Con O’Brien, aka Kone, is an Irish artist and designer currently based in Nuremberg, Germany. He was invited to Lisbon by Garden Collective to participate in their February event where he ran a live painting session. While here, he also took the chance to leave his mark on the Galeria de Arte Urbana with his “Bíonn Siulach Scéalach” mural project at Calçada da Glória, in association with the Embassy of Ireland in Portugal, Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, and Garden Collective.
While Kone set up his materials and got himself sorted on the day of painting, Cork producers JarJarJr and Jazzfeen began their day-long quest to capture the sounds of the city and the paint project itself. The two beatmakers took samples of trams, passers-by, and vinyls found in nearby record stores to produce a collaborative song made specifically for this video, which was shot and edited by Emmet Coleman of Fusion Film & Garden Collective.
The phrase “Bíonn Siúlach Scéalach” is an old Irish (Gaeilge) “seanfhocal” (proverb) and translates as “travelers have tales to tell” or, in Portuguese, as “viajantes têm estórias.” The piece also contains some subtle iconography reflecting historical connections between Ireland and Portugal (the O´Neill clan, Celtic connections, maritime exploration), and is a reflection on the cultural conversation that Garden Collective is aiming to build between the two countries.
We sat down for a quick chat with Con in the midst of the madness to learn a bit more about the artist and what he thought about painting Lisboa.
How did you first get into street art?
Growing up with dyslexia naturally turned me to alternative outlets. My outlet began with a passion for creative work. This creative search led me to graffiti and street art. The notion of mystery, minimal limitations, and such a wide-ranged audience of passersby had me hooked by the age of 16. I always tried to bring my background in illustration and typography into my work, and this is what led me to push for more murals. As it’s larger scale and directed at a larger audience, I see it as a chance to challenge myself to communicate with strangers on a visual platform.
Your work consists of many different types of mediums, from spray paint to acrylics, line work to digital illustration. Do you have a preferred medium? How do you choose what materials to work with?
I’m not overly picky when it comes to materials in creative projects. I like to work at a fast pace and have multiple projects on the go at the same time. Procreate and digital artwork allows me to save time by sketching concepts while traveling. As for paint mediums, my favorite is most certainly spray paint, as it dries so quickly and allows me to work at the pace I am comfortable with.
How did you come to take part in this event/project in Lisbon?
I am fortunate to be surrounded by a very creative and like-minded group of friends. Many of these friends are currently living in Lisbon and are familiar with the process of turning ideas like this into a reality. So they (Garden Collective) helped organize this with me. It has always been a dream of mine to travel the world and paint, so I didn’t need to be asked twice when this opportunity arose.
Are there any Portuguese artists that inspire you?
Portugal is a very creative country with a wide variety and many top-level, talented artists. My favorites, by far, are Odieth and MrDheo. I was following their work even before I ever picked up a spray can. Odieth is an inspiration for many artists globally, and he has elevated the game with his unique style and use of corner walls to paint highly realistic illusion pieces. MrDheo’s vibrant color choices, along with his combination of graffiti, illustration, and typography, has been a great inspiration for me also and still is to this day.
What were your first impressions of the street art scene in Lisbon?
I found both the street art and the city itself intensely inspiring. The variety of art from both local and international artists gives the city a unique visual identity, with every spot offering a new style, color, and concept. The contrast of the beautiful old tile work on the buildings that has been chipped away by time was the most impactful imagery I was left with.
What was your favorite “spot” in Lisbon?
My favorite spot in Lisbon was certainly the fisherman’s walk along Rua Da Ginjal in Cacilhas. It’s a graffiti artist’s playground. The sun and the river right next to you create the perfect welcoming atmosphere. This is one of the nicest spots I have painted anywhere on my travels up until now.
Do you have a favorite food/snack from your time in Lisbon?
The little custard cakes (Pasteis de Nata). They were perfect energy boosters to have on the go while going from spot to spot during my visit, or for sitting with a coffee in one of Lisbon’s lovely cafes after a long day of painting.
See more from Garden Collective on their brand spanking new website www.agardencollective.org