Pedro Tapuy ‘Pedro Te’, ‘Bless’ or ‘Steep’ Mera. Irki Paint, Sam Arte or Jairo Grefa. All names of urban artists, of course. But they are not from any old city. They are artists who have gained experience and recognition for their participation in Amazonian mural festivals like Expo Saberes (2016) or Wituk – La Ruta del Color (The Color Route, 2018). And they all hail from the not-urban jungle of Puyo.
‘Bless’ (Paul Toledo, born in this city in 1994) struggles to make his murals reflect the color and texture of a river, or the skin of a jaguar or the song of a jungle bird. Curious questions, quite contradictory to your regular “urban” artist’s aesthetic dilemmas. That is, perhaps, the great parable of these artists. Nature is their guide. Bless is in fact a hyperrealist painter. He has painted over 300 walls. His realism is such that it produces the sensation of touching wrinkles on the face of native tribes: the Sequoia, the Waorani, Shuar, Achuar or Kichwas elders, guardians of ancestral knowledge.
In the Barrio Obrero, the most visited area in Puyo, at the entrance of the Puyo River promenade, one can enjoy many of these murals. Images of wild animals, faces of locals, popular characters or references to traditional objects flank the streets of this neighborhood that has evolved into its entertainment hub.
‘Pedro Te’ began painting murals five years ago. He is a graphic designer and uses graffiti to apply illustration to his walls
“I’m a Kichwa,” he explains, “and the visual memory that I carry in my head brings together the memories of my childhood, especially those of my grandmother, Clara Santi, who is 110 years old. She used to make pottery and handicrafts and her deep respect for nature is an inspiration for my art.”
He depicts many different masks in his mural creations. The characters he paints have their eyes closed as if in deep meditation. One of his best-known murals is a portrait of a shaman, wearing a mask and a tuft of yellow, blue and red feathers. While playing a drum in the middle of a traditional celebration, you can see drops filled with sacred fire inside. The idea is to create a connection with the observers, “to allow them to live the mystery of the Amazon”.
Another artist, ´Kawina´ (the spirit of the jungle), continues to cross borders and has painted murals across Ecuador and Latin America.
Steep, Bless, the new generations of Amazonian urban artists, interpret their world in their own particular way, by blending elements of nature and human life. Imagine standing or resting in front of a talking jaguar, a bread doll with wooden skin or a gigantic owl. Murals have this effect on the observer: they draw you in and make you feel so big or so small in front of the magic of their creations.
Cover photo: Cris Harold