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In order to break down barriers, Marvila came together for the Urban Art Festival

The 2nd edition of MURO, organised by GAU (Urban Art Gallery) has, as a vital element of its programme, the graffiti, in partnership with Gebalis, the Parish Council and the Libraries. This year’s edition took place in Marvila, four intense days of festivities, a celebration centred on urban art. The idea is to foster the celebration of the city’s public space, just to let creativity flow. This year’s edition was part of the international event Lisbon Ibero-American Capital of Culture 2017 – past and present, aiming to provide a moment of encountering and sharing between the artists of the Ibero-American nations and those of Lisbon’s urban art realm.

That’s the reason why street art creators have emerged to work together in this event. The chosen methodology was concatenated using three different vectors: – the participation of national authors, ensured by five artists: Godmess, Hazul, Kruella, M. Brum and LS, with the latter being the only local artist; the presence of five names of Ibero-American nations: Gleo from Colombia, Kobra from Brazil, Steep from Ecuador; Z. Bahamonte from Spain and Cix Mugre from Mexico and, then, five winners of the contests: Alecrim and The Caver (both Portuguese) and three South American: Medianeras from Argentina; J. Douglas and Krammer from Brazil. In the meantime, GAU has also invited Flix, a Venezuelan creator, who has a distinctive style, to establish a one-month artistic residence in Marvila, where he developed a site-specific project, involving a close cooperation with the young population of Bairro das Salgadas.

In this ensemble, some value the work of drawing in itself, instead of giving so much emphasis to shapes, through which one is capable of sensing the composition lines; in others, the artists paint directly on murals, thus granting the working elements with a much broader sense of freedom and spontaneity.

“The walls that we are giving life to are being raised hand in hand Inês Machado – GAU

The term MURO (wall), which was given to the festival, is associated with detachment, even though it has an intense connotation, and not always for the best reasons, alongside an array of political events, actually fits this sort of art in a positive sense, as these works are materialized in walls, in edified blocks, in an attempt to integrate local architecture. Instead of dividing, of enacting barriers between people and their mentalities, the Wall works as a perennial link to get them together in close communion, uniting them in diversity and respecting the local communities. According to GAU’s Coordinator, Inês Machado, this is the key concept behind it: “Our wall is based on the opposite idea of those walls so in vogue nowadays. We are building walls to unite, not to divide”.

Choosing the spot, a factor that has always been the beacon of the operating strategy of GAU, is tremendously important for the Festival, if not even decisive when taking into account the scheduling of this sort of interventions. They always go for peripheral territories, far from downtown areas, those which are in need of revitalization, those that are undergoing a crystal clear expansion and experiencing a full-size growth, those that are seldom explored, however with exceptional qualities that allow the street art work.

The family nuclei of Marvila were in need of an emergence of a brand new energy, capable of joining them together in order to create a dynamic established on urban qualities. “We had artists painting alongside herds of goats”. This is a collection comprised of 15 large-scale works, built based on the prerequisite that they could be contemplated from afar, carried out on the side façades of buildings scattered throughout different neighborhoods; conceived from two central equipment, the Elementary School and, above all, the new Municipal Library, two anchoring points, driving forces of the working nucleus of the Festival.

Throughout several weeks, behind the whole scaffolding and forklifts, these side façades, endowed with intense chromatic properties and a quite strong appealing factor, started to emerge bit by bit. In the future, it becomes increasingly imperative that the Culture Office of Lisbon’s City Council acknowledges this sort of contemporary participations of artistic creations, in an attempt to actively bring the local populations closer, particularly focused on the educational sector, in which children start to make plastic experiences from an early age alongside the authors of the pieces.

This Festival has this unique trait of working with the local community in an intense way, contributing to the crucial role that it has in terms of cultural and social inclusion, attenuating the currently existing tensions, whilst also creating new cultural hubs based on urban art. An event that tries to bring people together, using art, drawing and the trace for that matter, with the goal of finding a dialoguing path.

Manuela Synek has collaborated with Umbigo magazine for over ten years. As the years go by, it identifies itself more and more with this consistent, ever-changing, innovative, bold and consistent design in its editorial line. She is a Historian and Art Critic graduated by the Superior Institute of Artistic Careers of Paris in Critique of Art and Aesthetics. She is also graduated in Aesthetics from the University of Paris I - Panthéon – Sorbonne and has the "Postgraduate Course in History of Art, Contemporary Art Strand", by Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Manuela is the author of books on authors in the area of Plastic Arts and has participated in Colloquiums as Lecturer related to Artistic Heritage; Painting; Sculpture and Design in Universities; Higher Schools and Autarchies. Lately she specialized in the subject of Public Art and Urban Space, with the analysis of the artistic works where she has made Communications. She writes for Umbigo magazine about the work of artists in the area of the visual arts who appear in the field of exhibitions and also the dissemination of emerging Portuguese values with new supports since installation, photography and video, where the body appears in its various aspects, raising pertinent issues.

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