Onio’s Euronio Corner: graffiti with an attitude
As you drive into the center of Antwerp, the evidence of our graffiti culture can be spotted even from the highway. Over the past 20 years, Antwerp has been one of the brooding places for aspiring and very talented urban artists. Graffiti is very visible and interesting evidence of this ever-expanding, ever-changing cultural movement.
Personally I’ve always been fascinated by those colorful, yet slightly shady, pictures that brighten a lot of our streets. Now I’ll be the first to admit that not every painting sprayed on is of equal quality, but if you keep your eyes open there are definitely some gems to be spotted all over town. So when I was asked to visit an exposition of a Brazilian sprayer, I didn’t have to think twice about it. And not just an exposition, oh no. Turns out that the icing on this colorful cake would become a visit to a live spraying session held in Kopstraatje, which is a little street next to the Kammenstraat. It’s very easy to walk past this tiny street and even I-know-every-street-in-Antwerp-me didn’t know exactly where to find it at first. However, armed with a camera, my pen and some research I did I hopped on my bike to visit both the live spray jam and the exposition.
Artist Onio came over from Brasil to continue an ongoing art-project tour through Europe. In every city he visits he gets into contact with a local art-collective to come to a cooperation which allows him to paint and display and sometimes even sell his works. In Antwerp, he chose to work with KOP VZW. KOP (Kunst Ondersteunend Platform: translated Art Supporting Platform) is made up of 3 bubbly young women, who, according to themselves, have started this non-profit organization as a sort of passion gone wild (something I can relate to as it is how I ended up with This is Antwerp). As a non-profit organization, they aim to provide a voice, space and most importantly a chance to aspiring artists of every shape, size and form. And I must admit that with Onio, they’ve surely hit home.
The first thing I noticed when I took a look at his live spraying, was the very unique style that stands out beyond anything I had ever seen in Antwerp. While I am used to the more darker, less abstract styles that can mostly be found around Antwerp, this provided for a very welcome change of scenery. In my opinion, his work is a lot like the man himself (or at least the man I got to see while talking to him): colorful (he has a lot of tattoos), enthusiastic and impossible to turn away from.
Coming from South-America it seems that vibrance is very important in his art, though I myself could easily witness the differences between the stuff he does in the streets (illegal) and the things he creates in a studio. In Kopstraatje, he made these two different sides to him collide. The two painting on the top are a collaboration with two Antwerp artists: El Neoray and Vagabundos. The three of them created two pieces with beautiful bright pastels (yes, that is possible) and black outlining. Onio told me that these reflect more of the work that he does in a studio while what he did on the bottom part of the wall is meant to be more of a mirror to his illegal streetwork all over the world. I am willing to bet that, just like me, you’ll have a hard time turning away from what they’ve made: there’s just so much to see!
As if the live spraying didn’t already impress me enough, his works displayed at Rubia deemed to be visited too.
Hanging on the crisp white walls of this very new art-collective’s showroom/workspace, Onio’s drawings mesmerize anybody who walks by them. Together with my sister I went on a full recon only to quickly realize that we’d never be able to catch every detail of every work on display and that’s not even mentioning the things they decided to not put on display. It would have taken us weeks to catch every detail, so we were happy just picking out our own favorites. And as those things usually go with sisters: our choices could not have been more different. What we did agree on was the awesome work that Onio did on the walls of the basement floor, which is covered in a black and white pattern that screams “Onio was here” to those who are familiar with his work and invite to sit down and take it all in for those who don’t. And it’s not just that this is a symbol for Onio, it’s also a very clear sign of what Rubia stands for: providing a space for creation and adestination for artists and their art.
In all, I had a wonderful day checking out some fresh urban talent and talking to the people that made it happen. From my pleasant versatile conversation with Onio and his fellow painters to my sister’s savvy questions for the owners of Rubia, I enjoyed every minute of it.
Text and pics by Joke