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Elian's Abstract Walls

Words:

Edd Norval
April 4, 2018

Elian Chali's murals are a joy to behold. Their bright colours comprising geometric and abstract shapes offer us a different perspective on the wall, the building and the role of art in the city.

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Although street art has come to encompass many styles, abstract pieces though are still proportionately misrepresented. It's a form that can work on walls, but doesn't always. Cities are complex organisms and art must function as part of it or disturb it - it can be difficult for those desiring abstraction.


Elian's work fits into the latter group and although it does certainly function as part of the city - it doesn't just do that. It manages to break daily monotony through the way it employs shapes to challenge the city's flow. The function of different aspects of the city and the socio-economic climate are key factors in what he does. We have our ideas about a building, just like we do about homeless people existing in poverty. If a splash of paint can make you re-evaluate a building, then imagine what impact a change of perceptions could have on another human being.


The mural's scale, often involving scribbles or shapes that look hand drawn, appear as if a giant artist has grabbed some brushes and made the city his new gallery space. His birds eye point-of-view is radically different to ours - the city is full of possibilities from up there. So why can't it be from down here?

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Although graffiti began to enter the world's consciousness from New York, then from around Europe, it's safe to say that South and Central America's input to the movement have been measurable more by the daring and adventurous attitudes of the artists than by their commercial success.


The Argentinian native was born in 1988 and has been creating art for a fair chunk of that time. His penchant for visual illusions a la Escher permeate the work, but not so much as to derive from him dedication to total abstraction. The bright chunks of colours pock cities like a loose and fast Piet Mondrian that got tired of using vertical lines. The artist himself has dyslexia, a clear impediment on his ability to communicate with words. These shapes are his open-ended open-letter to the inhabitants of the world's busiest cities.

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His engagement with the city is manifold. Not only are his paintings a contribution to the aesthetic DNA of the environment - but they perform as a part of its complexities - although often simplifying them by giving us space to think. Another observer of street art, Martha Cooper, wrote the prologue to his 2016 book Hábitat, that contains a mixture of photographs and a few essays that reflect on city life and the creation of meaning in it. Her influence also bridges the gap between street art and anthropological discourse.


Although simple on the first viewing, his paintings do something very difficult. They make you look up from your phone or pause your conversation. You might think 'is this it?', but at least you thought about something else - something to distract you from your distractions.


The spiritual depth of his work makes them seem like contemporary cave-paintings, referencing something more removed from everyday life than the animals that roamed wild, but yet they say something profound. They're big and beautiful - cleanly executed in their juxtaposed simple complexity. Elian is many things in a city - observer, creator, thinker. At the top of that list must be 'doer'. He has refused to let city life get on top of him or avalanche him under its complications. He thought about a new way to see things and he's offering us the opportunity to see it to.

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