a view of the exterior of bonampak site, an ancient and majestic temple is visible

Bonampak – Temple of Murals

Bonampak is the temple of murals. It is an ancient Maya archaeological site in Chiapas, Mexico. The Bonampak was dependent on the Yaxchilan which is only 30 kilometers away. The site is not a unique site regarding architecture, but it has claimed its place through the murals in the three rooms of the Bonampak.

The site’s construction occurred in the late classic period (500 AD – 800 AD). It is home to the Maya murals that have high-quality preservation. The Bonampak murals set the record straight on the assumption that the Maya were a peaceful culture. The paintings depict war and human sacrifice among the Maya.

The first non-Mayans to see the site saw it in 1946. No accurate information on who was the first there. Speculations dominate on who was. First, some of the most know speculations are that it was two American travelers or photographers. The Americans got to the site through the guidance of a Mayan who paid visits to the ancient temples to pray. The photographer was the first to see the paintings that cover the walls on one of the rooms. The murals show war and victory.

a view of the bonampak murals looking at ceiling area of temple room

History of Bonampak

Bonampak and Yaxchilan leaders fought for supremacy. Bird Jaguar from Bonampak and K’inich Skull from Yaxchilan were in a battle in the 5th century that Bird lost. By 600 CE Bonampak was a part of Yaxchilan. During this time that Yaxchilan had Bonampak in its wraps, the commissioning of the murals took place. The king of Yaxchilan has Yaxchilan artists put up the structure in 790 CE. In the 9th century, Bonampak broke free from Yaxchilan.

The structures at Bonampak

Structure one at Bonampak was at the end of the eight century. It is 16 meters long, four meters thick and seven meters tall. It is on a T-shape platform, and speculations state that it had a roof comb. The structure has three rooms that each has murals with details on the ascension to power of Chooj, the son of the Bonampak ruler Yajaw Muwan.

There have been disputes as to the order of events, but most people just opt to view it in chronological order. You begin in the first room and end with the third room. The first room contains a sense of tribute, dressing, dance and musical performances. The second room depicts conflict, torture in the company of great members of court and echelons of the victorious. The third room has dance scenes, observers, and performance of rituals.

There are 281 human representations in the rooms. Most of them have captions, 1/3 have names while most the rest of them contain no titles. Theories are trying to explain why more than half have no captions while others have.

a view of the walls in the bonampak temple, figures are visible painted on the walls

One of the theories is deaths or due to change in politics. The Bonampak murals are not from one mind but a team of experts who put to work to realize these murals. Every person involved possessing a unique set of skills that brought about the realization of the walls in structure one.

The outside of the structure does not enjoy as much preservation as the rooms. It once had great color, hues of Maya blue, red and green. In 1996, a team of Yale University students led by their lecturer Mary Miller made the Bonampak Documentation where they studied the Bonampak murals even more.

Each of the rooms is a unique story that is rich in detail for those keen in observing. To understand the Bonampak murals, one needs to take the time to study each one in the believed chronological order. The history of Maya is extensively on the walls. They must have taken a chance to put up, but the expertise has seen to their presence centuries later.

intricate carvings into the wall adorn the bonampak temple

Room 1

The first room is where the opening scene is. There is an ongoing event acknowledging the right of Chooj to rule. There are visitors’ present and influential people in the land. The representation of the meeting is 77 human figures who are all carrying their particular functions in the event. The ruling class is clearly shown with the dressing that they have on and where they sit.

There is evidence of dancers and instrumentalists on the south wall towards the east wall. There is an assortment of entertainers visible and one of the figures depicts that of a modern day smoker. He holds a cigarette and shows a lack of interest or boredom in the event at hand. There are extensive details on the meeting in the first room.

Room 2

The second room shows the greatest battle ever shown in Maya art. It is the largest room and has 139 human figure, more than any other room. At first glance, you meet the south wall that has soldiers in battle. There are blasting trumpets as the actions pick pace. The wall brings to perspective one of the great Maya beliefs that is, being left hand is a sign of weakness. The warriors who loose are left hand users, and others stripped naked.

