“I just unveiled a new artwork in the Swiss Alps, in Villars-sur-Ollon,” Saype tells us when talking about the new 2500 m2 painting on a high grassy elevation. “’Vers l’équilibre’” (Towards balance) depicts a little girl forming a cairn on a pile of books.”
Massive pieces like this by Saype merge muralism and land art, a hybrid that is not common even now. It may be shocking for some people to see until they learn that the materials used are not harmful to the environment, and are biodegradable. Here the final image is still best seen from a drone perhaps, but if you are hiking near the summit of the Grand Chamossaire mountain, above the alpine resort of Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland, you too may find the right angle for a view.
Staring at clouds and seeing images is Mother Nature’s Rorschach test about how one sees life’s possibilities; revealing winged angels and horned devils, a ship on the high seas, a milk maiden’s profile, a fire-breathing dragon.
French-Swiss land artist Saype has had plenty of time recently to contemplate the clouds while painting on a grassy mountain and he thinks our vision of the future is reaching a point of clarity, despite our current seemingly cloudy perspective.
The rising, lushly green summit of Moleson-sur-Gruyeres in Switzerland can do that to you.
The artist’s newest ephemeral simulacrum depicts what appears as a child blowing clouds toward the horizon. He calls it “un nouveau souffle” (“a new breath”), he says, and he uses the framing of the majestic Friborg Pre-Alps to give flight to this novel fancy.
Seen on land from a great distance and especially when flying above, the new 1500 square meter fresco is of biodegradable pigments made out of charcoal, chalk, water, and milk proteins.
With time, this vision will fade. Hopefully, our ability to imagine stories, fancies, and promising futures will not.
Bad weather and two broken lifts later – Bustart has created this tribute to the precision of Swiss watchmakers in the small town of Le Locle (population 10,200) in the Canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. Known as one center of Swiss watchmaking since the 1600s, the town is famous for numerous watchmakers and watch companies respected around the world.
“I have highlighted the precise and complicated gears of the watch,” he tells us of the crisp illustration-styled mural he created in his home country. “As in life itself, it’s the gears in the background that make the outside work.” He calls the mural “Time Out.”
Opening this week here in New York, Bustart has new works on display in his first solo show in the city at Krause Gallery, entitled “Graffiti Pop.” He planned to attend but sadly will not due to current visa regulations and the ongoing Covid situation affecting international travel. If only all things worked as precisely as a Swiss watch!
The international art fair Art
Basel announced today that this year’s flashy Miami event is cancelled, joining
its two other high-profile annual fairs in Hong Kong and Basel, Switzerland, which
had both already met this fate earlier – all due to the complication of
One of the best parts about graffiti, street art, mural, and hip hop culture events like Urbane Kunst here in the city of Basel is you don’t have to worry about air kissing on both cheeks.
Graffiti jams are more interested in getting up on the wall, drinking beer, and having a barbecue – which 40 local and international artists did here from August 20-30, thanks to the event’s sponsor, Bell on Neudorfstrasse in Basel.
“The top criterion for artists was we have to know them: because we’re going to spend a lot of time together,” explains street artist BustArt, who has been working for about five years to make this wall happen. “You are together every day for about two weeks and so the main important thing is having a good time and for this, we just wanted to have cool people here with whom we’ve worked in the past and who we could trust that we were going to have a great outcome.”
Not that “Change of Colours”, as this event is called, didn’t have a lot of complications from the worldwide virus. The artist list kept changing as certain countries were eventually banned from traveling here – First the US, later Spain.
A final list of names was not available at press time but scheduled were artists like Boogie, Cole, Kesy, Kron, Tizer, Seyo, and Sonic. Photographer and journalist Nika Kramer caught a handful of the artists to ask a few questions, including Mr. Cenz (UK), Chromeo and Bane (CH), and event organizer BustArt (CH).
Street artist Julian Phethean aka Mr. Cenz is internationally known for his unique, expressive portraits of women. He tells us “I created one of my futuristic female portraits that I’ve been doing for a few years now and I paint a lot of black women as well because I think they are under-represented in the street art world. It’s very important to me, coming from a multicultural city like London.
Also for me, hip-hop is a black culture that’s why I paint mainly black power for women,” he says. “If you look at it, it’s quite spiritual as well. My style is kind of something transcendent. It’s for people to look at and to get lost in. That’s just what I do, and it’s amazing to do it on a big scale in such a prominent place and I hope people enjoy it.”
