If you quiz Euduardo Kobra on what connects him to his art, chances are he wouldn't bring up the nitty gritties of aesthetics. Instead, the Brazilian street and mural artist would insist that art, especially one that is accessible to the public, is important for its potential to transform lives, by starting dialogues on beauty, activism, peace or politics.
MURAL MAGIC IN MUMBAI
The artist, known for pushing the boundaries of the contemporary art scene with his kaleidoscopic use of colours and geometric shapes, appears to live by the philosophy. The urge to document the collective memory of a space is what brought him all the way to Mumbai's Churchgate station, which has shaken off its greyscale with (Kobra's) portraiture of Mahatma Gandhi travelling in third class. The idea is to inspire everyone to look at their fellow men with respect and equality, explains Kobra.
The 43-year-old's interest was piqued by the democratic nature of streets after he started painting at the age of 12. Spurred and shaped by New York's graffitis of the 70s, and the works of artists David Alfaro Sequeiros and Diego Rivera, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Blu and the media-elusive Banksy, Kobra's own style is steeped in history, music and figures from the past who embody a sense of social justice and harmony. This urge to document the world's memory has translated into murals of Jimmy Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein and other cultural greats.
OLD MEMORIES, NEW TECHNIQUE
Should you pass by one of Kobra's murals, what's bound to stand out, apart from the stirring nostalgia of his themes, is the abundance of squares and triangles, repeated to create a sense of photorealism in tandem with bright, bold colours. Kobra, who has painted at or near landmark locations in New York (Times Square), London and Paris, considers his technique as necessary to summon the benevolent spirit of the past. "Perspective and anatomy are paramount, as is the usage of light and shadow, or sepia and black and white tones. These feed into my colours around historical figures, and give them life," says Kobra, now back in Brazil.
True to his maxim, he hasn't restricted his art to the prime urban locations he's now free to paint on. "I was born in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, and didn't ever go to school. My work has always belonged to the streets. Having found a path for myself, I associate some of my best experiences with painting for local communities," says the man who believes that design and art are a creative outlet for people stuck in challenging situations — "be it monetary, drugs or delinquency".
Powered by this desire to connect and communicate with different communities and classes, Kobra is now a part of a worldwide integration of art and counter culture, where dreamers like him can turn around and say: "In a sense, I am an activist."