Infrastructurally speaking, Bogotá is not a beautiful city at first sight. I mean, let’s be honest, the plain brick apartment buildings and cement houses are nothing to rave about. Ok, I admit a few neighbourhoods such and La Candelaria
have their charm, but this is just a small part of Bogota’s 5,000 neighborhoods
. However, after spending just a few days within the capital of Colombia, it’s hard to miss the gigantic, brightly painted murals under bridges, on street corners, storefronts, and other random locations.
One day, I was strolling through La Candelaria
when I walked into a small store with an ad poster taped to the wall offering graffiti tours
. So it wasn’t just me who was intrigued by the beautiful street art displayed all over the city. Curious to find out, I took part in the 2.5 hours tour Wednesday morning. Throughout the entire morning we were presented internationally-known street artists not only doing graffiti but creating design via stencils, spray paint, stickers and such all over La Candelaria
During the tour, I felt like I was being introduced to a whole new world. Names like Toxicomano
, and Djlu
were the Picassos and Boteros of street art! How did I not know this? As the morning went on, I became acquainted with each artists’ style and I began to slowly sink into the amazing bubble of Bogotá’s urban art.
Curious to dig a little deeper, I met with Aussie Street Artist and founder of the Bogota Graffiti Tour
who goes under the street name of Crisp
. Crisp not only runs a business but also takes part in the urban art scene, helping bring the plain walls of Bogotá to life. His art comes mainly in the form of thought-provoking mural stencils and leaves his audience perplexed with the powerful messages and eye-catching designs of his art.
Coming from a family of artists, it was only natural for Crisp to follow in his parents’ footsteps. We meet in a small neighbourhood café, and as it turns out we are also neighbours! It’s about time I stop stereotyping, but in comes a man in his 30’s wearing a tee, jeans and sneakers with a design on them from a fellow artist’s work. I thought graffiti was done by teenage skater boys and rebels without a cause. He is a family man who is often invited to travel the world to display his art and participate in international collaborations. Crisp lives and breathes urban art. I am delightedly surprised.
So we sit down over tinto, tamales and mini buñuelos and starting chatting a bit.
What is the purpose behind your street art?
There are several reasons why I do street art. The first being that I want to highlight and express issues in today’s society which I think are important for people to reflect upon. Second, It allows me to express myself artistically in a way that is for everyone. I feel it is a gift to the city to provide something more colourful and interesting to look at rather than repressive grey concrete walls.
…and what about the mysterious masks pasted all over the city walls?
The meaning behind the masks I make and stick up in the streets represent us and how we are all human yet come from different ethnicities, countries, religions and politics. These differences are what brings color and variety to the world. The masks are all made from the same mould and are structurally identical, but every single design is unique.
Your art is vibrant and engaging, where do you get your inspiration from?
I’m inspired by many things, but especially current events and foreign affairs, cultural and social issues around me and in the world at large. Other times, my work is purely aesthetic. Colombia has a rich biodiversity to draw inspiration from and I am also inspired by the native flora, fauna and indigenous cultures of other countries I’ve travelled to and lived in.
What has been the most interesting collaboration you have ever done?
Recently, I painted a wall with Djlu/Juegasiempre in South Central L.A. We didn’t realise at the time, but more than street art, we were bringing a new energy to the neighbourhood. While we were painting a mural on the side of a set of apartments, a lady who lived there insisted on giving us money to thank us for brightening up the wall. We later found out her daughter and boyfriend had been gunned down and murdered right where we were painting the mural. She explained that having the new mural there would make it easier for her every time she’d come home, helping her move past the dark memory.
More than a pretty picture, it’s clear you also contribute to the community through your art. What other memorable social projects you have been involved in?
When I find the time, I run art workshops and paint murals with children through a foundation located in an impoverished barrio of Bogotá which provides education and activities for kids. More recently, I was involved in a charity auction where I donated canvases from 6 prominent urban artists in Bogotá to help raise money.
Do you have any exciting future projects heading your way?
I just got back from doing a couple of murals in New York City, one of them being the biggest wall I’ve collaborated on yet. I’m going back for an alley arts festival next month and will paint a couple more large murals. Till then, I’ll be continuing to paint in Bogota and beyond!
We polish off our tintos and Crisp heads off to work in his studio. I am left with a sense of amazement at the size and importance of the street art community. Although it was right under my eyes the entire time, I was never fully aware of its dimension until now. I guess this is the case for many, as most associate graffiti with vandalism, when in reality, urban art hits a different note, bringing a bit of flavor in an otherwise bland environment.
I invite you to discover Bogotá’s vibrant street art through the Bogota Graffiti Tour
running every day in the Candelaria. It’s a great way to discover the area and learn a bit of Colombian culture, but most importantly, you will never see the streets of Bogotá the same.