“Playing with your Heart”
“Fixing your Heart”
Skount (Raúl Garcia Pereira) is an artist in the fullest sense of the word--he’s studied culinary arts, makes music, and draws or paints all over whatever material he can get his hands on. He started in his pre-teens, with the discovery of a piece of graffiti in his hometown. He realized that art was everywhere, and that he, too, could make it, and he embarked on an exploration of that realization, becoming one of the most well-known graffiti artists in Spain, later traveling all over the world to create commissioned works.
graffiti by Skount
“Open to Fix Me”
Graffiti is an interesting sector of the art world, as it democratizes the field in that materials are very cheap: the canvas is free, and the spray paint needs no brushes or other tools. The art form itself sounds more than a little Buddhist, as well, when you hear Skount describe it: “A graffiti on a wall can last an hour, a week, or months. You never know. It’s just a part of the deal. You either accept that or you don’t paint.” That’s not always because of cleaning crews, either. Sometimes, in spots that will receive a lot of attention, new artists will come along and cover someone else’s work with their own. So the act of creation is often the entire experience, as the “proof” of much of a graffiti-artist’s work will disappear quickly, like the sand-paintings created by Tibetan monks, which are softly blown into the wind once completed. And as you can see from the above images, Skount is big on the detail of textures; his works seem like they would take a good long while to create.
The politics of ownership being what they are, however, graffiti, which in Barcelona (where he was based) was a respected, popular art form in the early 1990s, hit a patch of nasty legal trouble. The government passed a law banning all graffiti, as well as skateboarding and other cheap public activities, and the murals began disappearing faster than ever. Some photographers got together and made an attempt to record the art before it was destroyed, and put together a book called Barcelona 1000 Graffitis, in which professor Josep Maria Catala, of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, reminds us that painting started out on walls, long before there was canvas. The 2002 discovery of an intact Mayan mural from AD. 100 speaks to that claim, as do ancient cave paintings discovered near Tarn-et-Garonne, France. According to Wikipedia,
“The ancient Romans carved graffiti on walls and monuments, examples of which also survive in Egypt...Ancient graffiti displayed phrases of love declarations, political rhetoric, and simple words of thought ...The eruption of Vesuvius preserved graffiti in Pompeii, including Latin curses, magic spells, declarations of love, alphabets, political slogans and famous literary quotes, providing insight into ancient Roman street life.”
“....It was not only the Greeks and Romans that produced graffiti: the Mayan site of Tikal in Guatemala also contains ancient examples. Viking graffiti survive in Rome and at Newgrange Mound in Ireland, and a Varangian scratched his name (Halvdan) in runes on a banister in the Hagia Sophia at Constantinople.These early forms of graffiti have contributed to the understanding of lifestyles and languages of past cultures.”
Perhaps in response to the suddenly aggressive government censorship (he was himself arrested), Skount created the Caonima Dragon:
In the Chinese language, a word can have many connotations, with the distinctions being made via intonation. Cao Ni Ma is a combination of Chinese characters which spell “Grass-Mud Horse,” but its pronunciation sounds very much like a nasty obscenity. The Grass-Mud Horse is a type of mythical Alpaca, created by Chinese net-users as a protest against government censorship. Because the word is spelled innocently, the censors did not pick it up. Thus a YouTube recording of a song telling the tale of the Cao Ni Ma and its “river-crab” (a homonym of “harmony,” net-speak for censorship) predator was able to spread like a virus on the web, making it into a New York Times article, and humiliating Chinese officials in a very public arraignment of their censorship policies (which covered everything, even cell-phone text messages). The image above grafts the Caonima with a dragon, which may be representative of the success of that campaign--how simple words (like the collage of newsprint making up its body) grew into such a powerful beast, and also how useless is the attempt to squash language, such an endlessly creative tool. In Asian cultures, the dragon, a benevolent force, is “associated with wisdom—often said to be wiser than humans—and longevity (Wikipedia),” thus underscoring the presence of those two attributes in the opposition groups.
On the other hand, he also reminds us that not all words found on the internet spring from wisdom:
Here’s a video of Skount with fellow street artist Btoy, constructing and spray-painting a large cube on a city square in Barcelona. For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, insane painting occurs about 2 minutes in.
Skount’s appreciation of nature:
“Princess of Spring”
“Prince of Summer”
It was not his graffiti which caught my eye, however, as I am nowhere near the cultural centers where this kind of activity might take place (he’s absolutely welcome to come paint on the side of my house, though, please). It was his works on paper (also shown above) and his collages that I fell in love with. Skount divides people into four categories: those who need everyone to look at them, those who need someone to look at them, those who need only the one they love to look at them, and those who live for the imaginary gaze of imaginary others. He calls those in the last group the soñadores, the dreamers. And he is one.
“Dreams are not just a message (a coded message, at that), but also an aesthetic activity, a game of the imagination that has its own value. Dreams are proof that fantasies--emotional immersion in the visualization of events that have never and may never occur-- are one of the profoundest necessities for human life...The characters that come from my imagination are my own possibilities, those that never came to bear, or those still on my horizon...” (translation mine)
And he has found a way to give those fleeting, intangible characters--those missed, impossible, or yet-to-be-born characters--life.
“Adorando mi Corazon Hilado”