Street art gallery. 2020 March

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Editor’s letter

The main topic of this "Street Art Gallery" magazine issue is conversations with female street artists. After watching a documentary called "Street Heroines" (directed by Alexandra Henry), I wanted to continue this project by interviewing more female artists, including several Lithuanian artists. In my opinion, we should not divide art into feminine or masculine. So I decided to explore this topic in more detail, by sharing several female artists perspective on the everchanging street art scene. Also, I find out that Estonians created a robot, which makes murals. Last year "Robot Muralist" team from Estonia visited Kaunas (Lithuania), where they recreated a painting by a Lithuanian artist and painted it on the wall of an apartment building. I was curious to know how this robot makes such big murals. What inspires me the most? Travelling, of course! So I will share my latest discoveries from my trip to Israel, where I was pleasantly surprised by local street art.

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Conversations with women about street art Author – Kristina Kurilaitė

Streets are like an open gallery where a variety of artists leave their mark or message. Some of them are already known all over the world: Banksy, Millo, Ernest Zacharevich, Obey Giant, Os Gemeos, Vhils, Bordalo II... The list is long. The only thing that is missing here – names of female artists. Why do we know less about them? This question has been on my mind for a long time. Recently I watched the documentary "Street Heroines", directed by Alexandra Henry. In this project, various female artists talk about their experience making art in the streets. They chose to paint in public spaces instead of working at home or for galleries. This choice was accompanied not only by inspiration and enthusiasm but also by disappointment and struggle. I want to continue these conversations that have begun in "Street heroines" and to invite Lithuanian and foreign artists to share their experience. Every acquaintance and dialogue made me realize what it means to get out of your house and start painting in a public place where people can judge you or stop you. I want to introduce you to different women who share the same desire to create and spread their art message in the streets of the city, no matter how much strength, will or patience it will take. Each story is unique and inspires to keep doing what you believe is right for you.

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Marija Tiurina Born in Lithuania, lives in UK My experience as a street artist so far has been very challenging but also rewarding at the time. Every mural held some obstacles that I had to overcome, and even though I got a couple of grey hairs for each one of them, it was worth it, because nothing is as rewarding as seeing a large painting of yours decorating a wall. I've been working on my painting and drawing skills my whole life. I had a first commission to do a children's book when I was only 14 (but I had to lie and pretend I was older to get paid at all!). Things got better after I moved to the UK 10 years ago. I started working as a games artist while still studying at university. That was the first time I felt like a real professional, even though on a very beginner stage, of course.

Mural made by Marija Tiurina in Vilnius ("Open Gallery")

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The mural I painted in Vilnius last year was the largest I've made. I experienced several challenges working here: a limited amount of time to work on the painting and not knowing what the paint would be like until I came to Vilnius. It turned out the wall had a peculiar texture which was unusual but brought even more exciting result in the end. It was my first time using a cherry picker and transferring a sketch from A4 sheet to a 9 meter wall. To sum up, it all turned into the best experience. "Open gallery" team was amazingly friendly and supportive, and all the locals stopped to give me a word of encouragement which helped a lot!

However, sometimes being a street artist is a difficult job. My experience of painting in my hometown was not that nice like in Vilnius. At first, it felt like the whole town was trying hard to discourage me from painting anything at all. I come from Visaginas – a Russian city in Lithuania, where a lot of citizens have a more traditional mindset and try to fight any change as it might make their lives uncomfortable. But it was not the only problem. There were other challenges to face: heavy rain, lack of paint and the right equipment – we had to fight pretty hard to get a lift. But nothing was as challenging as facing the backs of the people who decided they preferred a blank wall. But once I finished the mural, the mood of the town has changed a lot! In a positive direction.

