Episode 3 - Street Artists making a big impact around the world

Updated: Oct 11, 2019


Vocabulary


aboriginal-

acquainted - 

activist -  

admirer - 

baroque - 

dockworker - 

dump - 

elsewhere - 

ephemeral -  equivalent - 

graffiti -

indigenous

landfill - 

materialistic - 

philosophy - 

street art - 

street artist -

superficial - 

surroundings - 


Hello everyone and welcome to the third episode of Arty Anglais, the podcast where I talk about everything Art related for helping you to learn English, naturally.


Hello everyone and welcome back to Arty Anglais for our third episode. I've just come back from a few days in Berlin. I'm absolutely wiped out today! Which means I'm tired and exhausted. I did a lot of Art searching during my time in Berlin and mostly, I was interested in Urban Art. I couldn't wrap my head around how much Street art there was in Berlin!


'I couldn't wrap my head around' is a great Idiom to describe something that was difficult to understand. My time in Berlin went so quickly - As they say 'time flies when you're having fun!' This is another great idiom to describe when something you're doing makes you feel like the time passes quickly because you're enjoying it. I also did some Urban Sketching while searching for Street Art. I can describe this with another idiom by saying 'I was killing two birds with one stone! This one means I was able to do two things I love at the same time.


In Melbourne where I am from, Street Art is a big part of our city culture. I first started to learn more about Street Art when I travelled into the city every day to go to University (or uni as we would say). I couldn't believe how some of these amazing art pieces were painted. I wanted to know more about Street Art culture. Although I'm not an expert, I can say I really appreciate all kinds of Urban Art (Graffiti and Street Art). Street Art and Graffiti are different but I guess you could say that anything that is painted or displayed in the Street is Urban Art. When I did a tour in Berlin, our tour guide said something that I really agreed with he said 'Art can be anything you want it to be'. I love this philosophy because you might think something is art, but someone else might think it's not. Also, maybe something you think is not art, is art to someone else. Sometimes we think art has to have a hidden and deep meaning. But maybe sometimes there is no meaning behind it, other than the artist just likes something.


So, today I want to focus on the type of art done by street artists who do use their artworks to send important messages to the world. As well as talking about these artists, I'm going to talk to Lia (a street artist lover) and ask her what she thinks. Lia is probably the biggest fan of street art I personally know. She describes herself as someone who isn't very creative but she absolutely loves finding and taking photos of Street Art. She's an art admirer. She's also Portuguese and English is her second language. So I'm going to ask her what she thinks about some of these street artists that we are going to talk about today. You can see some of the street art photos on her instagram account - moviescientist.




Bordallo II


The first artist I want to talk to you about is Portuguese. Have you ever been to Lisbon and seen a giant, colourful, animal mural on the wall of a building? Have you noticed what it is made from?




Well, Bordallo II is our first artist for today and he makes these fascinating murals. He defines himself as an artist and an activist. An activist is someone who is passionate about something. They believe very strongly about an important political or social issue.


He believes that he belongs to a generation of people who are greedy and materialistic. What does that mean? It means he thinks that we consume too many things and create a lot of rubbish or trash that we need to throw away. He says "one mans trash is another man's treasure." So, he wants to create, recreate and put together artwork that is related to sustainability. He wants his artwork to send a message about ecological and social issues. For example, he wants people to think more about what it means to be more aware of the environment. He wants us to think about what happens to the waste we make. Such as where do all the used plastic water bottles go when we throw them out. He wants you to think about things like 'how can I reduce the amount of waste (or rubbish) I make and throw away.


Bordallo II creates his 'Big Trash Animals' artworks and murals using waste. He uses all sorts of old items such as plastics, scrap metal, wood, car bumpers, bins, old car tires and others. He then also uses paint which he believes gives the pieces something else that you can't achieve with just the shapes of the trash. Bordallo II was interviewed by the website I support Street Art.com. In this interview, he explains that the idea behind his murals is to represent nature. So he creates animals out of materials that are also starting to harm them and destroy their habitat. These works are built with end-of-life materials. That means these materials are no longer recycled and are meant for landfill (the garbage dump). Many of the materials are found in wastelands, abandoned factories or around rubbish bins. Some materials are found at companies that are going through a recycling process.


