While the vital link between my camera and my laptop wends its way down the country, I thought I'd take a trawl through some photographic backwater. I find the artistic combinations of paint and wall endlessly fascinating, and in my European peregrinations over the past year I have snapped my shutter at more examples of decorated buildings and walls than you could shake a spray can at. Here is the alleyway I used to walk down to get to the State Archives in Genoa, so garlanded with tags that what might have started off as assertions of individualism fused into a single abstract riot of colours.
Genoa has a long tradition of painted buildings, ranging from the exquisite fading frescoes on Palazzo Spinola, one of the villas along the sixteenth-century aristocratic ghetto of Strada Nuova...
... to simpler trompe-l'oeil masonry and window shutters, still common on many houses today. The embellished surfaces of walls and buildings are an integral part of the civic fabric; they are not locked away in a gallery overnight, but are instead engaged in a constant dialogue with the city that moves around them. This holds true whether they are furtively scrawled on a wall, or whether they are officially sanctioned, as I imagine the large-scale murals in La Latina in Madrid are:
- or whether they seem to be making an anti-establishment statement, as in these three examples from Genoa, Madrid and Paris - the first reads 'Is a home a right?', the second something like 'What would the politicians think?', the third 'Does what you can get for free have a price?' (this is by an artist called Miss-Tic, whose work I saw all over Paris).
I find this next one rather mysterious - it says 'I find myself/I am found behind' and is on a crumbling building in a little square off Strada Nuova in Genoa.
I'm not whether this is all one piece or not, but I like the idea that someone has graffiti-ed the graffiti, as well as its Pop Art aesthetic. I found a lot of clever, stylish murals in Paris.
I'm not sure that this final example truly fits in, but I couldn't resist wedging in a little bit of history. It is from the tiny, charming Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz, a former-Mosque-turned-Christian-chapel in Toledo, and appears to show some angels taking the soul of a dead girl (either that or playfully tugging at a table-cloth).
Although some of the stencilled examples above could probably easily and quickly be reproduced elsewhere, I like how art on walls becomes part of both the particular wall that it is on - if it is not removed, the coating suffers the ravages of time and weather along with the surface it coats - and of the life that goes on around it.