Street art on the slopes of Crans-Montana, Switzerland

Famous street artists from all around the world gathered in Crans-Montana last week for the first edition of the Vision Art Festival (VAF), a new festival of contemporary art focusing on street art. Gregory Pagès, VAF artistic director, invited artists with distinctive styles and techniques to decorate the walls of the ski lift buildings and some the ski resort’s other buildings. Convincing the ski lift company to let its buildings to be painted was easy, getting buy in from other buildings owners in the village required more time. In the end though everyone was very enthusiastic about the project.

© Ian Cox 2015

© Ian Cox 2015

The artists were also delighted. Artists Felipe Pantone, Okuda San Miguel, Reka One, 2Alas, Hebru Brantley, Joshua Keen Valencia, Rustam Qbic, Remed, ICY & SOT, Greg Mike, Angry Woebots, Chor Boogie, Nevercrew, Leza One, Rodrigo Branco, Jasm1 (aka Issam Rezgui), Demes, Toz and Cedric Kesa were all present. Everyone I interviewed told me how lucky they felt to be invited to such a beautiful place and added that the scenery around their attributed walls inspired them greatly. Their work was completely improvised and driven mainly by the breath-taking environment.

© Ian Cox 2015

© Ian Cox 2015

Arriving in front of their designated walls, looking around was all they needed to get their inspiration flowing.

Among these free hand painters Joshua Keen Valencia was an exception. He was among the few who designed their painting on a computer beforehand, after researching the region and its folklore. This is why he mentioned the mythical Dahu beast as an inspiration for the figure of a woman with ibex horns that he painted.

© Ian Cox 2015

© Ian Cox 2015

I thoroughly recommend taking a walk around the resort, especially higher up on the pistes to see the various walls colourfully painted and all different one from another. There is no need to walk far from the Cry d’Err ski lift terminus. Several artists have painted on the building itself. Okuda painted the whole north face of the roof and Joshua Keen Valencia a wall facing north. You will also find a couple of others pieces of art on the others walls of the building. If you walk down to the magnificent hotel Chetzeron you’ll see a special piece of art the duo 2Alas painted especially for the newly opened hotel. If you are down there, I suggest you treat yourself to a drink on the panorama terrace of the hotel and enjoy a breath-taking view on the southern Alps. Incredible.

© Ian Cox 2015

© Ian Cox 2015

If you want to see all of the paintings, don’t forget to check at the tourist office for guided tours. Gregory Pagès said that tours are likely to be set up quickly to meet the demand. A lot of interesting trivia and hidden details will be revealed on these guided tours.

Here I share with you some insights that the artists were kind enough to share with me:

The female figure in Chor Boogie’s huge wall is an homage to his grandmother who passed away a few days prior to the festival. In the same painting, one can observe a serpent around the neck of the woman, a direct reference to the one he saw during a spiritual retreat with the Bwiti tribe in Gabon.

© Ian Cox 2015

© Ian Cox 2015

Joshua Keen Valencia told me that the woman in his wall painting at Cry d’Err is a dear friend of his that he has wanted to paint for a long time.

Inevitably, these painted walls will fade from the harsh mountain weather. But don’t worry, other street artists will be commissioned to paint on top of the decayed ones in two or three years. Gregory Pagès promises that the 2016 festival will be as full of interesting contrasts as this year’s. Carrying on the concept of mixing street art painting with other contemporary arts, this year’s festival saw the presence of huge inflatable sculptures of a rocket and a unicorn. Next year there are plans to create even more thought provoking art juxtapositions. No more than that has been revealed so we will just have to come back next year to see what creative delights will be served.

Vision Art Festival website.

By Jonathan Bischoff

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