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Graffiti Artists Spray Paint A Church Fresco, In Ancient Style

“As Pope Benedict XVI has said, art should attract the faithful,” the local priest tells PRI.

While the memetastic story of a Spanish grandma making some “edits” to her church’s fresco was taking the world (or at least the Internet) by storm a few months ago, another story about Spanish church painting was brewing–this one, with a more conscionable bent.

According to The World’s Gerry Hadden, in 2012, the priest at the Santa Eulalia Church outside of Barcelona decided that his apse needed a little color. He browsed around the Internet for ideas, and decided it might be interesting to ask a few local graffiteros to give it a shot. But not without a few caveats: He required the two artists, Rudi and House, to visit Barcelona and study Romanesque frescoes before they began sketching.

The final paintings–which were unveiled a few weeks ago–are done in spray paint but look very much like a traditional fresco. “In the Romanesque period, the spray paint didn’t exist,” Raul Sanchez (aka House) explains to Hadden. “If it’s too obvious that it’s spray paint, it’ll take away from what Father Borr [the priest] wanted.” After I got in contact with Sanchez, he sent me a few dozen photos of himself and his partner, cans in hand, staked out on the scaffolding like Adidas-clad Michelangelos.

Their Santa Eulalia fresco is unmistakably Romanesque, with its flattened perspective and cartoon-like gestures. But there’s something very modern about it, too–if you’d asked me to say whether it was contemporary or historical beforehand, I’d be torn. That’s what makes this story so interesting: It’s a perfect example of how descriptors like “street art,” which isolate graffiti from the evolution of fine art, are hopelessly irrelevant. For example, the French artist Honet has been working in what could be described as a Romanesque tradition for years–his influence, along with other contemporary artists who pull techniques from pre-Classical and Baroque painting, has spread like a wave through Europe’s graffiti scene.

So it’s easy to couch this story as an example of priests reaching out to younger audiences, but it’s also about street artists–outsiders, by definition–being welcomed back into the epoch of fine art. From which they never really left, if you ask me. Listen to the full interview on The World here.

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.

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