When Skirl and I first met in August, we were constantly walking around with bottles of water and spray cans in half-empty Rome, between abandoned factories, train stations and working-class areas, and I had this feeling that it might be just the first of many other meeting and, moreover, the beginning of a good friendship.
Actually, when we were farewelling each other that ‘see you soon’ seemed more like a certainty or a promise. And my feeling would be proved right very soon.
From that day on, Skirl and I have kept in touch, chatting about everything and exchanging views and opinions about some artists, news, about what’s going on in Vienna and about my trips (Berlin, Athens and others). At the same time I’ve contacted other talented Viennese artists that he suggested, among whom was his great friend Ruin.And exactly with him, in just three month, Skirl has finally came back to Rome.
7 days in Rome with pizza, murals, abandoned factories and tags
There were many artists who were also my guests in the last two years. Some of them just passing by and looking for hospitality, some came to visit me and the capital of Italy, some others were for special projects, sometimes managed and curated by me.
Looking back, I think that all these occasions were determined to my path to discover Italian and international street art, and every single meeting with each artist, knowing their own view, their own story, gave me a chance to build many human connections and relations. There is one certain thing – among all the artists whom I hanged out with in Rome, I enjoyed the company of these two guys from Vienna, Skirl and Ruin, the most; then in the last few days of stay their friend and videomaker also joined us. Besides of the cheerful company, I appreciated a lot the variety of experiences we had together within those ten beautiful sunny days of incredibly mild weather conditions for the beginning of December. Two artists, among the most active and famous in Vienna and joining the same graffiti crew, working projects and adventures, arrived to Rome with a great will to leave cold Austrian temperature behind and take advantage of every single moment of their Italian trip to paint, create and enjoy.
I have rarely seen such energy and enthusiasm and the amount of created pieces (more or less one per day for each) and/or the quantity of tags left around. And to make it clear, despite of massive production, these two always aim to be original, technically exceptional result, fast in its realization.
Skirl and Ruin are two fantastic persons, always smiling, ready to joke, available, proactive and independent – perfect flat mates. The time we spent at home flew rapidly with liters of coffee, pizzas and many dishes of pasta (I tried my best to make them understand that pasta is a first course and not a side dish), life stories and funny ones, photos from trips, exchanges of ideas, differences between our habits and lifestyles, opinions in general on any topic (from graffiti to politics) and, clearly, lots and lots of laughs.
During the time outside, we walked many kilometers, exploring areas and looking for adventure. I tried to follow them around when I could find any spare minute from work.
In the time of ten days, including two in Naples, we went together into two abandoned factories. In the first one, where I’ve been already with Skirl in August and then also with Vegan Flava, Ken Plotbot and Nar, practically curating what it might be defined as the ‘Museum of Urban Lives’, we stayed there just for a few hours. Just the time to make a quick tour around and take some photos of installation of the Greek artist Nar, and we found ourselves in the ‘room of Vegan and Ken’, full of plans and efficient luminous due to partial absence of a ceiling.
The two walls chosen by Skirl and Ruin, one is in front of another, were strategically situated according to the view of lightning and composition. In less than two hours Skirl has created an abstract monochrome pattern, in his usual style, which on a distance almost seemed like a map or roads’ intersections; while his friend Ruin has chosen an image of a huge gray fish divided in halves. As I found out during our long conversations with him, nature, and especially fishes and insects of the strangest kinds, are a great source of inspiration for him.
In the second abandoned factory where I took them, with plenty of space to explore, we decided to split from the beginning: I went to take some pictures of Nar’s installation that the artist made 2 weeks ago and it was still untouched, while the guys went to chase the walls. Then I came next to Skirl. While he was painting another huge and fascinating figure, something between letters and abstract object, I was taking some pictures, walking and painting a few tags around. Once Skirl finished his piece, he has got this insane idea to climb up to the top to the last floor, and I must say it was at least unsafe, to draw a couple of signs which could also be clearly visible from the trains, passing less than a kilometer far from there.
I confess that those ten minutes seemed to last like a lifetime for me, because there was no way to understand what was going on from downstairs; but one of the final result is a beautiful tag “Urban Lives” which towers up in the neighborhood and for which I happily thanked him. In another corner of the factory, in an area where the roof is completely fallen down, Ruin in the meantime created an abstract work on a wall and a strange but outstanding tangle of insects with bright colors next to.
