In the vibrant city of Barcelona, embossed by art and culture, Pep Walls emerges as a freelance artist whose creative journey has transcended traditional boundaries. With a unique style and a focus on mural art that involves and engages with its commuities he has left a mark in several cities around Europe. This is the story of the beginning of Pep Walls beginning of his mural art journey as a participant of our Youthpower project in 2019 & 2020.
Youthpower Project: A Catalyst for Pep Walls’ Artistic Evolution
Youthpower is one of Doing Good’s (formerly Sätt färg på Göteborgs) art & labour market projects that aimed to get young adults into the workforce while making cities more beautiful. Through involving youth in the painting of murals around Gothenburg and Barcelona the young participants obtained training and knowledge in the painting trade. A couple hundred participants were involved in over 40 art projects tackling exlusion by offering the participants paths toward a better future. Pep Walls describes how he first learned about the project:
– I was on my first year of fine arts degree and at that point I was a bit disappointed with the studies program. For someone like me who was mostly interested in graffiti and street art, the academy was much more about traditional techniques, and there was not much space for street art. I remember a friend of mine showed me the advertisement from Youth power project, offering the opportunity to travel to Sweden and learn mural painting techniques in Gothenburg. For me it was the kind of opportunity I was looking for, I sent my application the same day, and crossed my fingers to be selected.
I sent my application the same day, and crossed my fingers to be selected.
Empowered by Art: Pep Walls’ Evolution
Participating twice in the Youthpower project proved to be a catalyst for Pep Walls’ artistic evolution. From collaborative murals in Barcelona to executing designs from acclaimed artists like ”Romulo Lass” in Gothenburg, Pep Walls reminisces about the friendships forged and the invaluable experiences gained during these projects.
– My first time was in 2019 where Sätt färg på Göteborg (Ed’s note: Former name of Doing Good) collaborated with my university in Barcelona. During that year I took part on a collaborative mural we did at the library of Fine arts in Barcelona and afterwards I travelled to Gothenburg for two weeks to help the great artist “Sabotaje al montaje” to paint a big mural. I remember that not only with the artists but also with the other participants we got very close, and some of them are still good friends of mine. Then in 2020 I got a message from Youthpower again! They were planning a second edition, with different artists, murals and spaces and they wanted me to collaborate again helping and assisting the artists.
Painting one of his last private comission in Falset, Catalunya 2023
Working together with renowned mural artist Matias Mata
Reflecting on memorable moments during the project in Gothenburg, Pep Walls shares his experience of working alongside Matias Mata, also known as ”Sabotaje al montaje.” The opportunity to collaborate with a street art pioneer proved to be a life-changing experience.
– Matias Mata was an artist I had been following since I got interested in the street art scene years before the Youthpower project. When I knew he was the guest artist invited to work with us in Gothenburg I couldn’t believe it. For me learning and working next to such a pioneer was a live changing experience. Matias inspired me a lot, and after the weeks working together with my other partners we got friends. Later on, in January he invited us to his hometown in Tenerife, where we spent four brilliant days painting and hanging around!
Working on Matia’s mural in Gothenburg, 2019.
The impact of The Youthpower project
Contemplating on the impact of the Youthpower project on his understanding of art’s role in society, Pep Walls emphasizes the importance of community engagement in mural projects. He asserts that making communities active participants elevates the acceptance and appreciation of street art, especially in areas where social integration is crucial.
– After this project I understood the large impact street art can have into a community and a city. I also realised about how working in group, and understanding mural painting as a collaborative experiences make the projects even more meaningful. At the end of the day, the final result of the murals was not the important point on the projects. The whole experience we had in Gothenburg, the connections, friends we met there and everything we learned, was by far more important.
After this project I understood the large impact street art can have into a community and a city.
Youthpower participants working on ”Klara’s” mural. Pep is the third person from the left. Gothenburg 2020,
Engaging communities for social inclusion
In contemplating the role of art in society, Pep sheds light on a crucial observation that emerged from his engagement with local communities during the Youthpower project in Gothenburg.
– Gothenburg made me realise that murals and street artworks are better accepted by the community when you make them participants of it. Most street artists are traveling around the world, staying for only one week on each city, where they paint their mural and don’t even realise about what do they have around, or who are the neighbours that will live with that new piece. Most of this communities will never understand the piece or feel it part of their urban landscape. They will just see the artist as a stranger who came from abroad to do a paid job and leave.
Engaging with the community at some point of the project is the key in order to elevate the artwork and make the neighbors embrace the new mural in their cities.
Pep discusses how he thinks our mind-set of what a street artist entails should be changed.
– Engaging with the community at some point of the project is the key in order to elevate the artwork and make the neighbours embrace the new mural on their cities. We should keep in mind as well that there are some zones where this kind of projects will have a notable effect, and can be used as a tool to improve social integration and engage with vulnerable collectives and teenagers who will feel empowered from these kinds of projects.
Meeting the neighbours. Gothenburg, 2020.
– I have been always interested in working with socially excluded communities. Sometimes at the beginning of a project it looks like it will be challenging and that they might not be very interested in the idea. But at the end of the day, these groups are the ones who are the most grateful to be part of these projects… None of my participative murals have ever been painted over. And for me this is a medal of success, because it proves that the project engaged with the community, and now they feel proud of it and respect the painting.
I am interested in exploring the connections that art can establish with the community… I always seek ways to transform my personal projects into collaborative workshops and social research initiatives.
About Pep Walls
” I am a freelance artist based in Barcelona. Throughout my career I worked from sculpture engraving and installation, but above all have focused on mural painting. I graduated with a Fine Arts at the University of Barcelona coursing one year at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.
I started painting graffiti in 2015, and today I have murals in different countries of the European Union, such as the Czech Republic, Sweden and Malta, where this summer I curated and co-organized the first edition of the street art exhibition Outside In Valletta. My murals are characterized by being of a synthetic and illustrative style but full of irony and sarcasm. Conceptually, my work deals with the concern about an imminent social and environmental collapse.”
Pep Walls, former participant of Youthpower