The 'golden painter' has been ordered to pay a 7,750 euro fine / sur

Mystery 'golden painter' ordered to pay more than 7,750 euros for street furniture graffiti

The young artist from La Cala is planning to organise an exhibition to raise funds to pay the fine and fellow artists have offered their support

Irene Quirante
IRENE QUIRANTE

A young artist from La Cala, who in 2015 was renamed the 'golden painter', after street furniture including litter bins in his home town and Malaga city started to appear, has spoken to Diario SUR about the fines he has been ordered to pay and how he plans to raise the money to pay them.

He was just 20 years old when, in the evenings, he would sling a rucksack full of spray cans over his shoulder and go off to paint street furniture. His artistic impulse led him to paint litter bins, containers and benches gold to give them a new meaning.

The painter has always maintained that his pieces were intended to be far from vandalism and only sought to invite reflection on the meaning that these objects might have for people experiencing homelessness.

Despite the expectation and mystery he generated, the project did not last long and in April of the same year he was arrested. His graffiti led to a court appearance last year. He appealed the sentence but last December found himself in Malaga’s provincial court which also ruled against him.

Almost seven years after his story began, the artist, now 26 and still preferring anonymity, is tired of fighting his case in court. According to the ruling, to which this newspaper has had access, he will have to pay a fine of 4,500 euros and another 3,255 euros in compensation. In total, the sum amounts to 7,755 euros. The question now arises as to how to pay it.

The fine couldn’t be taken from his bank account at the time of the ruling as he wasn’t earning the minimum wage. However, the situation changed when he got a new job a little over a month ago. "I haven't had time to check if they have taken the money yet, nor have I received the notification, but I imagine they will do it soon... they are quick to collect," he says jokingly.

As well as getting enough money together to pay the fine, the artist hopes to raise the profile of the initiative that led to his arrest, as well as reflecting on his experience with the law as a 20-year-old. With the maturity he has gained over the years, he realises that at the time he was "an inexperienced young man.”

Now he knows that he should not have allowed the officers who caught him to see the images on his camera. He explains that the camera revealed several photos linking him to his gold pieces. Perhaps he would not have signed certain documents with his home address, which he says he did in a futile attempt to avoid further trouble. "The truth is that I was caught off guard," he admits.

Items seized by the police after the artist's arrest in 2015 / sur

The artist behind the golden creations would like his conviction to reopen the debate, or "open the melon" as he puts it, about the contradictions in attitudes towards urban art in Malaga. "It is interesting to reflect on whether there is protection for certain artists and, at the same time, the penalisation of others, like me," he points out.

Despite the controversy over his work, he says that most of the comments he has seen or heard about his art have been positive. "What I like about art is that it generates an impact and in this way I wanted to invite people to think about the different meanings of these elements of street furniture," he says.

He goes on to say that unfortunately there are many people who survive on what they find in the rubbish, for whom these bins become a treasure. "They are objects that might be important, hence the reflection on the use that some people make of them and others don't.”

Support

The plight of the 'golden painter' has reignited the debate on the paradoxes of urban art in Malaga. It "opens the melon," as the protagonist himself would say. Creators and gallery owners have come out in support of the young artist and are demanding more "freedom" for Malaga’s urban artists.

"This kid did exactly the same thing that is done during Noche en Blanco or the Maus in Soho" says the visual artist and poet Rogelio López-Cuenca, who has agreed to participate in the exhibition with which the 'golden painter' will seek to raise funds pay the fine.

The graffiti artists Dadi Dreucol - who has always preserved his anonymity - and Guillermo Paz, known by the pseudonym Nesui SRC, have also experienced firm hand of the law after choosing public places to exhibit their talents.

In fact, the former even ‘sold’ a fine by painting a mural to pay a sanction in 2015, the same year in which the 'golden painter' was arrested. This is why he argues that the authorities should carry out an "exercise of trust" and provide spaces for creators to express their talent without reprisals.

It was only Malaga City Council who imposed the fine. Rincón de la Victoria council even praised the golden interventions and this has led David Burbano, one of those responsible for Malaga's Casa Amarilla, to question the reason why certain manifestations are allowed, generally with renowned artists, while others are persecuted and punished. "It is curious that some creations in this city are paid for and others, as in this case, have to be paid for. Is it that urban art is only possible if it is institutional?”