Elian Chali‘s murals, with their bold colors, clear-cut shapes and flat surfaces, immediately grab your attention. The Argentinian artist travels all over the world to leave his mark on street corners everywhere.
Elian is exceptionally skilled in playing with our perceptions. For example, his painting Exercise of Anamorphosis #2, located in a small town in Belgium, shows three geometrical shapes in an almost Escher-like impossibility – it is positioned in such a way you can only see them from a single viewpoint.
The murals’ bold colors form a stark contrast with their surroundings – it almost seems as if Elian added these forms digitally to the photos later. In Sandwich, we see a bright yellow doodle paired with an artificially-looking blue triangle, painted on a simple, sober-looking apartment building.
This doesn’t mean Elian’s paintings are disconnected from their environment. On the contrary –he sees the city as a stage for his paintings and his pieces are in constant interplay with their locations.
“Fifty percent of my work is dependent on the context,” he says. “It’s not directly referential, so red does not express love and blue desolation. It’s the sum of all factors construct the idea. It’s the climate, the architecture, the traffic, the socio-political context, my intentions, the formal resources and the relation between space and time which makes the work.”
So with Esto no es un make-up, a mural on the facade of an old iron factory, Elian wanted to respect the building’s heritage. “By leaving the textures, previous interventions and damage visible, we don’t cover up the indicators that reveal the previous life of the building,” he explains.
In a way, you can see Elian’s big saturated surfaces as a moment of peace in busy times; they allow passers-by to press pause for a minute to take them in before carrying on with their hectic lives. “We are overloaded with information and ‘super effects,'” the artist says. “Maybe a visual breath is exactly what we need right now.”