A few months ago I was lucky enough to go and see his first exhibition in Paris at Gallery Mathgoth. You can see some of the amazing works I saw in the transcript for this show. My favourite was definitely the Koala! I also loved the chimpanzee as it reminded me of Jane Goodall and all the great work she does fighting for environmental issues. Even though it was made of rubbish, their eyes looked so real. I mentioned Jane Goodall, if you don't know about her and you're passionate about environmental issues see if you can find a TED talk she has done. She speaks very clearly and slowly.


Anyway, I asked Lia why she likes Bordallo II and which artworks are her favourite and why?


Interview


In the transcript for these conversations, you’ll see I’ve added a few extra little notes to explain some of the expressions. I’ve also added a little bit of extra information if I thought it needed a little more explanation or made some slight grammatical corrections.


Bordallo


Tara: Thank you for joining me today Lia it's nice to have another voice on the podcast that isn't mine and also someone who, like Bordallo II, is Portuguese.

Lia: Thank you for having me

Tara: Can you tell me a little bit about why you like Bordallo?

Lia: So I had heard a lot about Bordallo work before I saw his first piece in Lisbon a couple of years ago. So, Actually it was very funny because I was walking around in my neighbourhood in Lisbon and I just came across a piece and I said well, I think I know this artist. And it was this beautiful parrot on the wall, under a bridge in a garden close to my house in Lisbon. And it was so beautiful, it was colourful and at first, I didn't really realise it was made of rubbish even though I knew that Bordallo’s work was made of trash, but it was very colourful, very much integrated into the background where it was. I thought it was really beautiful, I was really excited when I first saw this piece.

Tara: Can you tell me what you mean by integrated? What does integrated mean?

Lia: It just means that I think it blends in really well with the surroundings where the piece is?

Tara: So after you found the first piece {of art} did you see any other pieces in Lisbon that were made by Bordallo II?

Lia: I didn't see any more that particular year but the following year I made a point of {when} going around the city in Lisbon. I had some addresses and I made a point of going and trying to find them. I found three our four of them I think. Which is not all of them there in Lisbon. He has quite a lot of work all over the country in Portugal. But I really wanted to see these ones. They were some of the ones that I had seen in Street Art magazines and things like that. So, the first one is a big Racoon that is all over a big wall in a building behind the cultural centre in Belem and It’s really beautiful. It’s a little bit hidden which is how most of his works are. You kind of need to know where they are. Which I like because it makes like a bit of a treasure hunt every time. And it was very colourful and this was the first time where I could really get close to his piece

Tara: So which one was that?

Lia: This was the Racoon in Belem (in Lisbon). I could really see how he uses all this rubbish, all this stuff that we throw out. I was quite impressed by the way he uses tyres and metal pieces and pieces of engines. It’s quite impressive.

Tara: What is so nice about this particular piece? Of the Racoon?

Lia: It’s just so big and like a lot of Bordallo II works, you need to stand back to appreciate how beautifully done they are. The way the eyes and the expression the animal has {on it’s face} is really touching. {you}

Tara: I’ve seen this piece also and my favourite part of this mural is the really bright green background, it really helps to make it stand out.

Lia: Then (as I was telling you) I saw some other pieces. The second one I saw (it’s in a street) one of the big avenues in Lisbon - Avenue 24th July and it’s in a totally abandoned building that is falling apart. He managed to do this beautiful fox. Also once again, it’s very colourful. You know, people pass by and they don’t even notice (in a way) which is odd. Once again you have to stand back to really appreciate how beautifully detailed the fox is. I really like it because it’s once again very well integrated into the building in the site where it is. Well, this is also one of my favourites.


I saw another one in the LX factory which has a lot of street art. If you go to Lisbon you need to go there. There is a piece of his artwork in the youth hostel which is a bee. The bee (once again) there is plants around the bee which is made of trash and it’s really really well done.


Tara: I’ve also seen this artwork. It’s surrounded by lots of hanging plants. It’s a good example of how nature blends into the surroundings of the artwork.


Tara: So you recently went to Paris and you saw the Bordallo exhibition at Gallery Mathgoth. What did you think about the exhibition?

