with public art
Whether depicting a birthday party or a child’s first steps, the expressive murals by Mohamed L’Ghacham (previously) enlarge sincere, unposed moments into monumental celebrations of everyday life. The Moroccan artist recreates vintage photographs as wall-sized artworks in locations across Europe that portray a woman readying for bed or the chaotic minutes before a family portrait at a massive scale.
L’Ghacham tells Colossal that his relationship to the original images has evolved in recent years from a simple juxtaposition of the site and the quiet, unassuming beauty of the domestic scenes to a more complex understanding. “Those first murals were done in abandoned, demolished places or simply on the outskirts of cities and public spaces. The impact of seeing an image of this type painted with a technique closer to classical painting than graffiti in such spaces created a concept by itself for me,” he says.
Today, the Barcelona-based artist sources reference photographs and home videos from neighbors and city archives to connect more directly with the local culture. While his style is unchanged—L’Ghacham continues to use loose brushstrokes and layers of muted tones to achieve the vintage aesthetic—the streetside works reflect those living nearby. “I think (the murals) can be very symbolic and that many people can feel represented even if they are not necessarily the protagonists portrayed,” he says. “Until now my intention was to pay tribute and give visibility to situations that we all live in and that maybe sometimes we find it hard to value.”
Starting next month, L’Ghacham will be traveling around Europe for a few projects and has a solo exhibition at PDP Gallery slated for this summer, which will be comprised of the smaller paintings he’s been sharing on Instagram.
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150,000 Hearts Representing Lives Lost to Coronavirus in the UK Line the COVID Memorial Wall in London
Nearly 500 meters of small, red hearts will soon cover an expanse of concrete facing the River Thames in London. Now dubbed the National COVID Memorial Wall, the poignant display publicly commemorates the 150,000 lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom so far. Each heart represents one victim, with short messages of grief, love, and remembrance scribed by loved ones in their centers. It takes about ten minutes to walk by the entirety of the project, which serves as a staggering reminder of the virus’s devastation.
Coordinated by COVID-19 Bereaved Families For Justice, the two-meter-high wall is situated between the Westminster and Lambeth bridges, opposite the Houses of Parliament. According to The Guardian, Matt Fowler helms the ongoing project, which he began a few weeks ago by painting 15,000 hearts on the facade. His father died from the virus last April. “When you see all the hearts and think what each one represents, it’s absolutely frightening,” Fowler says.
Organizers still are raising money for supplies to complete all 150,000 hearts—although official government statistics currently reflect 149,000 deaths, which is the largest loss in Europe—that volunteers will continue to paint to account for all victims. Talks are also in the works about preserving the memorial to ensure that it’s a permanent fixture in London.
This past weekend, photographer Henri Calderon captured images for Colossal that document the memorial’s progress, which you can see below.
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The Wound: JR's New Anamorphic Artwork Appears to Carve Out the Facade of Florence's Palazzo Strozzi
French artist JR unveiled an imposing artwork at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence last week that mimics a massive gash in the institution’s Renaissance-era facade. Spanning 28 x 33 meters, “La Ferita,” or “The Wound,” is an anamorphic collage that appears to reveal the iconic artworks housed inside the building, in addition to a stately courtyard colonnade, exhibition hall, and library. Exposing different parts of the interior as the viewer shifts position, the artwork is in response to the lack of accessibility at cultural institutions since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Completed alongside a team of 11 in two months, the site-specific piece was constructed 30 centimeters in front of the 15th Century ashlar facade with a metal structure and 80 panels of Dibond aluminum. It features JR’s signature photographic style—similar projects were installed at Williamsburg’s Domino Park, the Louvre, and the U.S./Mexico border—and includes a mix of real and imagined elements, including black-and-white renderings of Botticelli’s “Primavera” and “Birth of Venus” and Giambologna’s “The Rape of the Sabine Women,” in addition to prominent spaces like the Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento.