Two Swiss artists Fabian
Florin aka Bane and David Kümin aka Chromeo, have worked together on smaller
walls in the past, but the two masters of photorealism have never truly collaborated
on something new together, and they say that they’re very satisfied with the result.
For Chromeo, Basel holds a special meaning to him in the development of his career as a graffiti writer and an artist.
“Basel is history. Back in the days when I started graffiti it was like a duty: you have to go to Basel!” he says. “Because it was considered state of the art. No disrespect to other places in Switzerland but… The graffiti history is here and it is the most important, I would have to say – even though I’m not from Basel.”
In the opinion of Bane, Basel left a major impression as well, but it is much more personal. “I came here with completely fresh eyes. I was drug addicted during the time that Chromeo’s referring to,” he explains. “I’ve just been painting for about 10 years so Basel for me is a very fresh place, like new. What I enjoy here is the community. There’re so many people. It’s a community I’m stepping inside of – kind of a small family already. It was heartwarming and I felt very welcomed and for me, that is the best thing about Basel.”
organizer and hometown boy BustArt, who just completed his largest wall to date
for Urban Nation Museum in Berlin a couple of months ago, this wall has been
beckoning to him and the event is the result of persistence in pursuing it. “I’ve
been wanting to paint this wall for 20 years so we are happy that the company
actually paid for it,” he says. He calls his new piece, “Home Sweet Home”
because it symbolizes the place and the city he loves more than any other.
You used to hire your cousin Vinny and his creative buddy who went to art & design school to do some sign-painting for the side of your warehouse so people who were driving by on the highway would know where they could potentially get air conditioners, filters, casings, and floor fans. And you would pay them mostly in beer and weed.
have changed. Now in Switzerland you hire guys who hashtag #urbancontemporaryart
on their Instagram posting of the mural they painted all summer on the side of
your factory. Also art exhibition curators who run an art blog will pontificate
about the new paintings’ finer points, its cultural/historical references, and they
will coo about how the composition works seamlessly in a “contextual” way with
the Swiss mountains that the warehouse is nestled within.
to NeverCrew’s new mural on the side of this facility that will be a burgeoning
hub for package traffic in the southern region of the country – where the artists
Christian Rebecchi and Pablo Togni are from. They say that this mixture of
industrial and natural landscape is where they took the inspiration from for
this combination of a monochromatic industrial diagram and an earth-science
illustration of minerals surrounded by a colorful hazy aura.
feel like the environment informed their concept as well. “During the evening
we could listen to the car traffic or the machines working on the right side of
the wall,” they tell us, “and frogs, birds, and insects on the left side of the
if visiting an art gallery, you ask the artists to explain the mural, and now
you realize there’s so much more than a pretty picture here. “We were thinking
about a symbolical net, a twine of transfers and projected thoughts, and as
well we were imagining a production line that is both mechanical and human.”
You smile because you realize that your cousin Vinny never said stuff like that.
There used to be over 600 lace-makers here. Nespoon is
remembering them with her new works on the street.
of a residency that she is doing with the
Factory in Le Locle, this project has enabled the Polish Street Artist/fine
artist/muralist to study the local lace motifs that are identified with this
part of Switzerland historically. She has included the heritage in this
veritable wrapping of lace, custom made for this town of 10,000 especially.
As we draw closer to the new year we’ve asked a very special guest every day to take a moment to reflect on 2018 and to tell us about one photograph that best captures the year for them. It’s a box of treats to surprise you with every day – and conjure our hopes and wishes for 2019. This is our way of sharing the sweetness of the season and of saying ‘Thank You’ to you for inspiring us throughout the year.
Today’s special guest:
Never Crew, (Christian Rebecchi and Pablo Togni), Swiss Street Art duo, environmentalists, neo-realist naturalists, mural interventionists
We love this picture because in a simple way it recalls many aspects of our actual lives. This has been taken in our country, Switzerland, one week before traveling to Phoenix to realize a series of mural interventions on the historical Heard Building (curated by Anne-Laure Lemaitre of FatCap), while we were preparing them.
There is of course the connection between different contexts and far places, the immersion in the location and in the project that we live for – for each urban intervention. But above all there’s an idea before its realization, an aim before its fulfillment.