Lia: So I was really excited because Bordallo does not do a lot of standard exhibitions. When I found out that he was going to be in Paris for a little while I was super excited. Actually, it coincided (it was at the same time) as my birthday so it was a great birthday present to go and see him and his work (not him). Unfortunately, I missed him by a couple of days but it would have been a pleasure. It was really good because, in the gallery itself, he had pieces made of other types of trash like plastic bits that you find in the sea and things like that. So, they were not murals (most of them). They were smaller pieces or sculptures. There was a really big bear (like a polar bear with a baby) which was kind of a sculpture which was on the floor. But (it) was made of all sorts of trash that you find in Portugal and elsewhere. Then what I really really liked is that I had seen on some sites (internet websites) that he had a couple of pieces done especially in Paris for the time of the exhibition. We asked in the Galley and we managed to find them. One of them is an owl that was in an abandoned train station really close to the Galley Mathgoth. It was so beautiful, the setting once again, and I went to see it at sunset and it was just an unbelievable experience I was super super happy and super excited to see it.

Then we went to find another piece that was under a bridge also close to the gallery which was, a sloth? (If I remember correctly). Once again, well it’s beautiful and I could get really close to this one. I really appreciate all the care that Bordallo and his team have in while doing this, these Trash Animals.

Tara: They are great for photos aren’t they

Lia: Yes,

Tara: You have a lot on your Instagram account

Lia: Yes I do, I love it!


You can see where these Murals are in Lisbon and Paris on the transcript for the Episode. You'll have to use your imagination for the ones in Paris because the murals are too new and don't show up in Google maps yet. But you can see both these murals on Lia's Instagram account.

The Racoon in Lisbon


The Fox in Lisbon



The Sloth



The owl


After I went to see Bordallo II in Paris I went to search for some of the murals he had made close by to the Gallery. You can see where some of these murals are on the maps in my post but you'll have to compare the images to the map because you can't see them in google yet!


If you have also seen these murals what did you think of them? What were your thoughts when you first saw them?


Ah yes, now I remember. Just before the exhibition I also bought the magazine GraffitiArt which had an interview with Bordallo II. I've been reading this magazine a lot to help with my French learning. It's written in French and English which is really helping with my reading comprehension. This has been a really great way to keep me motivated while learning. If you have an interest in art, I really recommend reading it to use it to help with learning English. I really like the interviews with the artists as it's like a transcript of a conversation. If you can't find this magazine where you live, you could try subscribing online. Or I'm sure there are some others that are also bilingual.



In the Graffiti Art Interview, Bordallo tells the readers that he is more than just an artist. He is an activist. He says 'I wouldn't feel good if what I made was just about the design, I would find it superficial. What does superficial mean? In this case, if something he made was superficial, it would have no meaning behind it. He is trying to tell us that he wants his artwork to help spread an important message. This is also known as making a statement. We use this term a lot in art. Sometimes the artwork is made to 'make a statement.'


Apparently, Bordallo's schedule is very full for 2019. He seems to have a lot of things planned. I suggest if you're interested, to follow his facebook or Instagram pages for updates.


Adnate


The next Artist I wanted to talk to you about is Australian. His artist name is Adnate. He is passionate about Indigenous people's rights in Australia.




He is an artist that realises his portraits with spray paint to create realistic portraits. He is very influenced by the works of the Italian Baroque painter, Caravaggio. Adnate says:

"When I started painting portraits I very quickly went to Caravaggio because he worked with heavy black backgrounds and heaps of contrast, Maybe it's because when you paint graffiti and lettering, you're always trying to create a lot of contrast with your letters so it really pops off and stands out. I definitely adopt the same sort of techniques in my portraits.

Quote appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald

I love the use of the word 'heaps' in that quote. It's a word we use a lot in Australia when we mean to say there was a lot of something. So instead of saying 'There were a lot of people on the beach today', Australians would say 'there were heaps of people on the beach today. It is something many foreigners always point out to us as being typically Australian English. I believe the equivalent in England would be loads. There were loads of people on the beach today. It's interesting to think about the differences, anyway.


Adnate feels a connection towards indigenous people and their native land, especially with Indigenous Australians.  He paints large murals in the main cities around Australia and the world. He creates a statement. His message or statement is that he wants to reclaim the land that always belonged to Indigenous Australians.  His paintings give us a way to understand more about the stories and emotions of each person or subject he paints. The eyes in many of his paintings are very realistic and very striking and beautiful. They really stand out. When you see them, sometimes you feel like you're looking into the soul of the person he has painted.



