Arts & Entertainment

Walls that speak: Uruguayan graffiti artist lives on in his work

By Alejandro Prieto

Montevideo, Feb 16 (EFE).- The years go by and paint deteriorates but the memory of a certain Uruguayan graffiti artist remains alive in the form of a cat – the one that “Plef” painted all over Montevideo and which, despite the artist’s death, persists in each of his “tags” or murals in an ever-more-dynamic and fearless art scene.

The works on the sides of buildings and elsewhere see the traffic pass and the rain fall, and they are also witnesses to the announcements of a concert and silent victims upon which dogs lift their legs.

The walls, which are often covered over with inanimate posters, continue with their history and carry creative messages and images that range from confessions to expressions of a fighting spirit. But they are also orphans.

This is what has happened to the cats that Felipe Cabral “Plef” painted all over the capital until he was shot in the back and killed on Feb. 16, 2019, when he went out to redo a portion of one of his graffiti creations and someone gunned him down.

With images of their work sprinkled around on Instagram, the different graffiteros are recognized by their styles as well as by the strange names they adopt, and there are many talented – albeit cautious – artists hiding behind those handles.

Without identifying herself, “Scorns” told EFE that her passion for graffiti began six years ago when – recently arrived in the capital from Uruguay’s interior – she discovered the city’s colorfully painted walls and wanted to give it a try.

She selected her alias – she said – from a phrase she preferred not to divulge, although it seems to allude to the Marvel comic character Scorn, the daughter of Venom.

Different in approach is Constanza Morero “Coetzy,” who loved drawing as a little girl and stopped doing so in high school but resumed when a documentary about graffiti inspired her. She forged her own identity with the alias proposed to her by a friend who saw her reading a book by South African-Australian author J.M. Coetzee.

Veteran graffitero AS1, who began placing his tag around town in 1997, said that having an alter ego is a key element in creating graffiti, since for many the passion arises when they are teens and, at times, it’s disconnected from the environment that closely surrounds them.

Damian Paz, or “Lechuga,” said that graffiti should be more than just a simple signature saying, in effect, “I was here” and that’s why he devoted himself to stencil work.

He was always a “videogame fan,” he said, and his iconic emblem is the green or red Super-Mushroom from the Mario Bros. games.

“Many kids with their parents go out to look for my graffiti. They take a photo with it and later they post it on the social networks or send it to me … so that I see that their kids are happy and they’re happy going out to look for little mushrooms around Montevideo,” he said.

As a kind of special project, Coetzy finished painting the stripes on a tiger: that’s her final creation for her Design, Art and Technology coursework, in which she decided to tell, using landscapes, a “rather personal” story.

“I think that I still don’t have a very defined style. I know that animals and nature always inspire me, and using colors that are not so realistic, that’s the direction I want to keep taking,” she said.

The multifaceted “GsN” displayed, at his workshop, some Popeye sculptures ranging from cartoons to geishas.

“I like to be trying different styles of realism, letters, sketches and sometimes it’s according to what grabs you … but I like to put more of myself into it, not to copy (others’ work) so much,” he said.

AS1 and Scorns, in their graffiti, use deformed icons like leaves and animals with realistic faces, as Spanish graffiti artist Belin used.

Cabral’s murder shocked the public. His death at age 28 possibly resulted when someone mistook him for a criminal and nobody has been charged with the killing after the only suspect died in 2020. But the artist’s work has gotten widespread recognition.

Scorns, who knew him and painted with him, said that sadness motivated her to paint even more.

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