“The Wound” is layered further with references to art history, from its use of the trompe l’oeil technique that grew in popularity in the 1500s to its evocation of ruinism, an 18th Century style that portrayed ancient architecture “as testimonials to a glorious past in a dramatic reflection on the fate of mankind,” a release says, noting that Palazzo Strozzi will not be preserving the piece beyond its initial construction.
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Fio Silva tucks clusters of oversized birds and botanicals into otherwise stark urban spaces, creating striking murals awash in puffs of feathers, petals, and leaves. The Buenos Aires-based artist focuses largely on movement, a thread that runs through both the vivid renderings of winged subjects as they appear to take flight or perch for just a moment. “It was that lack of stillness through work and searching for walls to paint that I found meaning in my time,” Silva tells Colossal.
When working in color, the artist starts with blues, yellows, and reds before expanding the palette based on the “moods and to intensify, in some way, what I want to convey, if it is something rather clear, bright, or something… more subdued or desolate,” Silva says. “When I paint, I try to convey a certain force, that by seeing it or sharing it I can move someone, in whatever way.”
Silva plans to complete a few murals in Argentina during the next few months and will travel to Europe during the summer, with an exhibition of smaller paintings slated for October in Paris. Keep up with the artist’s monumental public works on Instagram.
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Crosswalks become perches and bike lanes morph into a monkey’s ropes in Roadsworth’s lively street interventions. For decades, the Montréal-based artist (previously) has been altering sidewalks, alleyways, and other public spots with largely nature-based projects that are informed by social issues and environmental crises. Whether a trippy koi pond or a simple yellow spider, the additions transform otherwise drab streets into unexpected commentary.
In recent years, Roadsworth has created large-scale projects for a variety of organizations, including revitalizing a basketball court for a social housing complex and another for Amnesty International that comments on the horrors of the refugee crisis. Beyond commissions, he continues guerilla street art tactics, installing oversized birds, insects, and other animals that often are overlooked.
The artist tells Colossal that these works reflect his “philosophy in regards to public art/street art which implies a questioning of urban space in general and an entreaty to rethink a city that is more conducive to walking/cycling and less dominated by cars, etc. The depiction of various animals is a playful way of reinventing the notion of urban space.”
Follow Roadsworth on Instagram to keep up with his site-specific works that merge art and activism.
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A Short Film Chronicles Mural Fest Kosovo, Void Projects' Initiative to Infuse a War-Torn City with Public Art
“At that time it wasn’t easy for me to be in the public with my camera because the country was very sensitive to reporters like me,” photojournalist Hazir Reka tells a group of muralists. “Being in the public with a camera was no different to being in public with a weapon because of how much it could affect reality.” Reka’s referring to a tumultuous time in Kosovo’s history when the region was in the midst of war, an experience he shares with the artists who traveled to the region in September 2020 for Mural Fest Kosovo.
Organized by the art collective Void Projects (previously), which is helmed by Axel Void, the initiative sought to revitalize the public spaces within Ferizaj, a small city desolated by war. Fifteen international muralists—the list includesAruallan, Emilio Cerezo, Doa Oa, Alba Fabre, Maria Jose Gallardo, and Zane Prater—gathered for the project that U.K.-based filmmaker Doug Gillen documents in a new short film.
Throughout “Change,” Gillen follows ten of the artists as they immerse themselves in local life and engage with the city’s youngest residents through workshops and school initiatives that directly involved the children and teens in the creative process. Their resulting artworks are a reflection of these interactions and large-scale depictions of the area’s ecology, citizens, and cultural milieu. While each is distinct in aesthetic—Aruallan and Void produced a photorealistic rendering of an 11-year-old boy they met on the street, while Fabre’s ethereal mural depicts an unknown woman lying in the water in traditional clothing, for example—they’re all infused with themes surrounding the city’s unique environment and more universal understandings of shared humanity.
“The greater this connection, the more effective the work. Exploring the human stories of Ferizaj in this way, at this very unique moment in time, felt like an important opportunity to document meaningfully,” Gillen said.
Watch the full film above to dive further into Kosovo’s history, and see all of the murals and glimpses into the artists’ experiences collaborating with Ferizaj residents on Void Projects’ Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Photography
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.