Urban Nigths

Stamping Madrid With Diego Apesteguia

Stamping Madrid With Diego Apesteguia

Did you marvel at the sign of La Duquesita or El Perro y la Galleta at Madrid? Maybe, you don´t know that behind these vintage letters there is an artist and an ideology based on the Arts & Crafts movement. This handmade demand rescues the lost identity of the cities and is embodied in artisans like Diego Apesteguía. From his beginnings as an urban artist he has been able to draw a new Madrid with echoes of yesterday. We discovered his fascinating route through art, from the street to the sign.

In Search Of The Lost Identity

Madrid is looking for the way back to its lost identity. Passers-by fall in love with old signs, that offer add value to their premises. They are proposals impregnated with the ideology of the Arts & Crafts movement, a counterculture that prioritizes craftsmanship. One of its most notable representatives is Diego Apesteguía, who has recently been awarded by the Ministry of Economy at the National Crafts Awards.

In Diego’s hands, techniques such as glass engraving, gold leaf or enamel painting have been resurrected after having been buried by more modern and soulless techniques. However, his beginnings as an artist are on the street seeding Madrid at the beginning of the century with a very recognizable signature: Dier. Those who lived that time will remember their Vote Dier. They was part of an entire era in the city.

He began to paint on the street as he explains: I started As a kid in 1992, making signatures with my friends. From there to the bombing, the street art and the murals until 2012. Works lost by the zeal of the administrations in eliminating the urban art of the city. Diego remembers that many murals were erased from the old school and installations of Street Art pioneers. But to be ephemeral was its nature.

Activist of the urban art, his memories leave him a doubt: Sometimes I wonder if to have been less into the bombing, into the activism and the hardest line and to have insisted something more in the most amiable facet of the urban art, could have finished in the current wave of muralism. I would have loved to paint some large facade of Madrid. Although, where I wanted, I painted.

The new old signage

In the workshops of David A. Smith, in the United Kingdom, Noel Weber and Mike Meyer in the United States, or Alfredo Genovese, in Argentina, he immersed himself in the Art & Crafts movement, which he reached thanks to his fascination with the work of people like Dave Smith.

This nineteenth-century ideology arises in a historical moment similar to the current one: A world technical revolution, rethinking of the human being, work, cities … And the response that the Arts & Crafts movement gave to these issues is still valid: Work it occupies a lot of space in our life and defines us. There is no clear limit between art and crafts, which are a good way to feel fulfilled.

Diego in his workshop where recreate the Madrid´s language in signs.

This philosophy is a response to a global evidence that strips Diego’s work: Local styles are disappearing in architecture, in urban art, calligraphy or signage. Globalization is homogenizing the world, and so, the local, by disappearing, impoverishes the environment. In his words a need to recover the essences of the cities becomes evident. It´s neccesary to recreate a way the city speaks its own language.

Madrid By Diego Apesteguía

In the hands of Diego lies the wisdom of recovering those old signs capable of lasting for decades in our retinas. Its secret is, they were created by people who came from the arts, who wanted to make a striking, esthetic and durable piece with very important technical limitations.

A flag rises in Madrid to recover its old signs despite the lack of a record to protect them. For me it is clear that some old signs are cultural, commercial and industrial heritage of the cities. If facades and buildings are protected, the sign should be part of it, in fact it is easier to protect because they can move or can coexist with new signs.

Art & Signs

Diego gives much more value to his works being part of the city than to the awards. It’s the parts that I like the most about my work. From my stage in graffiti, the idea of intervening in my environment makes me feel more like a transforming agent. Each time I consider that one should complain less about how the world is and dedicate more to improving it even if it is on a tiny scale. On the other hand, I do not believe much in recognition, awards are a means, not an end.

The Wow Factor

In 2010 he finished his journey around the world and settled in his native Madrid, where he heads a group of artists at Rotulacón a mano.

He began to attract the attention of locals and brands, who have granted him a creative freedom that moves away from the margin of the briefing. We continue to do very directed commissions by customers, but, the style is closely linked to the techniques I use. The clients have to yield the decisions to the sign painter who is the expert. A designer gives us a somewhat more open briefing and his job is to give the final touch, the so-called wow factor.

Drawing signs

His experience has led to the need to disengage from a graphic design that he sees as overrated. The corporate identities of Cola Cao, Coca-Cola or Salsa Sriracha, for example, are not very different from those of the competition when they emerged but trascended by the meaning of the product in the world.

Diego is attentive to everything that happens in his previous artistic habitat, the street. The relationships of urban art with the administration has improved over the years. Now a certain diversity is accepted and there are people who come from the urban art in the institutions. Despite this, a large part of graffiti is illegal because of its very nature of painting where it is not accepted.

The paths of urban art

The Madrid scene has for Diego Apesteguía a community of urban artists quite small of what some institutions seek. Years of strong repression and a not very cosmopolitan spirit have created a rather dry character in the artists, an aggressive graffiti, and a very fragmented community, but I think it is changing over time.

Diego Apesteguía Mural. Vintage deco for a new millenumun.

A recurring question that always talks about art and street: Does urban art run the risk of ending up in a museum? Diego has it clear: I suppose that once you put the label of art on something susceptible to being in a museum. I do not know if this is a bad thing in itself. Many urban artists already do more work for the gallery, museum or internet than for the public space, so the museum seems a good destination for these works.

The Possibilities Of The Urban Environment

It seems evident that art looks more and more towards the street. Although there are different ways of understanding the urban environment. This artist from Madrid is aware that: Art has many interpretations. For left wing interpretation, public space is a natural environment for art. For other visions of art, such as the most personal, or the most capitalist, the street representative fame. I think both visions make sense.

What is undoubted is the cultural revolution that has involved street art. I am happy that art increasingly looks outwards, and I think that the graffiti of the 20th century and the muralism of the 21st century are the greatest revolutions of the painting of the last century. Although the critical spirit should not be lost. The street is tending to be overrated, and not being on the street is better.

Artists like Diego Aresteguía reconcile us with that battered urban space that serves as a billboard for large corporations and institutions. His personal art and his zeal in recovering the lost identity of Madrid have made him the visible face of a philosophy on the street.

La Duquesita

Strolling through the signs from La Bicicleta, El Perro and La Galleta, La Duquesa or La Virgen Beers reveals the powerful attraction of the artisan’s work. Signs that are part of our furtive kisses, of nights for remembrance, of disappointments and hopes. Madrid retrieves its old letters to decorate our new memories.

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