Badgergate – Martin Ron paints the VU Wall

28 Aug ’13

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Martin Ron is one of the pre-eminent street artists in Argentina.  He paints hyper realistic surrealist imagery on a huge scale.  Upon invitation from Street Art London he travelled to London to participate in our Village Underground Wall Project and over the course of eight days painted a breathtaking mural.  Certainly a contender for one of the best ever pieces on this prestigious London wall.  We also talked a little to Ron to find out about his rationale for painting the piece he did. 

How did the project to paint this mural come about?

I came to London after being invited by Street Art London. It’s an important mural project that gets together a lot of international artists who come to London to paint. It’s an interesting project and it’s exciting to paint the Village Underground Wall that is one of the best and biggest in Shoreditch, a neighbourhood where a lot of top international street artists have painted. Every few months different street artists from different parts of the world come here and paint the VU Wall one after the other. I am here in London in August with my girlfriend.

Background preparation: 

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Why did you paint this artwork and what is the concept?

The concept of this artwork is following a similar line that I have been doing for a while with the theme of urban surrealism generating situations of fantasy through painting in the street. The public enjoy the humour in my artworks and I very often choose an everyday theme. In this instance, the badger that has been in the news a lot in the UK and was in fact the first news I heard about after I got here. After arriving in London I went to stay in the house of a friend in Oxford and when I turned on the television there was a story about British Prime Minister David Cameron wanting to kill badgers or reduce the population of badgers and the government was saying that the animals carry diseases. When I saw the news story I thought what a pretty animal, what is going on? I thought it would be a great concept for my next mural.

The hand depicted in the mural is that of his girlfriend who accompanied him on his trip to London: 

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What title have you given the mural?

I’ve called it David and Goliath. The name David relates to the Prime Minister David Cameron while the badger is Goliath.

What do you think about the badger cull?

There are members of the public who are in favour or against it but I think this is a mistake and thought it would be good to use as a concept to generate awareness about the issue. What the mural represents is a complex machine without feeling, a mutant with a lot of power up against a tiny animal that in reality is adapting to the habitat around it. So what I am representing here is a powerful machine rising up against a little animal called the badger with David Cameron against Goliath.

Ron uses gloss paint to create his hyper-realistic works: 

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There is a big machine in this mural. Why do you paint machines?

It’s a fusion and mutation between man and machine and relates to humans and the system. It like a deformed mutant that becomes complicated and loses touch with reality. It’s about man and the machine and the system trying to control the world around it, then it becomes too much and starts to break down. I like to mix man and machines sometimes in my art to try to generate everyday situations between the complex and simple. It’s the simplest things that usually work the best.

How long did the mural take and how long do your murals normally take to paint? 

It took a week more or less. Most of my murals take about a week but it depends if I am in a hurry or not. I try to enjoy the experience and meet new people, to speak with the people who pass by. if I have three days to paint the wall I will do it in three days, if I have 15 days I will take all the time necessary but the most important thing is trying to have fun.

The mural took a massive eight days to complete: 

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What are some of the other themes in your murals?

I try to not represent global or general issues but smaller situations that speak about the context, the place and the space where I am. What I like most about painting murals is generating situations of fantasy that have a lot of 3D so that the technique can be so hyper-real that it generates imaginary situations that seem to really be happening. I like it so that the artwork jumps out of the wall and interacts with the people and environment around it.

What are your impressions of Shoreditch and London and the street art scene here?

It’s brilliant. There are lots of well known street artists painting here at the same time as me and graffiti and murals by some of the best known artists in the world. It great to be able to paint in London and meet some of these guys. I have had a great time painting this mural and met lots of new friends and everyone has been so welcoming and friendly towards me. The weather has also been really good while I’ve been here in London and Shoreditch is a fun place to hang out.

Badgergate: 

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What do you do in Buenos Aires and is your role there as an artist?

I paint a lot in Buenos Aires and have painted more than 80 murals in the county of Tres de Febrero. Together with the district council, we work together to renovate and paint walls that are covered with vandalism or propaganda and get artists and residents together for painting projects. The program is called the Urban Embellishment Programme (Programa de Embellecimiento Urbano) and what the project is really about is the artists’ own expression and we have the freedom to paint what we like and the council supports us and provides us with all the materials. The residents like it because they have colourful and artistic new murals on their doorstep that brighten up the neighbourhood.

What is the street art scene like in Buenos Aires?

It has increased exponentially due to the amount of artists who are painting in the street and the residents are now getting used to the idea of offering their walls to be painted and understand more about urban art than before. These are the same neighbours who get in contact with the artists themselves to invite them to paint and make their walls and houses more beautiful. Everything is growing, the amount of residents who are receptive to street art and also the amount of artists who are painting walls. In this respect I think Buenos Aires is a lot different than in some other cities where painting walls is looked upon as vandalism. In Argentina the artists don’t have to paint at night, hide their identity or paint quickly to avoid being caught by the authorities. There are lots of big walls and buildings to paint around Buenos Aires for instance and the artists take their own time creating their artworks so their designs are often of very good quality and on a larger scale than in some other cities. Buenos Aires has now become a popular destination for some of the best street artists in the world to come and paint. They put themselves in contact with artists in Argentina before they come to visit and they all get together and paint big walls.

Jetpack shot: 

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What are your plans for the rest of your trip?

I am hoping to paint some more walls and it would be nice to do a collaboration with another artist here in London. I am also going to visit Paris and Amsterdam with my girlfriend Erica and hope to have time to see a few of the sights in London before we go back to Argentina.

What are your plans for the future, do you want to paint in other countries?

I haven’t laid out a plan or specific objectives. My philosophy is to paint. I love painting and being able to visit new and exciting places like London and also meeting different people along the way. As long as I have the fortune to be able to do this I’ll carry on.

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