While Ashwan may be best known for his luxurious works encased in resin (you can see more of these at his current exhibition) he never stops playing with materials and ideas. Over the past while he has returned to the streets around Barcelona, installing a number of large text pieces that have been documented in his limited edition series ‘It Was All A Dream’. Each A3 piece is printed on museum quality Hahnemuehle Photo Rag® Ultra Smooth paper, signed and numbered in editions of 100. They are available to buy through our store at €90 each, or in store framed by us for €140.
Each text piece was made in the studio from recycled cardboard (lots of it), paint, sand, and glue. They are sturdy and strong, and surprisingly heavy! After they were made they were carried to each location where they were mounted and shot with the help of experienced street art photographer Luz Martín (Author of Textura: Valencia Street Art). Some survived quite a long time. Some were snatched off their walls pretty quickly.
The lyrics in each image reference the lyrics from classic 1990’s hip-hop (featuring Biggie Smalls, Mos Def, Audio 2 and Mtume), placed in a specific location to contrast and compliment the energy of the text. To the artist, lyrical content is less important than the dynamic created by the pattern and the visual rhythm. Careful selection of location emphasises these rhythms with long abandoned buildings on bustling streets like Calle Ferrán chosen alongside other well known graffiti locations across Poble Nou, Barcelona’s deindustrialised zone reclaimed by property speculation.
To me, in Ashwan’s work there is a clear line of communication between the break down in social fabrics caused by neoliberal economic policies (alongside drug policies in the US) of the Regan and Thatcher era, and the cultural rebirth that came out of so-called decaying urban spaces. Out of the destruction and disorder of the city people began tagging and spraying subway cars, and a new form of music was built on the backs of sampling and reinterpretation, lending itself heavily to hip-hop and rap.
Creating a tribute to the energy of the subculture that is reinforced by each pieces’ surroundings Ashwan uses visual cues to compliment each era and genre. The text is often cut short or runs on separate lines leaving a sense of something left behind, perhaps a glimpse into a bygone era. The phrases are left intentionally hanging inviting us to observe the surroundings and ask whether we are invited to understand what’s going on, or whether it’s a deliberate attempt to alienate and protect content.
One of the key signifiers of these new sub-cultures was the imagery of anonymous subway artists and the unabashed emergence of hip-hop into the mainstream. To me it seems as if each piece of ‘It Was All A Dream’ was created with two mediums in mind – the artist spray can and the vocalist voice and flow. The lettering on each cut-out clearly evokes the wide strokes of fat-caps made for quick work, while the content of the lyrics encourages a reinterpretation of context.
This works and others will remain on display as part of "We Used To Do It Out In The Park" until August 18th.