The Pavement Picasso Spreads Public Art in Santiago

British street artist Julian Beever isn’t drawing hopscotch lines when he uses his medium of choice - colored chalk - to create his 3-dimensional works of art. The “Pavement Picasso,” as he has been dubbed, creates other realms of fantasy and imagination around the world in public spaces.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Kendal Montgomery

He has worked with over 40 companies and several festivals, and recently teamed up with Ballantine’s, a scotch whisky brand, in its “Leave an Impression” campaign, to draw a 12 x 12-meter Ballantine’s bottle that appeared to be pressed into the ground through his optical illusion technique at the Alto Las Condes shopping mall.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Kendal Montgomery

Beever has been working with the Ballantine’s campaign this year, an appropriate pairing as their “Leave an Impression” slogan describes aptly what Beever does literally and metaphorically. The bottle was an exact replica of Ballantine’s Finest laying on its back, while its outline appeared to be a simulated continuation of the tiles on which it was drawn, as if the bottle punched an impression of itself into the ground. Earlier this October, Beever did the same piece in Montevideo, Uruguay.

While the workspace was cordoned off as Beever created the image, the ropes were later removed allowing on-lookers to take pictures with the image itself. Passersby did not just snap photos next to the bottle, but were able to stand on it, pretend to lift it from its crater, or whatever creative position they could think of to immerse themselves in the 3D image of the bottle.

Although most artists would not want anyone touching their work, especially if it were composed of a precarious material like chalk, Beever not only encourages but insists that people take pictures on his pieces.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Gida Homad-Hamam

He feels that his works is incomplete until someone interacts with it, making the 2D drawing come to life as a 3D figure, or more so, a real 3D object. In the scheme of public street art, it appears to be the most proactive form, hinging on public participation and challenging people to match Beever’s creativity with their poses for photographs.

"Art shouldn't be locked away in galleries and libraries and books. Art should be for everybody and not just art boffins, historians and so-called experts,” he told the BBC while working in Birmingham. In a separate interview in 2006 with British newspaper The Independent, he explained, “My art is for anybody, it's for people who wouldn't go into an art gallery. It's art for the people.”

So how does he simulate a 3D scene on a 2D surface? Anamorphosis, a technique that dates back to the Renaissance, a projection that creates the illusion of all three dimensions if viewed from a specific angle. In fact, Beever’s drawings must be viewed from an exact location, or the images appear two-dimensional and completely distorted.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Kendal Montgomery

Beever’s art subject matter has greatly varied. Many of his drawings look like scenes out of a children’s book, with people lounging in pools, whales or seals popping up and out of icy waters, people climbing into or falling out of holes, or entire underground cities. He has also done several comic book-inspired works, featuring Spiderman, Batman and Robin, and the Invisible Man. Beever’s images innovatively use their surroundings, such as the image of Santa’s underground workshop next to a mailbox, appearing as if one sent a wish-list to Santa in the mailbox, it would go straight to him.

Beever has worked with beverage companies before as well, drawing a sideways Coca-Cola bottle, a Slate 20 (a bourbon mixed drink with lime and ginger) and a Transformer robot carrying a Mountain Dew bottle out of the New York City subway.

He has also done more serious renderings, such as “Politicians Meeting their End,” which depicts two politicians falling into a deep well. The piece, located the Bank of England building, was commissioned by Channel 4 on the eve of the 1997 general election in England. Even with a serious theme, though, Beever maintained his signature playful sentiment. Indeed, no matter what the subject of each of Beever’s pieces, humor is inherent in its novelty.

“Leave an Impression” by Julian Beever
Oct. 20-Nov. 2
Plaza del reloj, Alto Las Condes
Av. Presidente Kennedy 9001, Las Condes
Metro: Escuela Militar, then C15 to Alto Las Condes

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