In April renowned British street artist Ben Eine transformed the facade of Ince’s Hall Theatre in Gibraltar with one of his signature typographical murals. Ben was approached by Gibraltar Cultural Services to launch an urban regeneration initiative that aims to improve the physical appearance of areas in Gibraltar that are in need of redevelopment.
Ben is well-known throughout the UK for his so-called ‘happy graffiti’, with its funky colours and larger-than-life lettering, and his distinctive style can be spotted on walls and shop shutters throughout East London. It is hoped that his new mural will boost tourism in Gibraltar and kick off the government’s regeneration project with a (visual) bang!
This comes at a time when political tensions are high and Gibraltar finds itself the subject of a tussle between Britain and Spain in the ongoing Brexit negotiations. In a sense, Ben’s art bridges these political divides by connecting viewers across EU and UK lines. The same goes for his murals in Berlin, Toulouse and Göteborg (Sweden), which declare their joyous, colourful messages without a care for national differences.
Another of our favourite street artists on Rise Art is Yseult Digan, aka Yz, a French national whose evocative black and white murals also bridge country borders. Yz pastes her dramatic, larger-than-life artworks onto city walls so that they become part of the urban environment before fading with the ever-changing face of the metropolis.
The artist gained international recognition for a project called Open Your Eyes, which involved a distinctive portrait that the artist painted in Paris and then replicated on walls in Berlin, New York, Brazzaville (Congo) and Bamako (Mali). Its purpose: to get viewers thinking beyond themselves about society at large and about their place in the wider human network.
Is this not the very lesson that art, in general, teaches us in times of national and political conflict? That what we share is greater than what divides us. Cross-continental projects like Open Your Eyes and Ben’s Gibraltar mural show us that art reaches beyond borders, be they physical, political or national.