Look into those amazing eyes!


I really feel that this type of work is significant. He uses his skills and talents as an artist to raise awareness for a very important cause in Australia. This can be seen in his recent Instagram post where his murals are used as a background for the question - will Australia ever have a black prime minister?


My favourite portrait is a painting of a young indigenous boy in Hosier Lane in Melbourne.

It's a 23metre tall mural which looks towards Birrurung Marr which is a significant Aboriginal site in Melbourne. As the portrait is so large, Adnate said that his portrait was designed to represent and give power to Indigenous culture. He wants to empower them.


I asked Lia what she thought about some of the work of Adnate that she saw the first time she visited Melbourne.


Interview


Tara: I really liked the work of Adnate because I feel as though he's trying to send a message and he's murals are very very striking. So they really make people stop to look and perhaps think about what they are seeing.

Tara: So, can you tell me about the first time you saw the work about Adnate and what was the first mural that you saw?

Lia: So I first got acquainted with the work of Adnate when I went to Melbourne in April 2017 the first time I went to Australia. I mean, I really wanted to go to Melbourne to see Street Art because I knew it was very famous for that. One of the most famous places, of course, was Hosier Lane and I was just going across checking lots of different artists here and there. Then suddenly, you turn the corner and you see this amazing piece on the side of a huge building of an indigenous boy and it’s really really striking. It’s beautiful eyes. So beautifully done in this portrait. And so this was the first time that I got acquainted with Adnate’s work.

Tara: What was the first thing you thought when you saw this mural?

Lia: Once again, I mean I thought it was very well integrated within the backgrounds. And then it’s the message that comes across. I mean, (very often we use I mean in the place of saying ummmm or so) you’re in Australia. You see all these different works of people but to see this portrait of an indigenous boy I think this was a beautiful message of the cultural background of Australian culture (that is important in Australia).

Tara: Indigenous rights and land rights are a huge issue in Australia so it’s important that these Artworks help us to start thinking about these issues and how we can be more sensitive and thoughtful.

Lia: So I thought it was quite nice and then in those two weeks that I was in and around Melbourne I saw many others of his works and was quite impressed by it.

Tara: Did you wonder more about who this artist was and maybe more about indigenous culture after seeing this painting?

Lia: Yes of course, I mean once I found out the name of this artist and I went to check his Instagram page (and all of that) I saw that a lot of his work was about trying to portray (show) the indigenous culture and how this has an effect on the Australian culture. So, it was quite interesting for me as well and I did come across a lot other of (of his other pieces) mainly the one in Brunswick I think where there is this young child on the wall of a church (I think if I remember correctly) and it was so beautiful. One of the things that strike me the most in his paintings are the ways he paints the eyes and the expression of the people in these portraits. It’s very very endearing (affectionate, lovely, nice.

Tara: As I was saying before it feels like you could dive into these eyes and be acquainted with the soul of this person because the eyes are so striking.

Lia: And it’s like they follow you when you are looking at the pieces.

Tara: Why do you like the work of Adnate compared to say, some other art, some other artists? What is more striking about his work?

Lia: I think that the message, of the fact that he portrays (show something in a work of art) indigenous people it's quite interesting and, you know, he does have a message, it’s not just a piece of art which is beautifully done. I’m quite impressed by how you can do such a big painting which kind of reminds you of more classical, even impressionist painters. And how can you do this in (on) a big wall in such a beautiful, beautiful way, so expressive and with so much soul?

Tara: It’s interesting to look at his Instagram page because he has some photos of how he works. And, its The scale of it is so big. So you see him standing on a cherry picker and then rest of this mural is 20m bigger than him. So it's quite impressive. Have you ever seen street artists working before?

Lia: I’ve seen it in Australia and also in San Francisco. I’ve seen people work before but not on this scale. Not on this scale. And the other thing that I, from you know Adnate’s Instagram page that you notice is that he portrays real people which is very interesting. Very often once he has finished his piece he takes pictures of the person that inspired him so that’s quite interesting as well (and nice for the people he paints).



Adnate hopes that the murals he creates will help to the change society’s views and educate people about indigenous people and their important stories. As well as his regular work Adnate also does charity work. He raises money for indigenous communities in Australia through the sale of his artworks.


