The Impermanent Beauty of Escif

Written by Diego López Giménez

Escif is one of the most recognized urban artists with a long career behind him, to the extent of participating in the internationally famous Fallas or being called the “Spanish Banksy” by the press. This Valencian artist usually doesn’t sign his works on the streets, but for those of us who have lived in the city of Valencia all our lives, they are unmistakable.

Born in the early 80s, with a degree in Fine Arts and a specialization in Public Art from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, after a period as a graffiti writer in the mid-90s, he evolved towards iconic post-graffiti with his famous eyes painted throughout the city of the river Turia. Subsequently, he leaned towards narrative post-graffiti in mural painting, with a minimalist aesthetic, where his works on the street have a strong focus on social and political criticism. He resorts to sharp humor to denounce current issues affecting citizens’ freedom, environmental problems, and social injustices. Indeed, his pieces manage to gnaw at, disturb, and provoke reflection in the viewer.

 

Art by Escif / Photo Provided by Author

Escif’s works often feature stylized human figures or everyday elements represented with clean lines and soft colors, although behind this apparent simplicity lies a challenge to the viewer to contemplate beyond the surface. The artist reflects on his evolution in the street: “For many years I have been painting scenes on the street and accompanying them with a short text. I realized that it didn’t matter what text I put, because it always worked. Sometimes I experimented by putting one word or the opposite, but it always told something. All possibilities are possible and art is responsible for proposing them.”

This muralist considers the street as a field of research, a tool to reclaim public space for citizens and to criticize injustice or hypocrisy, as highlighted on his website: “I find it interesting how graffiti abuses walls, transgressing their official function. Walls are designed to manage life in cities, but not to be managed by life in cities. In what we could call a mirror effect, painting manages to reverse the arrogance with which concrete imposes itself on the masses. A painted wall ceases to be a boundary and becomes an open channel of communication, reaching many people”. Freedom dominates the street, as he continues to say on his website: “Despite the evolution of control systems, the street remains free; it is like a fog that no one can stop, it is the chaos that takes over order, it is the very essence of nature that refuses to be controlled.”

Art by Escif / Photo Provided by Author

Escif prefers not to interact directly with his followers, letting his work be the sole protagonist. He doesn’t give interviews and rarely speaks with historians or journalists. On his website, he emphasizes this respectable and understandable desire for anonymity: “There is no reason to contact Escif”. Not even art historian Belén García could reach him for research purposes, as highlighted in her thesis: “(…) I have had the bitter experience of those who did not want to speak with me, their excuse was that they had nothing to say because their work said it all: Escif or Hyuro within post-graffiti”.

In one of the few interviews, Escif reflects on where to find authentic Street Art today: “True urban art is created by people who don’t care about art: mural painters from Senegal, sign painters from Mexico, pixadores from Brazil, political painters from Greece, hobos from the United States, and outsiders from all over the world who really believe that what they do is a tool to change their context.”

Art by Escif / Photo Provided by Author

Some of the milestones in his constantly evolving career include, apart from his regular participation in Valencia’s Fallas, the presentation of his self-published book “Elsewhere”; also, the documentary “Un coche rojo”, an audiovisual essay on public television; his appearance in Banksy’s pseudo-documentary “Exit through the gift shop”; drawing the cover of an album for Irish singer Damien Rice; in 2017, painting one of the largest murals in Valencia at the Pati Obert de l’ IVAM; in 2018, intervening in the walls of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

As an active member and founder of the XLF collective, he travels the world creating murals (London, Berlin, Miami, Mexico…) linked to history or milestones within the context in which they are placed, and his exhibitions reach museums and galleries worldwide. Besides his street murals, Escif has also ventured into other forms of artistic expression, including sculpture, installation, and performance.

Art by Escif / Photo Provided by Author

He acknowledges that nothing lasts forever, highlighting the ephemeral nature of everything, particularly street murals where the artist disappears after leaving his creation, his message, his mark on the wall: “When you paint on the street, you paint to disappear. You live with this idea that nothing lasts forever. You become friends with it. You turn it into a tool. We are impermanent. The Fallas are. Graffiti is. The universe is. Everything is born to disappear. And this is wonderful”.

Diego López (@valenciaengrafitis)

Author of “Street art by women