Mural made by M. Tiurina in her hometown

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Ieva Olimpija Lithuania

I identify myself as a public space artist because I concentrate on places accessible to the public. Also, I am a glass artist – my job is to decorate walls with mirrors or glass mosaics. In 2015, I experienced a creative crisis in the field of glass art, so I volunteered in Kaunas Street Art Festival "Nykoka". There I met street artists and became friends with Vytenis Jakas – artist, who showed me the principles of localized art, how street art can change the environment, influence people's moods and pay attention to social problems. I was so impressed by this that next year (in 2016) we started a project together – we created the only open-air portrait gallery in Marijampolė (Lithuania). Every person could join in making "Portrait wall". For me, this project was a challenge and also a joy. It was an example of collective art, showing that everyone can make a positive contribution to their living space. Currently, the "Portrait wall" in Marijampolė has about 1,200 faces made with the stencil technique. A big part of it was created by the citizens, with the help of volunteers and us.

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When I paint on the wall, I feel a great responsibility. You can do anything on a piece of paper, it's very personal, but when you paint in a public space, it is different. You have to think about the emotional and conceptual message of your mural, which will be reached by thousands of people you don't even know. So, I choose to draw positive and harmonious images to lighten up grey and boring architecture. I see the whitish walls of the renovated buildings as a potential canvas where drawings can bring individuality to the place. Drawing outdoors is, indeed, hard physical work. The main challenges are related to weather: wind, cold, heat, you can't draw on a wet wall, full sunlight result in low visibility. The intensity of work, which requires a lot of physical stamina, is tiring, regularly carrying paint, climbing the lift etc. First two weeks of drawing outdoors are all about working, sleeping, resting and eating. I admit that there are few female street artists in Lithuania. I know only my friend from Kaunas Godas Skėrytė and Gražvyda Andrijauskaitė, who painted a couple of murals in Kaunas, in Šančiai district. This situation seems quite logical and understandable to me, because this work is not only creative but constructional, physically demanding. I think women tend to be more health-conscious, but men don't think about it and thus discharge their physical and creative energy positively.

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Mildeo Lithuania

I was passionate about drawing all my life. So I chose studies at the Vilnius Academy of Arts. Since school, I have dreamed of painting grey pillars in my yard and give my place more colour. But I did not dare to do that because it would be illegal. But life gave me a chance – I got an offer from an agency to make an illustration on the wall. One of my first jobs was to paint in the Google office in Vilnius. I was happy to draw on the walls, and this is what I do till today.

Mildeo real name is Milda

Probably, the biggest job I've done was to paint the walls of "Ogmios Miestas" buildings – it's the shopping centre in Vilnius. Then I experienced what it means to draw in a public place. I had to work in height, on a lift that was shaking – it was a little scary. Still, I liked drawing in an open space because I was good at calculating the proportions of the drawing. The only restriction I received from the clients – all illustrations must be black and white. It was a challenge for me because all my paintings are colourful. I think it's just easier for men to become street artists because some of them used to do graffiti when they were teenagers. Women may be afraid to start painting in public, or they don't like this kind of work. I'm very excited when I get messages from girls asking how to start painting on the walls, what paint to use etc. I had the same questions at the beginning of my career. I remember my first task to paint interior walls – I felt baffled. So, I asked a friend who had more experience in this field. I still remember what he said to me: "Don't be afraid! It's not a tattoo – you can fix it." Now, I encourage everyone who wants to become an artist. Everyone sometimes needs encouragement, after all.

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Mural in "Ogmios miestas", Vilnius

Milda's mural in Verkiai Regional Park, Vilnius

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Hayley Welsh Born in UK, lives in Australia

I find the fact that street art scene is currently male-dominated very motivational. I want to show everyone, male or female, that women can create artworks equally as high a quality as men and our sexuality doesn’t matter at all. When I tell people I am an artist, they tend to ask if it’s a hobby or thing I do in my spare time, but when I show them the scale of work I create and they see me working on lifts, it’s great to see their faces change when they realize that this short, fragile-looking lady can make huge marks within public space. I find it inspiring to keep creating more, especially encouraging young girls to achieve what they dream of too.