Every inch of the wall has a recap of the battle in detail and shows the power of the right hand as the ruler holds up a spear covered in jaguar skin with his right hand to show authority and victory. Some of the defeated soldiers are even shown to have two left hands.

Room 3

Here, in this room, there is a kind of celebration. It is a ritual celebration of being victorious in battle. There is blood spilling by the nobles. There are 65 human figures in this room. The first and most noticeable figures are the three individuals standing together.

The ruler’s son is seen kneeling, holding an ax in his right hand and what the heart of the sacrificial victim on his left hand. The heart is said to have been a still beating heart. The ritual ceremony also has dancers.

The Bonampak is the temple of murals that detail the lives of the Mayas and show an extended form of war, victory and human sacrifice among the Maya. To understand the details on the art, there have been publications on the murals that explain more detail the contents.

glow in the dark mural by reskate arts & crafts

Reskate Arts & Crafts create Murals that Glow in the Dark

We have great admiration for street art, yet Maria Lopez and Havier de Riba have taken the game to new heights with their glow-in-the-dark artworks. Their murals use a phosphorescent paint, which glows up to 12 hours creating two different impressions between day and night. It’s hard to imagine how the technique works yet the duo going by the name Reskate Studio hide clever pictures inside the images they design.

The phosphorescent technique became popular quickly and it’s the kind they employed in perhaps one of their famous projects, Harreman Project, which featured 3 masterpieces along with two exhibitions. The name of this project came from the word Basque, meaning relationship. The painting was done in dark places where it’s possible to control lighting with a motion sensor because lights charge the photoluminescent paint so it glows once lights go out.

Take a look at the Rabbit shadow puppet mural in Timisoara Romania, for instance. On a clear day, you’ll see an image a rabbit. Wait till the sun goes down and street lights illuminate the mural then it shows two hands overlapping each other. They called this mural Asombrar which is Spanish word meaning “to amaze”. The word ‘sombra’ means “putting shadows to a clear idea you already had”.

Another piece in Zaragoza, Spain illustrates a loaf of bread in broad daylight then shows a bread knife when illuminated. This work was their contribution to the Action Against Hunger campaign in 2016 which calls us to imagine the power of participation to find actual solutions to hunger.

How about the Saturn-like planet mural still in Timisoara, which at night depicts an underwater helmet? Given the name “Unawareness”, the piece comments that scientific advances relating to deep-sea exploration slowed down because of the beginning of the space race between the USSR and the US.

Reskate Studio also exhibited their photo-luminescent paintings at the 10th anniversary of Festival Asalto held in Zaragoza in 2016. That came after they participated at the Harreman Exhibition in Vienna, 2015 where they showcased work that reflected on the aspects that establish the correlation between objects.

Meet the artists

Maria Lopez (1980) and Javier de Riba (1985), born in San Sebastian and Barcelona respectively, started painting indoor murals five years ago. Since then, they have developed to creating installations, illustrations, designs, and extensive outdoor murals. The duo began working together when they created an artist gallery called Reskateboarding, work that involved recycling old skateboards.

With their skills in graphic design, they picked artists to work with, arranged shows, and organized gallery openings through the Reskateboarding collective. This work was an avenue through which they met artists and illustrators whose work intrigued them. That was the driving force that led to their collaboration to a more illustrative approach in their personal work. It was also a crucial factor in the growth of their artistic careers and later their collaborative venture, Reskate Arts & Crafts.

Working as a team, they are keen on the materials they choose as to them every piece must reflect their expressive capabilities. They strongly believe that the materials and techniques used must never be unjustified and must convey the underlying message effortlessly. Driven by color and strong illustrations, they strive to make each project to be coherent with the surrounding environment.

Their inspiration comes from interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds and other artists from whom they can learn about various styles and media. With every new endeavor, their restlessness brings them to question their artistic style, and reinterpret it to best serve every project. Each piece challenges their aesthetic, pushing them to try new techniques and styles while balancing their existing abilities with the desire for growth and exploration. Their journey is a continuous fight against stagnancy and in favour of versatility and transformation.

