Street art in Lisbon
Portugal has a strong decorative tradition in its streets. Ever since the Moors introduced the vibrant tile tradition of the azulejos, houses have been faced in ceramic patterns. As a first time visitor to Lisbon I was struck by the visual quality of this work, often showing its age, overlaid by graffiti, or in the posher ends of town renovated or reinvented, these designs are part of the city’s fabric. But Lisbon also has more contemporary facades, one of which I was happy to stubble across by accident. Street artists have been commissioned as part of the Crono project to reface some of the city’s derelict buildings, in this case a large and neglected 19th century building in the business district. The Italian street artist Blu worked alongside Os Gemeos (identical twin brothers Otávio and Gustava Pandolfo) from São Paulo, Ericailcane from Italy and Spanish artist Sam3 to transform this building on a massive scale with crocodiles, giant burglars and an oil baron sucking the Earth dry.
Sam3 whose spans animation, murals, sculpture and drawing, is perhaps best known for his large scale figurative work on buildings, billboards and walls around the world. Working mostly in black and white, the silhouetted figures, trees, ladders and animals have a strong iconic quality that makes them stand out from their surroundings. Figures struggling with huge burdens, groups of celestial dancers and hidden giants suggest some allegorical or mythological underpinning to his work. Certainly there’s a moral commentary at play, such as his a skinny bull as a symbol of the Spanish recession.
The work of Blu and Os Gemeos spans drawing and installations, street art and sculptures, some are street interventions others commissioned collaborations such as the Crono project, while the murals and drawings of Ericailcane draw from a more illustrative tradition. All share a visual playfulness that becomes all the more striking because of the scale and context of the work.
Seeing Sam3’s work in Lisbon I’m simply blown away by the simplicity and the scale, but also the fact that his work interacts with the surrounding in such a direct way; the Lisbon burglar is reaching into the building through its bricked up windows. It’s this interventionist approach to his work; incorporating the real walls and billboards, into his drawings that makes this work so exciting for me.