August 24, 2014

Behind the Mask

As we find ourselves three quarters of the way into the year I reflect on the last eight months and all I have to say is, it's been a good year. In fact, a great year. I say that on a personal level and also in respect of what has been happening in Perth and for Perth. 2014. So much goodness.

The goodness has been abundant in the explosion of street art that has taken up residence on the many public walls of Perth. Not just in the CBD but all over the greater city from Fremantle to Leederville and into Victoria Park. As covered previously on the blog, Form's Public Perth program is largely responsible for turning our streets into art galleries and with the emergence of local community groups like the Laneway Collective and Vic Park Collective, this is creeping into the suburbs. 

Being local to the Vic Park area there has been nothing better than seeing the blank walls dotted along the cafe strip come to life. 

The most recent additions to these open air galleries are two murals painted by Mexican artist Saner on the exterior walls of two Vic Park caf├ęs. Saner was originally intended to paint in Perth during Public Perth but you know, as things go they don't always go to plan and he wasn't able to visit our fair city at that time. However he arrived in Perth last week ready to paint and the wait was worth it.  Working with the Vic Park Collective and the Town of Victoria Park, Form secured two prominent walls along Albany Hwy for Saner to give some much welcome sprucing up.

With two murals painted in the span of just three days, located at Zucchero Espresso Bar and Food For Me, Saner brought his style of Mexican muralism to the pieces. Being that Perth is such a multicultural city, and Victoria Park is undoubtedly one of the most multicultural neighbourhoods you can find in Perth, it's great to see this diversity reflected in the street art.

Saner completed his first mural at Zucchero and I got a kick out of seeing that quintessential Aussie icon of a koala incorporated into the piece. In coming to Australia, he wanted to create a conversation between Mexico and Australia and as such chose to combine known icons of Mexico and Australia into his work. You may notice that this particular wall has a green band affixed to it and this couldn't be removed, but artists being the creative and imaginative sort that they are, he found a way to work this into his mural using it to "make an interpretation with the building" and pulling together all the features of the wall to work in synergy with each other.

The aim of his work is to "create good conscience and lives" by trying to speak to the soul, not just to the person and he says that "we need to wake up sometimes and and see the world with a different point of view." You may also notice a little creature sitting aloft the green band and this represents Nahual, who is the protector of this wall and the people who come to view it! This is a common element that he adds to many of his murals. Also a feature of both his murals are the masks worn by the figures he has painted. These masks feature heavily in Saner's work and are another traditional element he blends into his work. These masks were often made out of precious metals and gemstone and worn by the Aztec and Mayan leaders and rulers.

The second mural was completed at Food For Me and this is certainly an impressive piece given the size of the wall. When painting this mural Saner thoughts turned to the members of the Mexican community in Perth who came to visit him during his days of painting and the overarching theme of this piece is love. I myself spoke with a few of them who came on one particular day and they all remarked how traditionally Mexican the design and style of this particular mural was and Saner himself says that he wanted to give them a personalized story from their home and something that they can have here which is a little piece of where they are from. 

He says that "sometimes we need to believe in love, in general. In yourself, in other people and feel the passion. When we are alone we sometimes forget the good things in life and they are trying to survive here and bring with them the love for another country. It doesn't matter where you are from, you need to believe in yourself and other people because we have a lot of good people in the world."

If this second mural is a dedication of sorts to the small, but proud, Mexican community of Perth his sentiment is one that is surely reciprocated by them. In speaking with them, it surprised me how far some of them had travelled, after work and with their families in tow, to see Saner working however they all wanted to be present to see this piece of themselves, their homeland and their culture being shared with Perth. Their feelings of gratitude, pride and joy were so palpable. One man told me that seeing the mural reminded him of his homeland and where he came from. It meant so much to him because it was a connection between the home he has made here and the place he has left behind, but now he has a little piece of his homeland here in Perth. As I see it, if art can do that, it surely is a beautiful thing. 


  1. So good to read this background to his paintings. Thanks! Love the pics.

  2. 'Une invitation au voyage' for sure outward and inward. Let's free up our minds! Imagination, perspective and beautiful colours that suits our surroundings. This is stunning.

  3. Great to see the tradition of Mexican muralists continues on the other side of the world .