Other works

Reskate Arts & Crafts have done several murals across Spain in a project they called “Reaction Project”. It intended to reflect on the use of public space as a social networking tool. To them, public space is a place to share common proverbs that encourage actions that call for reactions, and this is evident in all the murals featured in the Reaction Project. The murals include Gogoa den tokian/Donostia, Forta es la roca, A so de timbals, Qui sembra and A mes mar.

Reskate Arts & Crafts have plans to create more murals in the future even though they need special conditions that work for the photoluminescent murals. Their aim is to light the dark corners in different cities, both installing new lights and encouraging people to interact with the murals. Find out more about the artists on their website.

kanazawa gold leaf being produced, a hand using chop sticks to position the leaf is visible

Kanazawa Gold Leaf

5,000 years ago, Egyptian craftsmen recognized the remarkable durability and malleability of gold and became the first goldbeaters and gliders. They hammered gold using a round stone to make the thinnest leaf possible. Today, the technique is heavily used by Japanese artisans in the city of Kanazawa to create gold leaf. Gold leaf is perhaps the finest material on the planet whose thickness measures a mere 10,000th of a millimeter (0.0001 mm).

Kanazawa produces 99% of Japan’s gold leaf thanks to its water quality and favorable climate. The city is also a major producer of Japanese silver, brass leaf and uwazumi, which is somewhat thicker than metal leaf.

History of gold leaf in Kanazawa

While the root of gold leaf production in Kanazawa is not clear, one of the great rulers of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi was known for his obsession for gold. Even so, every ruler in Japan liked to use gold leaf in furniture and buildings as a representation of their power.

Towards the late 17th century, the Edo government opened a “Hakuza” market in Edo, which is the present-day Tokyo to regulate the production and sales of gold and silver leaf across the whole of Japan. During that time, production of gold leaf was strictly prohibited in other places other than the markets of Edo and Kyoto, while the feudal government tried to strengthen its economic system.

With the government ban in place, artisans in Kanazawa were unable to manufacture or sell gold leaf. Yet, they strove to establish a local gold leaf production industry, secretly manufacturing gold-leaf and creating various traditional artifacts and techniques that use the metal leaf.

After several twists and turns, control over the industry came to an end following the Meiji Restoration in 1868 when Edo Shogunate surrendered political power to the Emperor. Gold leaf manufacturing and sales then became known nationwide and have been used in many forms to date. In addition to the favorable Kanazawa’s climate, artisans experience and creativity during the ban period helped in developing exceptional techniques which have been passed down to the present generation.

Gold leaf in art

Traditionally, it was commonly used as gliding material for decoration of art such as statues and the picture frames that are often used to hold or decorate paintings, jewelry and paper art. The possibilities are actually endless, as gold leaf can be used in traditional craftwork, paintings, architecture, and contemporary interior goods with minimal differences in composition and through special processing. The leaf-making skill in its manufacturing is also applied to other metals including silver, brass and tin.

In later years of the Early Christian art, old ground paintings were introduced in mosaics where the background of the subjects was all in gold. It was then used in religious works of art (icons) in decorating religious subjects, including Christ, Mary, angels and/or saints. During the European Bronze Age, gold leaf was used in wrapping objects by folding it tightly over.

kanazawa gold leaf items

Gold leaf is also currently used in Buddhist art to decorate symbols and statues and can be seen on domes of various religious and public architecture. The famous Taj Mahal is the closest example where gold leafing was heavily used in its several decorations.

Today, gold leaf is often used in art in its raw state (without the gliding process). Gold picture frames made without leafing are available for a relatively lower price from various companies that manufacture commercial picture frames.

Gold leaf in architecture

From ancient shrines to modern structures, gold leaf has been a vital component to designate important buildings since the dawn of mankind. Golden-domed structures can withstand weather, wear and tear, and even modern day pollution, keeping them stunning sites for decades.

Golden architecture became a fundamental component of Roman churches and basilicas back in 400 A.D. The Basilicca di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome is the most notable and one of the earliest churches of gold mosaics.

In London, the Criterion Restaurant opened in 1873 in the heart of the city features a sparkling ceiling of gold mosaic, coved at the edges and patterned entirely with lines and ornaments in white and blue tesserae.

