Quezon City known to be the dump site and junk capital of the metro. Most of my subjects are studies from either photos I took or random sketches.
BSA: Could you please describe your technique for creating your work?
BB: My ideas always come from the most common doings of the basic masses, especially the workers and peasants during my experience of interacting with them. I would brainstorm around such ideas and then draw them directly on what we call here a “Manila paper” which is somewhat similar with kraft paper and then paste them on the good spots where more people can see them.
BSA: By representing these individuals on the streets with your portraits of them are you giving them a place in society or celebrating their existence?
BB: I chose these ordinary people from the grassroots sectors to celebrate their existence as a vital part of the society. In my recent works, subjects are reading books or newspapers to fight grave disinformation and an historic revisionism campaign perpetrated by the current and upcoming regime. I also love putting up images of working class like the one in the window, sipping coffee with the call to abolish Endo Contractualization on his shirt.
BSA: Are all the wheat-pastes in one city or do you travel the country to put art up elsewhere?
BB: My recent works are around different cities in Metro Manila. But I would love for my artwork to be seen by people in more sitios, barangays, towns, or cities around the Philippines and beyond.
BSA: Your country just elected a new president. He’s from the same family that ruled the Philippines for many years. The outgoing president could be described as a tyrant. Do you use your art to express your disapproval of how politicians are handling the problems of your country?
BB: Definitely. I take it as both a responsibility and an honor as an artist to use my work to expose and fight tyranny and all other forms of oppression, and most importantly, cherishing the people’s struggle.