This was the first mural intervention planned in 2018 and it was a hard project to prepare and solve. We see it here in it’s imaginary shape, with all the difficulties yet to be faced and as an undefined experience. Now, eleven months later, after many other interventions prepared for and concluded and many places lived, this is quietly part of a tangible reality and it’s shared with everyone.
So this is the kind of feeling and awareness we would like to keep bringing with us for the next year.
The Alps, the lakes, the 360 degree views; yes this bear is in Switzerland. It is newly painted by Nevercrew for the young Street Art Festival here in Chur, a quiet town of 35,000 and the oldest town in the country.
The old part of the city is car-free and rather pristine and quiet most of the time, which is a mind-blowing concept for people in congested cities like New York where the morning radio traffic report is more important than the weather report.
The Swiss duo was back in their home country for a change for this one, which may have contributed to the name “Home Ground”. They tell us a very general background of it’s influences – which can be summarized as addressing natural resources, political borders v geographical boarders, cohabitation, and a broader discussion about who owns the earth and our natural resources.
As much of Europe is actually the recipient of refugees arriving in boats from war-torn countries, this image of a small boat filled past its capacity with people has a lot of relevance to people in Basel, Switzerland who spot them.
The tiny concrete sculptures by a Street Artist who goes by the name of Rough.eq are usually attached via lock and chain near a body of water or stream or inlet, and a viewer can quickly begin making associations with the plight of people leaving home forever to go upon dangerous seas.
Other times the diminutive refugees are landlocked, or sitting in snow – giving perhaps an even greater sense of being adrift in unknown, unrecognizeable territory and the difficulty many people experience when trying to assimilate in what can be a strange and confusing society.
As frightening as the stories that immigrants and refugees tell of riding in overloaded and insecure vessels to escape war, poverty, persecution, they are increasingly in danger of not feeling safe in their country of destination, thanks to a rising xenophobic sentiment in some places.
The economic burden is not always easy to take on, and natives worry that the host culture will be changed in fundamental ways that they will not like. Some times the culprit is simply racism and fear of the “other”.
For Rough.eq, the response to his pieces has been quick, but it is hard to tell if it is supportive or the opposite.
“Three out of these four of my “Lock Ons” have already disappeared,” he tells us.
A migration story has just been completed between Osnago, Italy and Vogorno, Switzerland by two Reno artist brothers who traced their great great grandfather’s journey via bicycle adventure this summer.
“At either end of the bicycle trip I proposed to create a mural. Or half mural to be exact,” says Erik Burke, a Street Artist (Overunder) who has worked on walls in many cities over the last decade. He proposed the idea of creating half a portrait of Guisseppe Mozzetti in each town. “Each mural would be painted at the border of a building to create a break in the composition. By allowing the imagery to break at the edge it hopefully would hint at the absence of image, identity, and a larger picture,” he explains.
Using their only known photo of him for a study, these brothers connected the story of his past and their family roots going back to the mid 1800s. They say that the art project and the entire trip gave them a unique opportunity to study the countries and cultures that formed him before he eventually immigrated to the United States (Reno, Nevada) in 1890.
“My brother and I were navigating the Ticino countryside on borrowed mountain bikes without a map or knowledge of the language,” Erik says. “Regardless we approached most encounters with ‘Tutto bene’ and we think we came to a deeper understanding of both pizza and penne, valleys and peaks, nostos and algos.”
Those last two words speak directly to the name of the collaborative two-mural immigration mural project which they named “Nostalgia”. According to the brothers there was a certain sentimentality about the natural beauty of the countries and the people whom they encountered on their trip. All of the gathered information also permitted them to imaginine what this great great grandfather may have been like.
Erik explains, “The word nostalgia is a learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of νόστος (nóstos), meaning “homecoming” and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning “pain, ache”. The term was coined by a 17th-century medical student to describe the anxieties displayed by Swiss mercenaries fighting away from home. As I discovered my own Swiss heritage I wondered what nostalgia would mean to someone like me – a person not going home but curious about his family’s home.”
The story of actual research is slightly more complicated, including targeted emails to strangers in Vogorno in search of a possible wall to paint. Erik was already booked to paint a mural for a festival in Osnago (La Voce Del Corpo Festival) so his vision of sharing this bike trip with his brother needed a welcoming person willing to have their building painted at when they arrived in Switzerland.
