Redox for Galleria del Sale: First weekreportage by Claudia Puddu
Photos by Beatrice Schivo and Claudio Valenti
They call it street art, they call it graffiti, they call it wall painting; I’m walking through the small port of Su Siccu with my notebook, eager to know more about it, and I find, at the bottom left, a little street leading to the cycling lane.
The Salt Road makes you feel, for a few minutes, like being in New Mexico: a narrow orange street, tiny walksides, wild bushes and that kind of silence that isolates you, with no need of wearing your headphones because of the noise. Such a nice place, the Salt Road.
Fast cyclists are passing by my left, well disciplined while wearing their helmets and their high visibility vests; following them led me to what is going to be, during these two weeks, an open air gallery. The flyover walls, dominating the cycling lane that connect the port of Su Siccu to Viale La Palma, will be canvas.
They call it street art, they call it graffiti, they call it wall painting: but I think that, after getting rid of all the sciolism and the proper distinctions, calling it “artwork”, which is generic but maybe more comprehensive, is fairer for those artists that refuse to be stucked inside one definition.
At my arrival under the first flyover, the one dedicated to the works of UFOE and LA FILLE BERTHA, a calm mood, dense with preparatory work, reigns over. The main characters of this weekend are not arrived yet, but the place is already crowded with the co-stars of the event; first, the guys from Urban Center, carrying on their shoulders the burden of the unexpected things that occur in every event, then the journalists from the most popular sardinian press agencies, and last, myself and the two photographers that are with me, Beatrice e Claudio. After an initial inspection of the whole area, I start to take a deeper look around. The chromatic impact coming back at me is pretty depressing; the canal, outlined by bushes and weed, wears an unpleasant shade of green, the walls have still attached the signs of ten and more years old posters of Moira Orfei, while the ones that have been cleaned are now showing various grey nuances. I say to myself that a touch of color would not do any harm to a place like that, and I slowly start to rethink about the presence of that canal and the wild nature surrounding the walls, wondering how the artists will use the location to contextualize their works.
The main theme was given by the organizers, and it is nature indeed. That nature often used as the main subject by artists like CRISA and TELLAS, working under Ponte Vittorio. Beyond the canal, the Sant’Elia Stadium is a sight that stands out, and the artist ZED1, from Florence, is going to work right in front of it.
The first day is characterized awaiting the artists. Preparations are, in fact, long. The guys from Urban Center are bringing paint and brushes from a bridge to the other within the cycling lane, trying to avoid collisions with the cyclists that, intrigued, stop in front of the organizers desk, asking me for information, wondering what is happening and what is the meaning beyond the stripes around the walls. They answer with smiles and nods to my explanations, and promise to come back in the afternoon. A fulfilled promise, especially by a family that not only waited with their children for the artists to arrive, but kept running through the cycling lane to inform everyone passing by of the starting event.
The artists, one by one, begin to set their place up. ZED1 arrives, stares at the wall from side to side, asks for rod and stairs and immediately begins to work.
I blame myself for not renting a bicycle while I am walking for more than an half-hour to join him, then we sit on the sidewalk in front of the stadium and talk about the first strokes of his work, trying to guess what the final result will be. He releases me the first interview of the event, explaining -and almost showing some kind of affection- the illegal side of street art, namely, the writers world, because if it is now possible to have approved agreements on wall paintings, the credit goes to to who made this practice legal when it was absolutely not.
While I’m listening to this bearded man who has been working around the world for more than twenty years, a smile comes upon my face when I see the guys of Urban Center borrowing bicycles to move faster from random people passing by.
I take a short note on my journal “paint bucket inside the wicker basket of a Graziella”, and I don’t know why, but I find this picture really poetic; maybe the reason is that it is good to see how the efforts of so many young people, spending time to improve their city, are repaid even by a simple gesture like borrowing a bicycle.
I spend most of my afternoon watching UFOE, TELLAS, CRISA and LA FILLE BERTHA preparing the wall for the paint. The white paint flows covering what is below, both the impersonal grey of the wall itself and the previous drawings.
