The “Spanish Banksy of the Emirates” talks about his first visit to Canada and his work at the festival
Text by Victor Arturo Valencia in collaboration with Briana Prieto F.
Translation by Briana Prieto F. in collaboration with Paula Villanueva
Rubén Sánchez is known as the “Spanish Banksy of the Emirates” because he was the first graffiti artist to paint the streets of Dubai with the permission of the authorities; this practice is punished by imprisonment if done illegally.
He did residency in Dubai for three years, and although the initial idea was to stay for a year, as he became acquainted with the culture and history of the place, he felt the need to stay; this region could teach him much more, not only regarding art, but the warmth of the people made him fall in love with them.
It is the first time he participates in Mural, a great opportunity to explore Canada, since he had never been. He said that as soon as he got the invitation by email, he was thrilled to know that he would take part in such a renowned event, of such quality and organization. So without hesitation, he accepted and took the plane for a trip he hopes – and will surely be – full of experiences.
His inspiration came from the skate world. Those living colors, the rebellious attitude and the wild being is something that he learned from a young age and has been embedded in his unconscious, all of which he portrays unwittingly in his pieces, achieving his unique style. He never forgets his beginnings, and to a certain extent, he continues to skate.
You mentioned that the message of your works is to show our daily lives in a different way. How do you do it?
It’s a different point of view of everyday life. Crazy things can happen daily and there’s a daily aspect to our craziness; that’s what I like to express. I have a certain “rule” in the way I work; I know I have to use spray paint if I’m painting a mural on the street and I use acrylic when to pieces for a gallery. That’s how I connect my art with the space.
The artist’s immersion in urban art began through the skate world. Feeling rebellious on a skateboard inspired him to start painting on the street. Without forgetting his beginnings, Rubén Sánchez continues to intervene skateboards when asked or for mere nostalgia.
You call yourself a self-taught artist, how has this learning process been?
I’ve always been very bad in class. I started studying graphic design and illustration on my own through tutorials, friends and books. I learned all that. I would have loved to formally study Art History, but I wasn’t able to do it. Learning is endless; it’s a daily thing.
What are you painting for Mural Festival?
I had two different ideas. One was based on a community with united humans, but each one doing their own thing, something like being “independently united,” but I had to modify it. I was more attracted to the issue of migration in general, thinking that I have always been in different places for long periods of time, or how the Americans had to come live in Canada since the arrival of Trump. The theme is mostly what it means to be a nomad for different reasons.
What artistic work has influenced you?
I’ve made murals that I’m very attached to, as I do with all of them, but there are some that stand out. The ones that have touched me the most are the ones I did in the refugee camps in Jordan with the Syrian children and their families. I met the families, we painted their houses… One time a family came out, they had nothing but tea and water to survive, and they gave us a cup of tea.The children were very excited; they had never touched a brush. Those projects, in 2014 and 2015 made me rethink many things: how can I change the world or give someone a smile? If I succeed, then it was worth it. I’ll return to Jordan this year to paint in a hospital.
What’s next for Rubén Sánchez after Mural Festival?
I’m going to Lake Como in Italy, where George Clooney lives, to paint the house of an Arab. Then I go to Budapest at the end of the summer, and as I mentioned, I will return to Jordan.