“After many failed attempts at making contact with Vogorno residents I sent a seemingly unlikely email to a woman I found on the Internet who was running the Rustico Cioss who happened to share the Mozzetti name. Luckily she responded and a dialogue grew,” says Erik of the detective work that finally landed their artwork on the right building. “Her family research unearthed a document for Giuseppe Mozzetti and a few emails later she had secured permission from the municipality for the mural and was allowing us not only to paint on the house of Giuseppe Mozzetti but also stay there!”
The images form physical and psychological bookends to an immigrant story that both brothers found profound and rewarding. It also raised more questions about the concept of borders and nationality – a search further elucidated by way of painting and meeting new people.
“Many borders presented themselves to us throughout the ride from Osnago to Vogorno in the form of dialect, currency, value, power sources, politics, culture, and physical geography. The painting component also utilizes my own physical borders by taking advantage of moments of fatigue and endurance directly following cycling to paint these works, ” he concludes.
The route from La Voce Del Corpo Festival in Osnago, Italy to Vogorno, Switzerland.
Erik and Mike would like to extend their great thanks to Mayor Paolo Brivio of Osnago and the many people of Osnago and Vogorno for their hospitality – especially Bruno Freddi, Michele, Frederica, Enrico, Flavio, Fabio, Jacopo, and Valeria for their generous support and friendship.
Armory Week : The art fairs are happening in NYC and folks are finding new, original and purely derivative ideas from the commercial shows that swarm with fans and lookyloos. The few folks we spoke with say that sales have been average to slow with guests carefully considering before purchasing, with the occasional big splurger. It could be that the market has been in an unspoken soft period for the last year or so due to a weak economy or the tumultuous political landscape in this election year. Nonetheless, there is nothing like the hivelike high you can get swimming through rivers of art fans at a New York fair, periodically bumping into a peer or a tanned celebrity.
Meanwhile, we have some dope street stuff for you from Jersey City to Morocco to Italy and Switzerland. Here’s our our weekly interview with the street, this week featuring Atomiko, Bifido, C215, Dmote, Bradley Theodore, Dylan Egon, El Anatsui, Fintan Magee, MSK, Obey, Otto “Osch” Schade, PK, Post, Rime, Sean9Lugo, Sharon Lee De La Cruz, Space Invader, and Toner.
In her introduction to the list, editor Katherine Brooks writes:
“It turns out, 365 days is hard to summarize in anything but a laundry list of seemingly disparate phenomena, filled with the good — woman-centric street art, rising Detroit art scenes, spotlights on unseen American art– and the bad less than good — holiday butt plugs, punching bags by Monet, Koonsmania. But, as a New Year dawns, we found ourselves just wanting to focus on the things that made us beam with pride in 2014. So we made a list of those things, a list of the pieces we’re proud of.”
Describing why we thought this was an important story for us we wrote:
“We loved a lot of stories this year, but this hometown Brooklyn one about a street artist with humanity mounting her first solo major museum exhibition was a special turning point — and an astounding success. For us street art is a conversation, a continuum of expression, and Swoon is always a part of it. From following her street career to her transition to international fame to witnessing this exhibition coming to fruition in person in the months leading up to the Brooklyn Museum show, it is easy to understand why Swoon still remains a crucial part of the amazing street art scene and continues to set a standard.”
-Jaime Rojo & Steven Harrington, HuffPost Arts&Culture bloggers and co-founders of Brooklyn Street Art
In fact, we wrote 48 articles that were published on the Huffington Post in 2014, and as a collection we hope they further elucidate the vast and meaningful impact that the Street Art / graffiti / urban art movement continues to have on our culture, our public space, and our arts institutions.
Together that collection of articles published by BSA on Huffpost in ’14 spanned the globe including stories from Malaysia, Poland, Spain, France, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, New York, Arizona, The Navajo Nation, Philadelphia, Sweden, Istanbul, New Jersey, Lisbon, The Gambia, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Rome, India, Italy, Delhi (India), Montreal, San Francisco, London, Coachella, Chicago, Kabul (Afghanistan), and Kiev (Ukraine).
Here on BSA we published another 320 postings (more or less).
We thank you for allowing us to share these inspirational and educational stories with you and we are honored to be able to continue the conversation with artists, art fans, collectors, curators, academics, gallerists, museums, and arts institutions. Our passion for Street Art and related movements is only superceded by our love for the creative spirit, and we are happy whenever we encounter it.
Our published articles on HuffPost in 2014, beginning with the most recent: