Broken crates and worn pipes pile up in the studio of Portuguese artist Bordalo II, who uses rubbish to create surprising animal sculptures to warn people about the dangers of pollution.
The 31-year-old has decorated the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, and other cities around the world, with his colourful foxes, owls, monkeys, and chameleons.
In Lisbon, one of his best-known works is a four-metre-high raccoon made from old tyres, car parts, and electronic components, that gazes down on passers-by.
“Animals are the characters which the public can identify most easily with when I want to show the ravages of our society on nature,” said Artur Bordalo, who prefers the artistic name Bordalo II – a tribute to his late grandfather, painter Artur Real Bordalo.
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He uses materials in his work that are harmful to animals to raise awareness, he said, in an interview at his Lisbon studio, as he hand-drilled a paw out of plastic cut from a rubbish bin lid. Bordalo II collects the rubbish he uses to make his sculptures from the city’s rubbish dumps and roadsides.
When he is not travelling abroad, he works on his sculptures in his tiny studio in a northern Lisbon neighbourhood while listening to electronic music. Born in Lisbon in 1987, he took his first steps as an artist in the studio of his grandfather, a painter known for his watercolours of Lisbon who died last year. Bordalo II studied art at the University of Lisbon but he decided to focus on his passion – graffiti.
He said he got the idea to make sculptures from rubbish while doing graffiti.
“One day, I started to assemble objects I had put aside to create a stand to paint on, and then I realised I could use these objects to create something aesthetically interesting, while giving them meaning,” he said.
“My productions depend a lot on wherever in the world I find myself,” said Bordalo II, whose works of art have decorated streets in Germany’s Berlin, Paris in France, United States’ Las Vegas, and Baku in Azerbaijan.
The message he wishes to convey, though, is always the same.
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“We must be interested above all in the state of the world and nature,” he said.
Art in public spaces is an ideal way to change mentalities because “it has the power to mark spirits”, he added.
Bordalo II is part of a growing group of artists such as Vhils and Pantonio who have used Lisbon’s streets to display their works, thanks to local policies that favour street art.
“Lisbon is one of the first world capitals to have created a legal framework that allows artists to paint on walls,” said Pedro Farinha, of Estrela d’Alva Tours, which has since 2014 staged tours of the city’s street art.
Bordalo II said Lisbon “understands that urban art is a plus for the city”. “Grey walls have nothing to tell,” he added.
Edited by Ginny Wong