Social transformation, urban regeneration and skulls. There’s far more to street art than meets the eye, as Mexican artist Kathrina Rupit, better known as KIN MX, tells Sharon Jackson.
Street art: what’s it all about?
Street art interrupts the daily routine. I have taken part in some regeneration projects such as the Cabra Park Urban Gallery and around Thomas Street during the Liberties Festival. The idea is to create a new impression of the street. Everyone has their own view of themselves, that they express through their art. With street art, it doesn’t matter who you are. People feel free, no pressure to be like others or be a particular way. Everyone gives something a little bit different, something happy, funny, interesting, colourful, romantic, all different styles together. You don’t have to go into a gallery to see it. It’s completely accessible to everyone without any conditions, everybody has the right to enjoy street art.
How do you find the attitude to street art in Ireland?
I’ve been surprised by how society accepts street art here. When we are out painting, people try to help, cheering us up. Local people offer water and tea, or let me use the toilet in their house. When I was doing Fegan’s [a shopfront near Smithfield where KIN painted two large pieces], two Gardai came up one night. I was worried as I was alone and without any letter to say I was allowed to paint there. Instead they said, “Nice, it makes the city look better,” and then they left! Street art is very different in Mexico than here, in Mexico it’s seen as vandalism and it’s a negative thing.
The Cabra Park Urban Gallery started in 2012 and you took part in an update of the walls in June 2013. Do you think street art can be a positive social force?
Three of us arrived a few days later, after most of the walls had been done. My first impression was that the streets nearby looked a little bit dirty and a little bit dangerous. There were needles in the corners. But local people said it was much better than it had been before. You might think someone is a junkie, some guy came up who looked dirty and dodgy, but he put €5 into the collection cap as a donation. People were coming with cookies and saying thank you to me and the other artists.
What about some projects where street art is used for social good?
In July 2012, I co-organised the Graff House live street art show. All donations went to Temple Street Children’s Hospital. Also they have a crafts room there, so we did a day of mask-making and painting with the children. [The artists] didn’t get anything but a lot of positive energy.
Any differences between doing ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ street art?
This summer is so different. Street art was still taboo until this year. Even up to last year, even if you were doing a legal piece, people would come and ask if you had permission. Now people are much more open, they don’t question it, they accept it. If you go to do something [illegal], someone will call and offer you a wall, so you don’t even do it.
I care about the environment and I find the connection really strong with Dia de Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead. It is not the end but the beginning of something new, a transition, connecting to history. It gives a second life. I make all my art with recycled materials and the spraycan didn’t match those ideas. The RGB crew in Italy had done research for two years to make an ecological spraycan, and produced this Scribo can. It is completely made of aluminium, with acrylic paint inside which is less toxic, and the whole thing is recyclable. I use old books that were in the rubbish as background in paintings. I took this picture from Da Vinci and gave it a second life by putting a skull on it. In Mexico we have candy and sugar skulls and play with them, we have chocolates around little graves. We are taught about Day of the Dead in school. Skulls are not bad, it’s up to your interpretation. Because we are all skulls covered with skin and muscle. —-