JR Artist


My third artist for today is known as JR. He is a french photographer and artist. I only recently started to learn more about him after I watched a French Documentary co-directed by him and the well known French director Agnes Varda. The documentary is called Visages, Villages (translating to Villages and Faces).



The pair travel and take pictures together, and paste gigantic portraits on the sides of old houses, city walls, abandoned buildings and even beaches. You can imagine what the word gigantic means when you see how big some of these murals are on the walls. I love using the adjective gigantic to describe something that is really big. I think it makes more of an impact than the adjective big.


The people that JR and Agnes take photos of in the film included ex-miners, waitresses, factory workers and spouses of dockworkers. Theses people then talk about how they feel about their photos being on the walls. They reflected upon seeing themselves, but also just spoke their mind about other interesting topics. When you speak your mind, you're telling people how you really feel about something. One of the girls in the film was not afraid to speak her mind because she told JR and Agnes she didn't like her face being pasted on a wall. I think it's important sometimes to tell people the truth about what you think.


Sometimes the film is very funny because both of them like to make fun of each other. In other words, they like to make friendly jokes about each other.

I really enjoyed the way they made people who seemed so ordinary feel special because they made their photos into murals.


My favourite work from the movie was an image of Guy Bourdin (a french artist and photographer). It was so clever how the shape of the image fit the wall of a fallen World War II bunker. Soon after the mural was finished, it was washed away by the waves. It was a message that in life many things are ephemeral. Meaning, they don't last, they change. It was also a reminder that sometimes mother nature is more powerful. Maybe you're wondering, why would they make something so beautiful that doesn't last? The artists who do this work know that is ephemeral, that it won't last. They believe that the process of making the art is more meaningful, it's more profound. This is another excellent adjective profound that is used to describe art a lot. It means that its really really great, amazing, emotional, wonderful, clever, fantastic. It is also often used to describe something that makes you think a lot about it.


An image of GUY BOURDIN pasted onto the fallen World War II bunker

Recently JR completed some work to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Pyramid at the Louvre.


After the artist sent out a photo of the installation, lots of visitors swarmed to the site. Swarmed is a great verb to use when we describe tourists! We use this verb because the people move in large numbers like a swarm of bees.


Then in no time, the fragile paper which was laid out in the 17,000 square-meter plazas started to break apart. Some visitors were shocked at how quickly it disappeared just like the image of Guy Bourdin was washed away by the waves. Again, this work was meant to be ephemeral and profound.


JR wrote about his work on Twitter:

“The images, like life, are ephemeral. Once pasted, the art piece lives on its own.” “The sun dries the light glue and with every step, people tear pieces of the fragile paper. The process is all about the participation of volunteers and visitors...”


Sadly, Agnès Varda passed away at age 90 on March 29th, while JR and his team were in the middle of installing the artwork at The Louvre.


So once the artwork was completed JR wrote a special message just for her. “I finished this one for you Agnès Varda, you loved people, pasting and illusion …  I am sure you can see it. I did something that can be seen from the sky. Promised, I didn’t know that it was for you.”


And that's all from me today. Thanks so much for joining me. Thank you Lia for your ideas and thoughts on some of your favourite street artists. I'd love to have you back for a future episode when we talk about some more artists who are local to Montpellier!


I hope you enjoyed the episode for today and you'll join us next time. Before I forget, what have I decided to talk about next time? This was a hard one! There are so many things I want to talk about but this topic is inspired by the tour guide that did our Street Art tour. He said that he believed 'Art is anything you want it to be'. But tastemakers are the ones who decide if it's good or popular or not. Next time, I'll explain what I mean by a tastemaker and we'll explore what makes something art.


I look forward to sharing my ideas with you.


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Thank you :)



Discussion questions


What is something you are passionate about?

If you become a street artist what could be your subject?

Did you think it was a good idea to make artwork out of Rubbish?

Have you ever seen any of these artworks before?

Which artist did you like most? Why?

What does it mean to make a statement?

What other interesting artists do you know that make a statement?

What does it mean when the artwork is ephemeral?

Do you like that the artwork is ephemeral?

Can you tell me about an interesting piece of art that made you stop and think about something?



Hi, I'm Tara. An Australian English Teacher in Montpellier. You can get in touch with me by email info@artyanglais.com


Links


Bordallo II


Adnate


JR


GraffittiArt Mag


Alternative Street Art Tours Berlin


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