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"We are the river and the river is us" Hayley Welsh darbas

I had one situation that made me angry. I was painting a wall for a street art festival in Australia. It was the middle of the day, and I was painting away on the ground section of the wall when I was tapped on the shoulder by someone. I turned around to find two police officers and a flashing police car. They asked if I had been using the scissor lift. I said yes because it was for my job. They looked me up and said they were following up a call out. Someone called the police because they saw a girl with pigtails and a green jacket, matching my description, operating a scissor lift and "it didn't look quite right". I pointed the police to the signage with my name and website of the street art festival and laughed as I thought it was ridiculous. The police did not break a smile. They insisted that I show them my ID, so I showed them my working at heights license – still no smiles or apology for the drama. After 15 minutes of questioning and embarrassment, they left without apologising and breaking a smile. I know if I were a man, they wouldn't stop me. The fact that someone felt the need to call the police because they were so unused to see a female using a scissor lift was shocking, but it just feeds my motivation to keep creating art in public and help break these stereotypes still set in society.

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NeSpoon Poland

NeSpoon in Warsaw, Poland

I started my career in the art field back in 2009. Now I have more than ten years of experience. I work not only as a street artist but in galleries too. I believe that it takes courage and determination to paint in the street – it's not that easy as it seems. During the painting of these big laces in Warsaw, I was approached twice by the police. On the first occasion, I asked them if I could finish my work while they were checking my identity. I had just painted three-quarters of the second circle; they could see the obvious gap in the pattern and allowed me to continue. As the sun set and I packed up, the policeman confirmed I could go, but warned me that I could go to the court for the costs of damage I caused. I responded by telling them I would be back tomorrow to complete my work, so they were more than welcome to re-record me. I don't think they took me seriously. The following day, while I was completing the fourth circle, the police returned. I think they were bemused. The friendlier of the two, who smiled more, told me "We'll stay here for some time, so nobody harasses you. You've got one hour". A court summons never reached me.

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NeSpoon created this mural in Berlin, near "Urban Nation" museum

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Swoon USA

Recently as I look out over the landscape, I realize that street art is no more male-dominated that many other fields in art. How many women-directed significant movies in the US last year? About 3% What percentage of blue-chip gallery representation is women? Can be as low as 1 in 10 in many places. So I think street art gets a reputation for being unusually male-dominated. Still, it’s not alone in this at all – in some ways, I think, it’s better than other fields. For example, I’ve always got lots of encouragement and acceptance for my street artwork from my male peers.

II started making small posters and stickers, I thought it would be a mini-project, but I got obsessed, and it just went from there. I ask myself how art can become part of my daily life, and I like to answer that question in many ways. Making street art is one of those answers. For me, one of the biggest challenges in street art is doing work that is socially responsible and becomes part of its community. It takes courage to believe in yourself no matter what you’re doing. Making illegal street art took courage and also a bit of a rebellious streak that didn’t care what anyone thought. It took something a little tough-minded that was willing to make people mad. Maybe this is why street art gets a reputation for being maledominated because traditionally women don’t feel comfortable making people angry, and doing illegal things is always going to piss people off. But sometimes breaking the rules can do more good than harm, and can be a way to shake people out of their complacency and get them to see things in new ways.

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Swoon murals in Brooklyn (2014)

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Murielle Born in Canada, lives in Israel

Murielle used to be an actress, but now, while living in Tel Aviv, she became a street artist.

I never went to art school. I studied how to do stencils and paint from Youtube. Thanks to Youtube, I’ve learned a lot. Usually, my work has series up to 12 pieces, sometimes 10. Doing street art is like a study to me. When I want to study an object, I’m exploring it through images, adding a little text message to it. So, I guess, my style is research. Honestly, when I lived in New York or Paris, I never noticed street art at all. I didn’t think much about it. But when I came to Israel, I started being interested in it because I needed to find a new form of expression. When I lived in New York, I was an actress and acting was my form of expression. In Israel, I couldn’t act anymore, but then I realized that I’m an artist, and there are so many ways to do art. So I decided to try to make art in the streets.

