I’m a bit late posting this round up of the ‘If walls could speak’ mural festival in Amsterdam. I’ve got plenty of excuses ready. There was almost 2000 photos to edit, I have a rubbish WiFi connection etc. etc! It’s here now though and the murals are going nowhere so all good.
So, long story short I was invited by Amsterdam Street art to participate in their mural festival ‘If walls could speak’ which took place 13-17 May in the east of Amsterdam. I was there as a photographer but also as part of the team assisting artists and helping set up the site etc. As you can imagine it was a lot of fun being so involved in a mural festival like that.
There were 10 murals in total, created by street artists from both the Netherlands and further afield. As far as locations go, the ASA team could not have picked a better one. All 10 murals are within a few minutes walk from each other on opposing sides of 5 social housing blocks.
Each artist was given a five storey wall to paint for ‘If walls could speak’ They had a singular theme from which to create their unique works – ‘Amsterdam for everybody‘
I’m going to review the murals as if you were a street art hunter and were planning on visiting the site. Leaving the Wibautstraat metro you are immediately faced with possibly the best mural in terms of position. This mural is by Studio Gftig (Kaspar van Leek and Niels van Swaemen) and is a beautiful introduction to the area. Working to the above theme this hyper-realistic mural features a floating woman surrounded by pigeons. Pigeons being the symbol of freedom in Amsterdam
Spanish artist Julieta XLF painted her cute ‘Nina’ girl on the wall to the left of Gftig’s. In the artists words “I made an illustration where a girl is giving a welcome to a migratory bird, and the migratory bird is also sharing its nest with the girl. They are both sharing place, house, nest… love. It’s necessary to imagine a world without boundaries“ You may notice quite a large tree in front of Julieta’s mural. Let me tell you that it was quite a bit thicker at the start of the week. There was some creative lift driving going on to to help trim it down to make the wall easier to view!
ASA Artists Ivesone & Sjembakkus left their mark with this layered tribute to influential dutch artist Karel Appel. Appel was part of the Cobra Avant-garde movement in the late 40’s and early 50’s with members from Amsterdam, Brussels and Copenhagen. This piece is titled ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ and features Appel’s face split over the length of the wall. The alternate layers are full of abstract shapes and colours.
One half of German duo Herakut – Hera created one of her typical magical fantasy scenes. The calligraphy – written in both English and Dutch says “When it comes to settling disputes, patience and compassion are often more useful than magic”. I was lucky enough to meet Hera as she arrived at her wall on the Monday. Seeing the tree in front of the wall she immediately ripped up her initial sketch and created this wall from scratch. On a personal level it was very cool to see an artist improvise like this upon seeing the surroundings.
Dutch graffiti artists Kash and Chuck created maybe the most polarising mural of the event. The duo painted a giant version of Amsterdam’s coat of arms. Within the body of the arms they subtly added their typical street tags. I saw nothing but positive feedback about this piece but I heard of some locals complaining about it. To me this piece fits the theme perfectly in at the very least one way – Two hardcore graffiti artists working a street art festival!
The opposite Side
So now for the opposite side of housing block. First up and directly behind Kash and Chuck is German artist Case Maclaim. Case is known for using hands in his work and this piece is no different. Titled ‘carrying belongings’ this piece features multiple people carrying items across the facade of the building.
Dutch anamorphic master Leon Keer also participated in the festival and his wall lies to the right of Case’s as you walk. This astounding mural features a glass cabinet full of toys with a hammer sat neatly below. The message of this piece? Every adult is still free to do what we want and there’s nothing wrong with reconnecting with our youth.
English artist Dan Kitchener created one of his neon landscapes for ‘If walls could speak’ In this piece a contemplative Geisha stands amongst the locals and the rain surrounded by neon signs. Shoutout to whoever notices the space invader amongst the neon nightlife!
Scottish based Aussie Smug painted a five storey photorealistic mural of one of his friends. It was really interesting to see Smug work up close and see how he creates such realistic pieces. It’s a lot easier than you think. Jokes jokes, it’s really not! Also it was nice to speak to someone about sneakers and fried chicken. Easily two of my favourite things.
Last but by no means least is the mural from Dutch artist Dopie. Situated at the far end of the street and surrounded by trees and greenery there is no better spot for this colourful bird. Dopie actually created a hybrid of an Amsterdam city sparrow and a bright green parakeet. I can say that it looks amazing poking out from between the trees! Shoutout Dopie for the book as well, it was hugely appreciated.