In the quiet embrace of rural Estonia, street artists find a harmonious refuge.
With the century’s turbulent past, its break with Moscow in the 90s and its joining with NATO and the EU in the 2000s, Estonia today enjoys political stability, economic growth, a thriving tech sector, and a progressive social welfare that enhances the well-being of the average Mari and Jaan. As with most European and American cities, there is an established or burgeoning street art and graffiti scene, with a healthy representation of the styles and techniques interpolated through a local lens, and the reverberations of pop satire, Bansky humor, and certain anarchic stencibilites on streets. Since 2018, the mural aspect of the street art movement has traveled to rural areas as well via the Rural Urban Art (RUA) Festival in small villages to bring people out of their homes to engage in a public art that is new and unusual to many.
This June, artists from Estonia and eight other countries spread out across small villages of Viljandi municipality whose populations range from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand to introduce aesthetics and sensibilities emanating from more heavily populated areas, now firmly in new contexts. “Many local people saw such action for the first time and all the while, the feedback and emotions were so highly positive,” says Salme Kulmar, the creator of the festival, “It’s a sign that visual art also belongs to small towns and that there is actually a need for it!”
Like the Fanzara Miau Mural Festival in Spain and the Utsira project on an island of 200 inhabitants in Norway, the efforts of RUA organizers are focused on smaller audiences than a typical festival, yet the impact of art on the streets can be as profound as the splashy commercial ones in London, Montreal, or Brooklyn. Each edition of the festival has been staged in different areas, earning RUA the distinction of calling itself a nomadic street art festival. The scale can be small or larger, like the 86 meter mural by Ukrainian artist Andrey Kovtun this year.
There’s something about the feedback here that seems to resonate on a deeper, individual level.
“Throughout the festival we felt a lot of love from the locals,” says Kulmar of the various artists interactions with neighbors and families. Among the accounts, residents of one building cooked lunch for the Italian artist daily while he worked, some locals in Päri village hosted a celebration for Ukrainian artist Andrey Kovtun, and a final celebration including a smoke sauna invited all the artists to the home of Ulvi Tatar in Kolga-Jaani village.
“It was a week full of love,” says Kulmar. And murals of course.
Artists of RUA 2023 included: Andrey Kovtun, Luogo Comune from Italy, Peter Skensved (Denmark), Myforestbridge from Ukraine, Maxime Ivanez and Annabelle Tatto from France, Pidžin from Lithuania, Maikki Rantala from Finland, Uneg from Mexico, Karolis Dezute from Lithuania, Andrey Kovtun (Ukraine).
A 5-village mural program will be surely eclectic, to say the least. The first Osona Artimur Festival produced 19 of them, murals that is, and each speaks to the sensitivities of the modern era, an awareness of local history, and the unarticulated sensibilities of a multi-headed program here in the countryside just to the north of Barcelona. Curated by members and organizers at a pioneering urban art center called B-Murals, the quality of work and diversity of styles represent a fair survey of the international scene at the moment, with a decidedly local sabor.
With B-Murals bringing the community and educational roots to the project, the complex execution during this autumn was coordinated with the Department of Tourism of Osona and the Catalan company Transit Projects. Working closely with the five villages, they served as intermediaries between locals and the international artists who came to paint there from France, Germany, Argentina, Ireland, Italy, Chile,… and closer to home.
The towns of Prats de Lluçanès, Manlleu, Sant Julià de Vilatorta, Sant Bartomeu del Grau, and Alpens welcomed the artists. All participants were supported by an extensive production team, including assistants, runners, photographers, and film archivists. Here is our first of two postings from this part of Spain that features rivers, mountains, and beautiful landscapes.
Enjoy Osona Artimur Festival.
Our special thanks to Fer Acala for sharing his images and observations about the event with us and BSA readers.
Invited artists: Zoer, Ana Barriga, Satone, Nano4814, Luogo Comune, Isaac Cordal, Rosh, Alberto Montes, Jan Vallverdú, Marta Lapeña, Eloise Gillow Artists selected by open call: Twee Muizen, Sergi Bastida, Wedo Goas Artists working on participatory processes: Daniel Muñoz, Chu Doma, Alessia Innocenti, Mateu Targa, Zosen
When we consider the role of the citizen in society, the interdependence of every participant eventually comes into play. It determines what direction we go, despite what your neighborhood anarchist might have you think.
