Granada |Reading El Niño de las Pinturas’ street art

Posted by Chloë Lai & filed under Travel.

El Niño de las Pinturas mural, Granada. (Credit: Chloë Lai)
El Niño de las Pinturas mural, Granada. (Credit: Chloë Lai)

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As a writer whose drawings are often compared to the artistic efforts of blindfolded chickens, I live in awe of visual artists.

Enter Granada. This warm, laid back city is home to more than just the Alhambra; it’s also the birthplace of famous poet Federico Garcia Lorca and the inspiration for countless artists from other disciplines, some of whom (like composer Debussy) never even set foot here. Galleries abound. There’s no shortage of tattoo artists, sculptures and, my personal favourite, street artists. When I found out that my hostel was offering a graffiti tour of the city, I signed up so fast that I almost broke their pen.

Artist Raúl Ruiz, a.k.a El Niño de las Pinturas, is responsible for the creation of the most famous pieces in this city-wide public gallery. What I especially loved about Ruiz’s work is that he often includes captions.

Some murals, like the one below, have had their captions painted over. Luckily, our guide Mika has lived in Granada for a long time and remembers the original wording. Three cheers for oral history!

"I'm tired of not getting answers so I'm changing my questions." (Photo by Chloë Lai)

“I’m tired of not getting answers so I’m changing my questions.” (Photo by Chloë Lai)

Tenacity is one of the keys to success, but Ruiz’s words here remind us that it’s important to recognize when we’ve become caught up in an exercise in futility and to evolve accordingly. If something isn’t working, try something else.

"We are going into increasingly senseless places." (Photo by Chloë Lai)

“We are going into increasingly senseless places.” (Photo by Chloë Lai)

Translating this caption, Mika explains it as a nostalgia for the original character of the city, which is being lost in so-called progress. “We are building things with no soul,” he says. This one struck me especially hard; it’s something that is true not only of Granada, but of Vancouver (and other rapidly-developing cities) as well.

"The silence is over." (Photo by Chloë Lai)

“The silence is over.” (Photo by Chloë Lai)

Ruiz is a music lover, and when Mika takes us past this mural, he says that that’s what this piece is about. The wistful expression on the little girl’s face, the emphasis on the words “the silence” and the blue tones in the piece hints at something more complex than that, though. It feels more political to me, a message about the power of music, art and the empowered female to spark revolution, defy boundaries and motivate action.

Portrait of Enrique Morente. (Photo by Chloë Lai)

Portrait of Enrique Morente. (Photo by Chloë Lai)

An homage to the phenomenal Flamenco guitarist Enrique Morente, who passed away five years ago. This portrait celebrates a musician whose love of both traditional flamenco and unorthodox collaborations with musicians of other genres left a legacy of innovation and controversy. (Is one really possible without the other?)

The words above Morente’s name read “Forever”. It’s a promise to remember the guitarist’s contribution to music, but given the other Ruiz pieces I’ve seen today, it also feels like a vow to carry on in his name and encourage artistic (and cultural) evolution.

Part introspection, part social commentary, Ruiz’s graffiti artwork is a beautiful example of how respecting cultural heritage and experimenting with modern forms aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive practices.

It’s also reassuring for writers everywhere (or at least the one using my laptop) to see that even the most compelling visual art can benefit from the inclusion of text.

Click here to visit the artist’s website.

*All translations were written down on the fly, during a very hot (read: unbelievably sweaty) afternoon walk; if you see any captions misquoted here, let me know! I would love to correct them.

About Chloë Lai

Chloë Lai
Chloë is a Vancouver-based writer who has lived and worked on several continents. She has degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing, because it seemed like the best way to emulate James Herriott without becoming a country vet.

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