I am going back and forth to the beginning of the cycling and Ponte Vittorio, and I suddenly bump into CONAN’s wall and, mostly, I bump into his balaclava. I sit near him on a sidewalk in front of the wall, facing the Asse Mediano. A pretty uncomfortable position, near the road, with little chance to see the whole work from a distance. He is rolling a cigarette while I am interviewing him, his balaclava always on, and I am trying to know more about the graffiti and the murales (or wall painting) community; he explains me how murales originates from the popular tradition of Mexico, how street art can also be three-dimensional (just think about those series made through the walls) and how it can have pop and minimalism influences both, while on the other hand graffiti are more a self-referential and egocentric manifestation. We are spacing from the most accurate notions to the definition of the expression “telarsi”, so typical of Cagliari, when CRISA joins us, riding another borrowed bicycle and looking for brushes.
It’s Saturday afternoon and the dark stain of paint by CRISA is starting to get populated by details, according to his poetics, that depicts Nature invading and almost overcoming metropolises, and his drawing crosses the different shades of blu of TELLAS’. Those two, as CRISA says, often work together and their drawings invade each other’ space. We talk about his projects, not only those in Sardinia, but overseas as well, and I keep looking for differences between graffiti and wall painting, as CRISA defines it. He explains that spray graffiti are one thing, wall painting is a total different one, and street art is, more generically, everything that interacts with the street, from performance to installation.
CONAN teaches me his typical greeting, which we use every time I pass by his wall, when my personal acknowledgment finally comes: a stranger in his sixties stops right in front of me, and asks me if I am a writers. Yes, that’s exactly what he said, “writers”. Smiling, I show them the real writers and he runs after them.
This street art event is organized by the Urban Center Cagliari association, inside the project “Iniziative di creatività urbana – Inter20”, financed by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. This means that they have all the municipality permissions, of course, but when the police stopped near the stadium and approached ZED1, I must admit my prejudice: I was sure they wanted to do another inspection and I immediately complained about their ignorance, but suddenly we heard screaming, from the other side of the canal: “Congratulations for your works, they are beautiful!”, and we saw them sitting and chatting with the artists.
Meanwhile, the Sconvolts from Cagliari, waiting for their Italy Cup match, are all getting in line to take a piss on the walls. Oh, if only I had a camera with me, or one of Redox’s photographers close by.
I’m interviewing LA FILLE BERTHA and UFOE while they are busy finishing their works with their tags; LA FILLE BERTHA is very clear about the distinction of murales, graffiti and street art. She just calls it wall painting, whether it is legal or not, lettering or something else. Just wall painting. UFOE explains that his work in mainly based on murales and writing.
These five artists gave me very different opinions about what is the meaning of painting on a wall, and it is pretty obvious how they are represented by styles and worlds that are totally different. But I can still find in each one of them the same desire to express their art as a personal emancipation, interacting and creating a real dialogue with the medium they are working on.
It’s Sunday and the last works are finished, the last details are taken care of, the paint and the brushes put aside, the construction yard dismantled. My personal research on the graffiti world, the murales and the street art, will go on and will wait until next monday’s reportage to know my very personal opinion (and the artists’ personal opinion, since I made an explicit question in my interviews for them to explain as better as they could what they do and why they do it), but I can close this first article on an emotional note: walking over, under and by the Galleria del Sale, has been a strong brainstorming of memories and feelings. All the artists here have been drawing and painting for more than ten years and are presenting some mature works that reflect their human and artistic evolution. Nevertheless, while I was looking at the works of the artists from Cagliari, I was able to recognize something, a little detail, a clear stroke, that remembered me of that wall near my highschool, or the route of my morning bus, when I was observing the city with my sleepy face, and I was unconsciously taking mental pictures that reappeared thanks to the details found on these Sunday paintings, or thanks to the friendly talk with every artist. The moment was cathartic: Cagliari is beautiful, in every wall.