Cranio Artes: his World Cup murals London 2014

  • Cranio Artes 2nd football mural a series of panels 2014 work in progress
  • Cranio Artes and his London World Cup Murals 2014 

    This week I’m going to feature another street or graffiti artist because I was documenting his work on the Shoreditch Art Wall to celebrate the 2014 football World Cup which ends this weekend.

    Cranio is the street name for the artist Fabio Oliveira who is from Sao Paulo in Brazil.  Born in 1982, he began daubing the grey walls of his hometown from the age of 16. Though he is proud to tell you that he started drawing aged 2.  I love this quote from his website, ” he always carries in his backpack a lot of creativity and good humour.”

    Its his humour which I first loved when I saw this painting last Spring in 2013.  My photograph instinctively attempts to match that cheeky style.  Cranio’s mural is dated 2012 and had been heavily tagged by the time I snapped it.  Ignore all the white squiggles around the blue Indians, they are put there by other people.  In the original painting, which was well documented back in 2012 by  Hookedblog , you can see that the background is plain black. This was Cranio’s first ever painting in London which created a buzz amongst the street art cognoscenti because most of them had only seen his work online.


    Mural by Cranio Artes from 2012 off Brick Lane London, Pedley Street


    It was at school that he was given the nickname Cranio. This great quote from Fabio is taken from his interview with Global Street Art during that first London visit in 2012.

    “Cranio is my childhood nickname at the time I was in school. I was the smartest kid in the classroom so they started to call me Cranio. Cranio means skull in Portuguese and in Brazil that’s what they call someone with a big brain!”

    And his work is clever, funny and provocative: he comments on the world he sees around him and he is often highly critical but always with a cheeky twinkle. He developed his eye catching blue men to depict all the indigenous Brazilians who once lived in the forest but who now have to negotiate the concrete jungles of their cities.  Fabio says they are blue because it relates to the “imaginary and parallel world in which they used to live. ”

    They remind me of the Hindu god Krishna who is also painted in blue.  Could these blue men be his cheeky disciples?

    This next piece was created in 2013 and was on hoardings off Brick Lane. At the time I wasn’t so familiar with Cranio’s style and the cut out faces deflected me away from the blue bodies and Brazilian flag.  This is a collaboration with the artist HIN from Hong Kong.


    Collaboration between Cranio Artes plus other unknown, off Brick Lane 2013


    After working in Sao Paulo for 10 years, Cranio started to get recognised and for the past 6 years he’s been earning a living from his work through commissions, exhibitions and print sales.

    I love street art because it out in the open for all to see.  It feels exciting and vigorous and not contained by the mores of the mainstream art world. So I wasn’t expecting to read this answer from Cranio, in another 2012 interview during his London visit, this time conducted by the Brazilian Post. In it Fabio says he prefers to see his work in a gallery because there is recognition.

    I felt humbled by this answer because we all want recognition.  And I saw his work in a new perspective. Here is an artist who is driven to work and to communicate.  He simply chose a more unusual path via the street.   But the end goal, like all artists is the same which is to be heard and seen.  And so many of these street artists are true painters.  They may love to be called graf or street artists but they are painters as I understand them.  And as both my parents were painters in the more traditional sense, I feel able to say this.

    The next two photographs were taken this year.  This first was in April 2014. And the second was in June.  When I took the second picture I knew something was different about it but I didn’t know what until I downloaded it later and compared it with original.  Have a look for yourself.


    Cranio Artes painting Brick Lane 2014


    Cranio Artes painting Brick Lane modified June 2014

    The little monkey on the hen are the same but the person is totally different.  One is a grinning footballer and the second is the Chief.  The man is in town.  It now looks like a secret sign that Cranio/Fabio was in London.  Because he was in town, he was busy painting murals for the World Cup.

    Cranio’s Rivington Street Mural

    The artists whose work is on Rivington Street are those working at the top of their game. It is like getting a gallery on Cork Street, Mayfair, to my mind.  So painting here is an indication of the esteem we hold Cranio in over here.  This work is from 2014.


    2 paintings by Cranio Artes on Rivington Street, London 2014


    I was rather pleased with my first shot because I love the pig peeping out from the bench and the woman is sitting perfectly under the imp.  But a couple of weeks later I was passing by again and  I could capture the full painting.


    Cranio Artes paintings, 2 pigs in love on Rivington Street, London


    The Shoreditich Art Wall and the commercialisation of street art

    I don’t often pass this on public transport.  I only glimpse the top end as I pass by on the bus heading in and out of Central London.  I could see there were paintings on it but I did know until researching this post that this is actually a space for hire. At the time of writing this post it costs £2000 a week to exhibit on this wall.  Artists can paint for free if the wall isn’t booked. It is another form of commercial advertising.  Instead of a series of posters, artists are hired to paint on it instead.

