Art on the wall

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

“WHY do they do that?” I asked my parents as a little kid during one of those weekend drives along our city streets and saw spray painted works of nocturnal vandals on once clean and empty walls.

“Self-expression” was the most familiar reply.

It’s true that Cebuanos are a creative lot but acts of vandalism such as those are not helping in projecting that creative aura or more importantly, that value of promoting beauty within our community. However, self-expression on walls can be creatively done so as to not just showcase artistry of individuals but also polish a more presentable image for our towns and cities.


Surely you have seen efforts by a few like Barangay Subangdaku in Mandaue City to make use of wall art in rendering vibrancy in the once gray and murky underlayers of a flyover. Other barangays, cities and towns could follow that example in working with homegrown artists.

Seeing the works of Basic Lee, a 30-something Cebu-born street artist but now based in the US, would make one wish he were here to help promote creative street art in Cebu. It is a colorful and expressive way of depicting reality that appeals even to the ordinary observer.

“My art is a combination of urban pop surrealism mix with old school style graffiti from the nineties. My art is inspired by the beauty of life good or bad, the constant struggles we go through every day as human beings trying to live through life to survive, from the natural to the supernatural, from all forms of nature that lives from different environments big and small,” Lee describes of his art style. He draws inspiration from a lot of varied stuff like sea life and underwater creatures, the ‘90s (a decade which he spent most of his early teenage years), current events and politics as well as rock and roll and hiphop music.

Lee adds: “I could go on and on about what inspires me but living itself to the different stages of life and and the changes in each decade that takes place in history on how it changes society for better or worst is more than a constant inspiration of my works.”

He was recently in the country for a graffiti art tour in Manila and Cebu with his fellow street artists from California.

“We painted mural walls from barrios to poor communities for free. We had the best experience engaging with the local folks in each wall we painted to bring color and inspiration to the poor communities in the country,” he says.

Lee added that the collaborative work between Filipino Street Art Project and the Method Makers from San Francisco and their counterparts in the Philippines also developed friendship between them under “the common interest of creating and spreading art as an expression of showing love and passion with the Godgiven talent that we love to share with the people all over the world as much as we can when given the opportunity.”

Lee migrated to California with his family at the age of 14. They lived in Talisay and Lee studied at the University of San Jose Recoletos then at Don Bosco Technical Center. “Life in Cebu that time was good and simple and I was satisfied with what we had,” he recalls.

In his new home, this freelance artist, muralist, painter and illustrator studied at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Apart from being an artist, he also did photography.

Some government units and community groups have always strived towards a “livable” city. Surely, artists such as Basic Lee, would love to make their contribution by beautifully showcasing local culture through walls around the metropolis and are just waiting for community leaders to give them that opportunity. This is also an effective way of making the next generation appreciate local talent, how they express their art and perhaps, make them strive to discover their creative side.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 24, 2014.


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