Melting under the Spanish summer sun, we stood looking up at the whitewashed walls of La Ranilla Espacio Artesano, an old cottage now an artisan shop. The entire top of the building was wrapped in a quilt of squares delicately knitted in a riot of colours. Below, the turquoise shopfront fit in perfectly with the rainbow row of traditional Canarian homes we’d been walking past on the pedestrianised Calle Mequinez.
It was our first holiday abroad with Emilia. She was nearly three months old and we survived the plane ride to Tenerife with surprisingly little fuss. We were in the picturesque north of the island, exploring the streets of Puerto de la Cruz not far from La Laguna where Jorge grew up and his family still lives.
There were grand houses to admire along Plaza del Charco that belonged to wealthy merchants, but the modest old fisherman’s cottages of the residential La Ranilla quarter were the most vibrantly beautiful.
Mural by Sabotaje al Montaje (Gran Canaria) – “Ritual”
We were there to meet a friend who lives locally. He took us on a private walking tour under palm trees and blue skies to show us most of the incredible huge street art murals that have been painted by internationally-renowned and local artists in this part of the city. Despite their size, they are not all as obvious to find as some. Many of the murals were painted during 2014’s Mueca celebration – the international street art festival that takes place each year on the second weekend of May – and the city’s tourism office gives out maps marking each location. It takes about an hour to see them all.
Mural by Victor Ash (Denmark) – “Border to Paradise”
Mural by Iker Muro (Bilbao) – “Macaronesia”
One of my favourites was “Border to Paradise” by Danish artist Victor Ash. It shows a fence with a hole which on closer inspection is constructed of humans, symbolising that, mainly for either economic reasons or social prejudice, “paradise” is open to a select few but not to all.
Another favourite was a detailed piece titled “Sex” by artist Raúl Ruiz Tasmania from Granada, otherwise known as “El Niño de las Pinturas” (The Boy of Paintings). A woman with dark hair and dark eyes welcomes anyone who looks up at her face with a sultry glare. Next to her, the artist had painted the words “La Fuerza”, which translates to “Strength”. His work is meant to make passersby stop and think. He often incorporates elements like this – words, phrases, quotations or poetry.
Mural by Ro.Ro (Tenerife) – “¡Rum, rum, rum, the bottle of rum!”
Did you notice that the corner shop a few images up is open 23 hours? Wonder what happens the last hour of the day…
But anyway, back to the street art because there was so much to see.
One piece we skipped that I would love to have seen (next time!) was by a local female artist called Juliana titled “If you can dream it, you can do it”. The city’s map reads: “Her murals reveal a magic reality where the childhood attachment to the world of illusion still holds sway. Her work is also known for her personal expression of colours, textures and forms; her hyperrealistic dolls and her theatrical stage sets are famous.”
Mural by FEOFL!P (Lanzarote) – “Volatile Ships”
A second piece that we missed – partly because it was roasting hot walking around in the sun and partly because we were exhausted from the crushing sleep deprivation that comes with a new baby (and a year later, we still are!?) – is a mural with an interesting story behind it. Those are the best, aren’t they? Dulk, from Valencia, painted a small puffin to portray his adventurous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean to Puerto de la Cruz all the way from Iceland (where puffins live on the cliffs of a small fishing village on the southern coast called Vik). The rest of the mural shows various moments and memories from his journey and details of the two fishing communities that bookend a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Mural by Kob (Puerto de la Cruz)
We did spot a large black and white mural by an artist who I once met briefly in London and who is a always a favourite of mine – Roa from Belgium. He typically paints incredibly detailed monochrome animals (and often just their skeletons, sometimes with red blood or innards) in locations around the world where concrete builds have nudged them out of their natural habitat. Here, he’s chosen to create a collage of creepy critters.
Mural by Belin (Jaén) – “Eternal Youth”
Besides “Sex”, we saw several other murals that were, in many cases, extraordinarily detailed and sported quite realistic faces.
Just above is the hyperrealistic “Eternal Youth” by Andalusian artist Belin, an image of an old man in a sailor cap with a paper boat – a pretty accurate symbol of childhood, no?
We also saw Canarian artist Sabotaje al Montaje’s “Ritual”. It shows the face of a man whose responsibility it is to defend ancestral traditions. The map gave the example of the local “bath of the goats”. I’ve looked this up out of curiosity and it seems it’s really about bathing goats and is not only one of Tenerife’s strangest traditions, but one of its oldest.
Mural by Liqen (Vigo) – “The Flying Amphora”
“The Flying Amphora”, just above, is by Liqen, whose work shares his fascination with biology and with the tiny creatures who have survived thousands of years of evolution. Local artist Kob’s piece is a dripping, bubbling, overlapping, colourful work of “organic abstraction.” Canarian FEOFL!P’s “Volatile Ships” features a surreal ship with the head of a bird and elaborate feathers as oars. We also saw Tenerife-born artist Ro.Ro’s recognisable Playmobil figures in “¡Rum, rum, rum, the bottle of rum!”. And found a bit of “psychedelic surrealism” inspired by the eclectic combination of Pink Floyd and Dali. This is in Iker Muro from Bilbao’s “Macaronesia”. He describes his own work as an “acid mix of pop elements where graphic design and illustration come together” which seems pretty accurate.
Mural by Roa (Belgium)
Mural by El niño de las pinturas, (The boy of paintings) – “Sex”
For the murals alone, a visit to Puerto de la Cruz is a trip worth taking if you’re exploring Tenerife. The crumbling, paint-chipped, textured and worn candy-coloured fisherman’s cottages with their ocean breeze-battered shutters, charming street lanterns, and burnt sienna rooftops will give you more than enough to look at along the way. Plus, there are lots of other highlights we’ve left for the next trip (food, botanical gardens, etc).