Videos today from Oviedo, Spain, which has hosted a mural festival during the last decade – these are from the most recent one in September – evidently a very rainy event! They call is “a cultural, social, and artistic event bringing together citizens and artists to offer the city a new look through its walls.”
Funded by the city and stressing quality over quantity, the program engages the people of the neighborhoods they are in, using “all the techniques, styles and artistic expressions that walls can support, always containing a social commitment.”
“Beyond the Mural” is the name of a tour program they had this year for the 5th Parees Festival in Oviedo (Asturias, North of Spain). The intention of the tour is to give people a unique up-close idea about what the process is for artists to create. Curious attendees had many questions along the way.
“Beyond the Mural” could also be an appropriate descriptor for the festival as a whole, which has not been content to merely trumpet the arrival of international street art stars with no connection to the culture. True, there are some celebrities mixed in during the five-year period of some thirty large-format murals by local, national, and international artists. Each of them pays tribute to Asturian characters or history and even spread to nearby towns such as Olloniego, Trubia, and Tudela Veguín.
Parees Fest has had many meaningful and lasting achievements in these five years – as evidenced by the number of neighbors, organizations, and specialists who get involved annually. It is a joint collaboration of artists and the community. The results are murals that are always tributes to Asturian characters, traditions, and events, in a unique mix of art and history.
After a severely restricted program in 2020 due to Covid, this year (Sept 13-19) the festival again invited local and foreign artists to focus on Asturian customs and characters, each following a participatory process with the mediation of the artists collective Raposu Roxu.
The themes and personalities grappled with by artists were varied, as are the styles represented on these facades of Oviedo; here you’ll see memories of mining, tambourines that fuse folklore and feminism, the famous Spanish singer and Asturia native Tino Casal, the scientist Margarita Salas and a historical tribute to the San Claudio Faience Factory. Organizers like to say the new works transfer decades of history to our present.
Read below the descriptions of various works as provided by the folks at the 5th Annual Parees Fest. Our special thanks to them and to photographers Fer Alcala and Mirahaciaatras, for sharing their great talents here with BSA readers.
For this edition, the Italian Luogo Comune has painted a huge mural dedicated to Oviedo. The inspiration has been provided by citizen testimonies, the personal stories of dozens of people who participated in the campaign “What do you think makes the city of Oviedo special?”.
The answers to this question, launched by Parees Fest and the City Council’s Citizen Participation Area, were transferred to the artist, who has composed a work that combines history and nature, the pre-Romanesque past and the proximity of the mountain in its iconography.
Among Parees Fest’ Asturian themes, those with literary content stand out, such as the murals dedicated to Clarín or Dolores Medio.
To illustrate the famous story “Montesín” by María Josefa Canellada, a philologist and one of the main Asturian writers of the last century, the Asturian artist Foni Ardao explored the tender relationship between the lost goat and her little caretakers.
A well-deserved honour to the first children’s book in Asturian, written in 1979, where we can see the goat Montesín in the arms of the girl, in the lands below l’Escorial, while the boy plays the guitar with his friend the magpie on his shoulder. Surrounded by nature and heated by a fire, the characters convey a lot of peace and sweetness.
Foni added to his mural a tribute to his mother, Margarita, who died just over a year ago, represented by the flower bearing her name in the girl’s hair.
The Catalan artist Alba Fabre Sacristán created an exquisite impressionist mural, where light and movement draw the figure of two “Sidros” captured in full jump.
The “Sidros” and the “Mascaradas de Invierno” are Asturian and pagan traditions. Members of these groups (traditionally men, but some women can wear the costume since 2019) are celebrating jumping, dancing, making noise with cowbells, and with improvised sarcastic comedy about what happened in the village during the year. This ritual existed in various places, but almost disappeared with Franco.
It’s related to Winter’ solstice, fertility and the beginning of adulthood for young men. On the contrary of Carnival, masks are not to hide, but to show the archetypes of the characters of the comedy (the ugly ones, the handsome ones, animals, natural elements…)
The artist met the association Sidros y Comedies El Cencerru before, during and after the process of the mural in order she could perfectly understand the background and the stories behind theses costumes (she could even wear one and dance with the “Sidros”).
The Primitive “Camino de Santiago”, different from the busiest French Way, starts in Oviedo and takes pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. In 2015, it was recognized by the UNESCO, along with the “Camino del Norte”, as a “World Humanity Heritage Site”, the highest distinction that a cultural asset can receive.
It is a magnificent route that crosses Asturias and Galicia, but is also known for its difficulty, due to the peculiarity of the landscape (all guides recommend an advanced level of hiking).
The American artist Emily Eldridge created after some meeting with historians a mural full of colours, representing a “modern” pilgrim, with a skirt and painted nails, walking happily towards her next stage. Perhaps a way to remember that, although originally those who ventured on the Camino were men and devotees, today it is also an international destination for all nature lovers.
In this portrait, you can see flowers, but also thorns, and a hairstyle in the shape of a ladder, which recall the beauty and harshness of this Camino.