Culinary uses

Being a safely inhalable material, gold is often used to decorate drinks, food and cosmetics. It typically promotes a perception of high value and luxury, yet it adds no flavor to food or drinks. It is sometimes present in desserts and confectionery such as chocolates and honey.

In Europe, liquors with miniature floating pieces of gold leaf are popular since the late 16th century, a practice which was originally regarded as medicinal. In India, they use gold leaf as a garnish especially on festive occasions, with slender sheets placed on the main course. The traditional Japanese green tea, mostly produced in Kanazawa also contains pieces of gold leaf.

Wrap Up

A single piece of gold leaf can make you feel rich and joyful. The remarkable traditional techniques of Kanazawa shed light and happiness to the lives of many people today. For the people of Kanazawa, sleekly made and glistering gold and silver leaf remains an integral part of their rich culture of artistic work.

2007 kelburn castle

Street Artists Transform an Old Castle into a Mind-blowing Grafitti Retreat

Once you sight the Kelburn Castle, you’d be forgiven to think that castles have to be old, dreary stone buildings with grey and brown exteriors. The ideas of Patrick Boyle, the 10th and current Earl of Glasgow will completely change your perception.

Kelburn Castle was originally built in the 13th century and undergone remodeling in the 16th century. It’s perhaps the oldest castle in Scotland and it holds the record for inhabiting the same family for the longest time. In 1703, David Boyle, the then owner of the castle was among the commissioners who negotiated the Treaty of Union uniting Scotland and England into Great Britain. The castle has been home to a long line of Earls the family has produced since then.

In 2007, experts told Lord Glasgow that the castle’s concrete would soon need replacing to avoid further deterioration of the stonework. David and Alice asked their dad, the Earl of Glasgow, to paint the building into a colorful mural.

The job landed on four Brazilian graffiti artists Nunca, Nina Pandolfo, and twins Os Gemeos. Together, they designed a tropical imaginary world featuring large and vibrant monkeys, fish and huge fruits. A quick glance at the mural will tell you a lot about Brazilian graffiti tradition; vibrant, color-rich and energetic. Taken out of its urban context, it illuminates the Scottish countryside with formidable hues and shines through any rain-soaked distress the world can throw at it.

It was a groundbreaking artistic move that combined the transient, contemporary culture of street art with traditional, lifelong and rural nature of the castle, creating a lasting contradiction of visual beauty.

2007 kelburn castle

“It is a project of contrasts and collaboration that bridges between cultures, rural and urban realms and unites two proud and very different cultures”, explained the Kelburn estate.

The work was originally meant to be temporary following a three-year permit from Historic Scotland, a government agency responsible for preserving Scotland’s historic monuments. A report came out in September 2010 claiming the agency was piling pressure on Lord Glasgow to remove the graffiti, though it was later denied by both parties. Another 2011 report suggested that the Earl had written to Historic Scotland requesting permission to keep the graffiti as a permanent feature of the castle.

He said, “In the three years that the mural has been on the castle it has attracted enormous interest from around the world and it is loved by everyone who sees it…It has become a landmark and a talking point and it has given the castle and the estate a whole new character”.

The Earl fought a good fight, of course, he had to; he spent £20,000 for the work that featured a psychedelic series of interwoven cartoons representing a surreal urban culture.

A 2011 memo published by Historic Scotland stated that owners of listed properties should only use ‘historically correct colors in a manner which is appropriate to the building’. Historically indeed, yet many who have witnessed the breathtaking mural appreciate the artwork in contrast to the dull and monochrome part of the mansion.

The report continued, “Where more than one color is to be used, they should all relate to the architectural features of the whole building in a logical and consistent manner”.

The mural had quickly become an integral feature of Kelburn alongside a series of outdoor attractions and a country centre open to the public. These include a ginger bread house, a Chinese garden in a secluded forest and a stone grotto. The Kelburn Glen in particular with its deep gorges and waterfalls is one of Scotland’s most scenic woodlands and leads to stunning views across the Farm of Clyde islands.

For information, the mural was once mentioned as one of the top 10 world examples of street art by author and designer Tristan Manco, putting it on the same level with the Favela Morro Da Providencia in Rio de Janeiro and Banksy’s work in Los Angeles.

