Allison McKeown profiles Brazilian street artist Herbert Baglione.
Born in 1977, Herbert Baglione is an artist of irrefutable skill in his field, predominantly working within the realm of street art. He is renowned for his large-scale murals on rooftops and street surfaces which depict simplistic images of extreme humanoid forms – sinuous manifestations twisting into impossible shapes that are characteristically expressive. His observations and drawings of his hometown of São Paolo fuelled his passion for the urban space. The city’s inspiration is apparent in Baglione’s choice of font, probably derived from the ‘Pichação’ form of graffiti used in the South-eastern districts of São Paolo. Baglione creates both simple and complex illustrations in high-quality finish, working with paint, chalk, aerosol spray paints, and even his own blood. He achieves remarkably minute detail not only using pen, small paintbrushes and paints, but also with aerosol spray paints.
This utilisation of colour causes the construction of the beautiful whole, rather than through a focus on distinction.
In creating a work, Baglione focuses not on the aesthetic quality of the single elements but the overall unified effect created. By focusing on the broader picture much of his work carries a distinctive fluidity and calm impression, formed by coalesced lines and patterns of fine detail, and the distinctive figural characters created by the artist. Each colour is chosen for the creation of a unified appearance and the expression of a succinct message. This utilisation of colour causes the construction of the beautiful whole, rather than through a focus on distinction. Baglione’s work primarily deals with themes of death, chaos, sexuality, and faith. His communicative use of colour is apparent in his ‘1,000 Shadows’ series begun in 2013.
Shadows were an ongoing element of Baglione’s artistic oeuvre from 1999, but it was not until 2013 that these shadows formed a distinct body of work. Starting in July, Baglione chose various locations for his wide-spanning body of work such as Madrid, Parma, and Paris. These places serve as the beneficiary of his disturbing and macabre images dealing with death, existentialism, and the soul. One of the chosen sites was an abandoned psychiatric hospital in Parma. Baglione’s work heightened the unsettling nature of the dilapidated building. Ghostly figures slither along the floor and walls, peeking around corners, and imposing their ominous presence on all that entered. Their painted presence is eerily combined with psychiatric equipment found on-site. Rusting wheelchairs dot the hallways of peeling mildewed walls. These wheelchairs form a link between the spectral world and our own; the ghoulish figures seem trapped between the two. Baglione’s painted murals of these fluid entities wrap around the architecture, embracing the structure’s surface and evoking a lingering presence of its former inhabitants. The spectral apparitions are illustrated as simplified, elongated creatures, depicted in a black and white colour scheme reminiscent of the illustration style of Aubrey Beardsley.
By playing with ideas of the relationship between structure and image, Baglione generates a new type of interest in seeing something afresh.
Monochrome the primary aesthetic palette exercised by Baglione. His use of black and white conveys the sinister and possibly nefarious nature of the figures and their reminder of an inescapable death. Their simplified form allows the audience to imagine themselves in this state. The ghostly figures emphasise the old psychiatric hospital’s function. The shadows that cling to the walls and glide along the floor work in harmony with the buildings’ structure, following the invisible trail of Baglione’s hand. This understanding of spatial construction and connection derives much from his earlier graffiti work.
While the style Baglione employs has varied across his career, there is an innate link between the interaction of image and site, and the more general themes of sexuality and death which pervade his work. The simplicity of the images for which Baglione is renowned, plays a significant role in adding to the emotional force of his locations. By playing with ideas of the relationship between structure and image, Baglione generates a new type of interest in seeing something afresh, like the trail of the souls traversing the hospital floors. We are forced to contemplate the relationship between the site’s history and the patients who once roamed its corridors.