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It’s not difficult to paint in the streets, but it’s hard to always look over your shoulder. It is the only thing I don’t like about street art. The reason why I do it is that I am a minimalist – I don’t like to collect art in my house. I don’t know what to do with all these paintings. I want to have less stuff, and I don’t even look for galleries, I’m just doing my own thing in the streets. I want to create more, but in the last few years, I’ve been getting a lot of setbacks. There is a guy who destroyed a lot of my works, so I just stopped being passionate about doing street art. I continue painting, but then he destroyed all that I’ve done that day in one night. It is tough because I’m a sensitive person. I know who does that – he is also a street artist and, sadly, he was a friend of mine. I think he thinks that he can bully me because I am a girl. I talked to him about it (my friend took him on video) and he told me I should stop doing art at all. I think he is jealous of my development.

Murals created by Murielle. On the right – one of her latest artworks.

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Carole B France

I've built up my street art signature on strong and subtle feminism with a touch of glamour and humour. I decided to do street art because I was a woman, and it was the best way for me to shout out loud against gender discrimination, machismo, gender inequality and oppression. Even though the street "belongs" mainly to males, I believe that the street is the best place to share my political and social views. I used to do exhibitions in traditional local art fairs, and there was pretty much no political or committed art. It was frustrating since I had strong feelings I wanted to express, due to my personal experience. I must admit that nothing beats public place in a matter of freedom of speech or thinking!

My main challenge is to represent women struggles or her strength without being offensive and always with a dash of humour: I want people to be inspired, engaged in conversation about my topics and characters and to start a reflexion. My artworks are easily accessible, with familiar elements. My goal is to give people a reason to stop in front of my work. I wouldn't say it's harder to be a woman in the male-dominated street art world. Still, I believe putting the focus on my gender (by painting female role models ) is an excellent way to stand out amongst other artists. It is a great way to send the positive message that women are brave too. However, doing street art took guts: the fear of getting caught by authorities, the risk of coming across angry people etc. and just doing one's work in the middle of the street! Being a street artist takes a lot of courage. But in the end, this is so satisfying when you finish your work, and you see people enjoying your art, sharing it on social media and even having a conversation about it in the street!

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Can a robot create art? They say that God created nature, and man created art. I close my eyes and imagine the moment when a Stone age man first drew a line on a rock. What a great discovery for him it was! Although it was more like a form of communication, it could be the beginning of art and creativity in human life. For decades and centuries, man has made progress in science, art and technology. He wanted more useful tools to spread his ideas. This desire and curiosity remain the most significant motor of human life. Everything had changed so fast that I didn't notice when people created a robot for making murals.

I talked about this unique technology with a team from Estonia "Robot Muralist" who created this robot and now fills cities with quality murals. In 2019 they visited Kaunas, in my homeland Lithuania. They did a painting of Lithuanian artist Lidija MeĹĄkaitytÄ— on the wall of the apartment block. It is one of the most massive paintings made by a robot in Europe.

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When Albert created?




Journey behind Robot Muralist Albert started about 4,5 years ago with five co-founders coming together. We created it to empower artists when they create our visual space. How many people are in your team now? Our team is currently nine people. What is the goal of your work? What is the mission of Albert the Robot? The goal is to redefine out of the home industry, and our mission is to create great public art that forms the background for conversations our society needs the most.

„Robot Muralist“ mural made in Kaunas (2019)

How the robot works and how much time does it take to finish one mural? The print time for one buildingsized mural is one day, the project in Kaunas we completed in 2 days including set-up and wrap-up. Let's compare: robot versus human artist. Albert is a medium for the artist to scale without the artist Albert is just a printer.

"Robot Muralis" team with street artist from Kaunas - Morfai.

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Street art in Tel Aviv Rami Meiri is the godfather of Israel street art. Rami has been painting realistic murals around Tel Aviv since the early '90s. In Rami's studio you can find street murals exhibition, canvas painting, and meet him in person. The studio placed 50 meters from the beach and the Tayalet.

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Rami Meiri

Allenby street in Tel Aviv

Yishkon street, Tel Aviv

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Street art in Tel Aviv Jaffa is an old part of the Tel Aviv city. People believe that Jaffa is almost 4,000 years old – a port that served the ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians. There are many art galleries and murals of various foreign artists. I will list the ones I discovered myself: Sonny (born in England, moved to South Africa), PichiAvo (Spain), Insane51 (Greece), Cranio (Brazil).





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