Similarly, as one is studying the numerous elements at play in the natural world, the dynamics of interdependence among all the actors is even more apparent and evident. The whole is only possible by collaboration, and the result is often spectacular – perhaps because trees don’t have egos. Or do they?
Study this new illustration-style ecosystem by artists Fabio Petani and Luogo Comune (Jacopo Ghisoni) in Turin, and you’ll think about the showy prowess of the tree during all the seasons and the industrial guile of the insects that are always at work. Not to anthropomorphize too much, but the natural world seems full of characters – like the people you see on city streets. It is an ecosystem formed from need, often mutual.
“Plants need insects, just as insects need plants to be able to feed, find shelter and reproduce,” the artists say in a statement – and they explain that the collaborative process of painting together is an additional layer to the story.
“This theme is further explored from the formal point of view by the artists who have worked in synergy, creating a composition where the two styles mix, interact and compensate each other.”
On the Campus Einaudi and working with the ToNite Project, Petani and Comune say that their compositional interpretation is entirely considered and pertinent to the ecosystem as an interaction between plants and insects. “Here, insects play a non-secondary role compared to the plants represented and are juxtaposed in the composition as necessary otherness for the flora.”
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.
An anti-Banksy & Co. Street Art show opened in Bologna Italy the same night as its controversial bank-backed cousin with brand new works by 50 or so Italian and international Street Artists and open admission to their outdoor ‘museum’.
“It is free and spontaneous, as Street Art should be,” says an organizer and participant named About Ponny as he describes the exuberant and sometimes saucy toned exhibition on the grounds of the sprawling former headquarters of Zincaturificio Bolognese which is destined for future demolition.
“The message we want to convey is that true street art is found where it was born, in the street and not in the paid exhibits,” says Bibbito, who along with two other out-of-town street artists named Jamesboy and Enter/Exit found food and couches during their installations thanks to an association of artists called L’Associazione Serendippo. Together, these artists say, they and other organizers want to send a “strong signal” by creating “one of the largest museums of ephemeral street art ever made”. The new coalition named this project “R.U.S.Co” (Recupero Urbano Spazi Comuni) or (Urban Renewal Common spaces).
The new 16,000 m2 open-air art show may appear as a rather curious development because its method of protest runs completely counter to that of the shows’ most vocal and high-profile critic, BLU, who last week protested the same show by defiantly destroying 20 years of his own public paintings, rather than making new ones.
The contested Banksy and Co. exhibition contains, among many other works, walls removed from a privately owned abandoned building in Bologna that were painted by BLU. Displaying the walls and his artwork without his consent so angered the painter that he rallied artists and activists to help him snuff out all his remaining murals and paintings in this Northern Italian city last week. (See A BLU Buffer Talks About the Grey Action in Bologna)
The heavily attended Friday night opening of Street Art – Banksy & Co. at Palazzo Pepoli – Museo della Storia di Bologna was curated by Luca Ciancabilla, Christian Omodeo and Sean Corcoran and features roughly 250 historical and contemporary works spanning about fifty years and highlighting a number of movements within the so-called Urban Art genre. On balance it appears that 90 percent of the the works are studio works, paintings, sculpture, videos, original sketches and ephermera and were probably collected in a more conventional way and the tagged psters, stickers, metal doors, and wall fragments are viewed in the context of the whole scene.
Of the counter exhibit, About Ponny says “Many artists have participated. It’s fantastic foray into an abandoned factory that maybe in the future will be demolished,” on the metal production factory grounds that have laid unused for about 15 years. Completed over three weeks time with freshly painted pieces, many of the new works hint at the Street Artists intentions to lampoon the formal museum show with a bit of sarcasm. Included in some of the pieces are overt references to the contested issues at hand, such as a portrait surrounded by a diagram of scissors and a dotted line by About Ponny and Nemo’s large troubled and naked man pierced through the head with a price tag reading 13 €, the entrance fee for the museum show .
Attendance at the new outside show will be difficult to gauge as the facility is in such disrepair that organizers cannot encourage the public to attend it without putting people at risk because of safety matters. This method of art-making in abandoned places has been a cornerstone of the graffiti and Street Art practice since youth first started to chart their urban explorations and these new pieces seem perfectly at home on decaying walls and crumbling infrastructure, despite any possible dangers present. It is exactly this sometimes-idealized rebellious ethos that is offended by the practice of displaying this art in a more rarified environs.