Exploring Andalucia: Granada Graffiti
Granada graffiti is different. A bold European take on the NYC influenced tags seen all over the UK, the street artists of Granada draw on traditional fine art to create a magical addition to the Granada experience
The Street art in Granada has a controversial history. Banned by the city council, the shopkeepers in the Realejo district, sympathetic to the artists, made their security shutters available as canvases, putting the art beyond the reach of the authorities.
Predictably, the artists soon broke free of the civic restrictions and today a walk in the Realejo district, starting at Plaza Nueva and ending at Placeta Joe Strummer is a stroll through a kaleidoscopic variety of styles, images, colour and creativity.
One artist in particular stands out, and has become a major international star. El Niño de las Pinturas, Raúl Ruiz is the creative force behind much of the best and most original street art. His work started to appear in the 90s and is strongly themed around representations of the human figure. His work can be found on the streets and buildings of many different cities throughout Europe signed with El Niño of the Paintings or Sex.
El Nino’s relationship with the authorities has been fraught. In 2014 he sued the City Council for fining him in 2011 when he painted the facade of the Cueva de la Faraona in the Sacromonte. His defence being that the work was restorative. He estimates he has paid over €5,000 in fines over a seven year period. He is now one of the most well known graffiti artists in the world.
I’ve walked the Granada graffiti trail a couple of times and I can recommend it without hesitation. The first time I was looking for Placeta Joe Strummer, the little square with a view of the mountains dedicated to the leader of the Clash. Something of a pilgrimage. Strummer loved Spain and Spain loved Strummer. The second time I took a friend who was mad about graffiti and hip-hop, these pictures are snaps from the second visit.
The thing I find particularly compelling about Granada Graffiti is the characters in the paintings. Sad, happy, reflective, the figure draw you into a world that is fascinating and I’m ashamed to say to me, virtually unknown. Like so many people I was soaked in British and American music as a child and teenager. The rhythms of flamenco now seem to me to be as vital as those of the Mississippi and Chicago. They tell the same stories, and come from a similar place – Gypsies were/are a put upon minority in Europe, the music tells the stories of their loves, lives and suffering in the same way the Blues tells its eternal story.
Realejo is a much more ‘real’ neighbourhood than the Albayzin – it’s not a tourist area, but one with real shops selling everyday things like food, and excellent tapas bars. Rafael Nadal’s tennis academy is there and it’s a pleasure to wander among the small and very steep streets leading up to the Alhambra. Granada Graffiti is just one way in to understanding the reality of Granada. Others include the Flamenco bars of Sacromente, the art in the Alhambra and the River Darrow walk at the bottom of the Albayzin. Don’t miss Patio the perfumier or the Arab baths hammam al Andalus.
It’s taken a lifetime, but I’m so pleased to have discovered Flamenco, Granada, Andalucia. Spain is a wonderful country and it saddens me that the UK is leaving the European family. Let them leave. I’m staying!
Check out the other posts in the Exploring Andalucia Series.