    Cranio’s World Cup Football Murals 2014.

    I finally get twitter!  Thanks to twitter I saw that Cranio was painting another mural in Shoreditch on the weekend 15/16 June.  I don’t know if this is deliberate but I’ve noticed that often people don’t say precisely where a piece of work is.  On Tuesday 17th, I had time to check out where I thought it might be and I found it!  Cranio was still there completing a painting that spanned the whole width of a very wide wall

    I only had 15 mins to take a few pictures. And I exchanged a few friendly words with the man himself.


    a detail from Cranio Artes 1st football mural 2014


    a detail from Cranio Artes 1st football mural 2014


    This guy paints so fast!  Remember I was only there for approximately 15 minutes.  Notice that the figures on the left had no faces yet.


    a detail from Cranio Artes 1st football mural 2014


    And now look at this next picture and see that he’s now just sketched in the face of player no 2. And it fascinates me the way he dots around the painting adding bits.  For example, the man with the 11 shirt was complete before I arrived.  But the other two were still unfinished.  He returned to the tiger above and added some bright red flowers growing amongst the trees. I’ve only seen this online, sadly.


    a detail from Cranio Artes 1st football mural 2014


    Here is the whole painting, still unfinished, viewed from across the road.  Its a wonderful joyous scene of the Brazilian players, depicted in their native land, getting ready for action.


    Cranio Artes first football mural 2014


    Cranio’s 2nd World Cup Mural

    I’m sad that I wasn’t able to get back and photograph this again that week and see it completed.  4 days later,  on Saturday night, I read on twitter that he was painting another new mural.  I was baffled.  Surely they mean’t the one I’d already seen.  As it was still daylight, I popped along to see what was going on.  The first mural had completely gone!  And Cranio working on a new idea.  Four panels depicting different moments from the tournament.  You can see he him working on the 2nd one depicting Robin van Persie’s sensational goal.  And in the first week, Brazil were top of their group.


    Cranio Artes 2nd football mural a series of panels 2014 work in progress


    I went over to say hello and he remembered me!  And I said, “you’re going to paint a picture for this each week” and he said, “yes.” And that’s when I decided to feature this work in a post at the end of the tournament.

    I returned on Tuesday 24th June and 3 of the 4 panels were complete.  And on the fourth panel were the words ‘coming soon’


    detail from Cranio Artes 2nd football mural 2014


    But something was very wrong.  The mural had been defaced.  Before I show you what was written, lets enjoy the exquisite small details of the original work.  These three players celebrate the ethnic diversity of Brazil.


    detail from Cranio Artes 2nd football mural 2014


    This is Neymar’s first goal in the tournament.  I love the way his knees go outside the frame of the picture.


    detail from Cranio Artes 2nd football mural 2014


    detail from Cranio Artes 2nd football mural 2014


    And who are these guys on the beach?


    detail from Cranio Artes 2nd football mural 2014


    The stone says RIP Tiki Taka



    detail from Cranio Artes 2nd football mural 2014


    And this is what was daubed across the three paintings that Monday night, which I saw on Tuesday afternoon.


    Cranio Artes 2nd football mural 2014 defaced


    I was gutted. What was going to happen now?  Was Cranio going to return and clean it up?  I returned the following day and saw that another word had been added. Blatter!  [This is a reference to Sepp Blatter, the current president of FIFA] Also I spotted that the words “coming soon” had been obliterated. So that was it.  The mural project was over.


    Cranio Artes 2nd football mural 2014 defaced


    I googled to see if I could find out any other information.  One brief post on a site Who Ate All the Pies reported this event but it didn’t add anything else.  What I learned from that post was that these four paintings were sponsored by Betfair, a gambling business.   And now it made sense why their name was all over these paintings.  And how the Shoreditch Art Wall earned their money.  But I felt very sad that this project had come to such an abrupt end.

    During my googling to find out more, I discovered that Cranio along with other street artists had been painting anti-world cup images in Brazil. And, in my opinion, they are right to be critical of the corruption going on over there, in a country where many are in dire straits and extreme poverty. The Guardian covered this in Brazil’s anti-World Cup street art in pictures.  And now I don’t feel so sad. Maybe this was a fitting end to the mural.  Cranio is fine. He’s been busy in Belgium and he’s now in Barcelona bringing more fun and provocation with his little blue men.







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