Then I forgot to mention other works in the city, two of which, unfortunately, were covered up later but were also immortalized thanks to photo shots by Antonio Doldo (artists and I thank you!) and a mural made by Ruin next to that by Skirl in San Lorenzo area. Seven days in the capital were really full of events and actions. In addition to a bunch of tags, couple of stations, couple of evenings in pub, we also spent a day at the squats Villaggio Globale to take a part in a market organized by Re-Visions for inauguration of the mural by Sten & Lex, and a beautiful evening at the Scup, together with two Greek friends and writers, while WILD STYLE (for those who don’t know, it is a cult movie made in New York city in the ’80s, about hip hop, breakdance and graffiti writing) was being projected. So all in all, those seven days were really intense and special.
Weekend in Naples with the artist Lume
In the middle of their stay in Rome, we improvised a weekend in Naples, where Skirl was dreaming to return to and Ruin has never been yet before. On Friday, with great organizational speed (of which I am surprised of myself) I booked an apartment, bought train tickets and moreover contacted all Naples artists that I had a pleasure to know, including Gianluca Raro and Lume. The first one was, unfortunately, busy with work, and we ended up spending two crazy days with Lume, who had been as one of the best guides of many of my trips dedicated to street art. Of course I’m not talking of a guide in a classic definition, who brings you to usual route of walls and couple of restaurants: in two days he made us live and taste the truest and the most popular side of Naples and its underground culture. If it is from a culinary point, we enjoyed one of the best coffee in town and unforgettable pizzas, from an artistic point of view, we visited the beautiful Spanish Quarters (‘Quartieri Spagnoli’), painted entirely by Neapolitan Cyop & Kaf (a dream come true for Skirl) and we had two really special experiences.
Do you know the Sansevero Chapel, one of the most important museums of Naples, where you can admire the famous marble sculpture of the Veiled Christ? Here, just a few meters from the entrance, where it was easy to run into an endless queue, because it was two in the afternoon on Saturday, a peak time, we were protagonists of a spontaneous painting, the most hardcore action in two years of Urban Lives. The artists, in the most possibly natural manner, but also with a blessing of two local salesmen of the area, pulled out their spray cans and started to paint in this “sgarrupato” Vicoletto S. Domenico Maggiore.
And I, as always in situations like this, enjoyed the reactions of those who were passing by – between unbelief and being intrigued, answering the questions of some of them and also acting as interpreter, and of course taking photos. Among the most significant moments of that day, there were: a group of kids arriving, attracted by the big fish painted by Ruin, they stared with their mouths open; arrival of a man dressed up like Santa Claus who entertained us for five minutes with Neapolitan jokes; and, unbelievable and unexpected, when Mayor of Naples passed by. The three beautiful works, which if you want you can add to your itinerary of street art in Naples, was met with great approval by almost every local and passerby, the painting action was named by Lume “Street in the Stritt“. Unforgettable afternoon. The evening finished in the company of artists, writers, friends and friends of friends, strolling in the alleys of the old town, with lots of painted signs and tags.
On the next day Lume brought us to paint in the complex of Santa Fede Liberata, abandoned for two decades at least, and now slowly turning back to life, thanks to cultural and artistic initiatives. For example, Lume, Zolta and Ryan Spring Dooley have already painted there. With a permission of the association that runs the place, we had an access to the upper floors, which are still in a semi-abandonment condition. On the top floor the three artists, each of them took a different room, started to paint. A “forest of plants, minerals and various objects” by Lume, a large and impressive human figure by Skirl and, finally, a composition by Ruin in which he wanted to represent variety of symbols and the story of the place.
Once finished painting, we greeted Lume and his friends with warm hugs, then we gave ourselves the last treat with a stop between ‘cuoppi’ and sfogliatelle (typical Neapolitan street-food) and then we went back to Rome, tired but full of colors, scents, and joy.
Last days in Rome and a “see you soon”
The last days, as crazy as they were of nightly rounds immortalized by their friend and videomaker, flew really fast. A lot of urban experience full of adrenaline was, however, interspersed by a refreshing day in the countryside, just outside Rome, to enjoy some relax and nature, breathtaking views of the city and one of the most beautiful sunsets that I ever can remember in the month of December. So, in 10 days we did not really miss a thing.
The final farewell at the station (once again we were kissed by the sun) was less harmful for me than what I have expected (I hate farewelling the artists when they have to leave). That time in August, when we met with Skirl I had a hope for a second meeting, and this time it transformed into an absolute and assured certainty. This does not mean, of course, that the time to say ‘goodbye’ wasn’t a bit touching. But we are already planning our next meeting and I can’t wait.
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