Historic Scotland eventually allowed some leeway for the artwork to live a few a more years. Unfortunately in 2012, another inspection suggested that the cement was again damaging the original walls of the castle and should be removed, according to BBC. There was a planned removal of the mural in the summer of 2015 but until date, there are no more updates from either the castle owners or from the media.

Sometimes people take time to start appreciating art, even the French first thought the Eiffel Tower was ugly yet today it’s their iconic structure. We hope Historic Scotland looked at things differently and let the work of the Brazilian street artists continue drawing millions to Kelburn.

bison in altamira cave

Cave art of Altamira

The cave of Altamira is in Spain. In the historic town Santillana del Mar in Cantabria. The cave is famous for its parietal cave paintings that consist of charcoal drawings and polychrome paintings of the human hands and local environment. The cave is dated back 18500 and 14000 years back. It falls within the upper Paleolithic age when Paleo human settlers were around.

Marcelino Sanz de Sautola was first to promote the cave as having prehistoric paintings. Together with Juan Vilanova in 1880, their publication of the caves research was made public. Releasing the study was not very welcome, it became controversial, and debates began. They took place until 1902 when similar findings made the evidence overwhelming. The cave of Altamira is a world heritage site as the UNESCO declares.

About the cave of Altamira

The cave of Altamira is a result of the collapse of the new Karst phenomena in Mount Vispieres. The cave is 1000 meters long and has passages and chambers all through the cave. The central passage is about 6-8 meters high. It is a one of a kind cave that is rich in artifacts from the Upper Solutrean and lower Magdalenian.

The two periods fall under the Old Stone Age which shows that the cave had wild animal inhabitants. Humans living in the area took advantage of the plentiful wildlife that was in the valleys and the mountains and the aquatic life in the coastal regions. A rock fall over 13000 years back made the cave no longer accessible. The rock fall became a preservation of the contents of the cave until its discovery.

The discovery of the cave came about when a tree fell, misplacing the blocking rocks. There was evidence that humans were mostly at the mouth of the cave although the paintings were present throughout the cave. The paintings were mostly charcoal and ochre (hematite). The painting process involved diluting the pigments so that they had different intensities to work with comfortably. They took advantage of the contours of the cave to create three-dimensional drawings.

image of altamira bisons

Reproductions at the Museo del Mamut, Barcelona 2011

The cave boasts of a polychrome ceiling that is the catchiest part of the cave. It depicts a herd of Steppe bison that arts extinct, two horses, a large dog and a wild boar. The paintings date back to the Magdalenian age and even include abstract shapes. The Solutrean paintings mainly consist of horse and goat drawings.

There were hand prints too that came about by the artist blowing the pigment over their hands leaving a negative image. No other cave in the northern Europe has detailed and intricate paintings like the Altamira cave.

Discovery of the Cave

The credits go to Marcelino Sanz de Sautola, but the person who found the cave was his eight-year-old daughter Maria de Sautola who had been wandering off from her father when she saw the drawings. Marcelino teamed up with Juan Vilanova an archeologist from the University of Madrid to excavate the cave. The discovery was in 1879.

The publication by Marcelino and Juan got a rejection from Gabriel de Mortillet and Emile Cartailhac. The reason why it was hard to believe that the paintings were prehistoric was that of their quality. These two critics accused Marcelino of forgery. The debate and accusations continued until 1902 when other findings came up.

After the results had been made sure of, Emile took back his words and gave his support to Marcelino. Unfortunately, Marcelino did not live to see the confirmation as he died fourteen years earlier. After the confirmation, excavation was continued by Hermilio del Rio, 1902-1904 and Hugo Obermaier, 1924-1925 and finalized by Joaquin Gonzalez in 1981.

Dating

There is no comprehensive timeline on when the paintings date. In 2008, scientists, using uranium-thorium dating found that the arts are from over a period of 20,000 years. The next dating, done in 2012, where the earliest paintings were found to be from the Augnacian culture, the first occupants of northern Spain, 35,600 years old.

Significance of the cave of Altamira

The cave of Altamira is of a profound cultural significance to Spain, especially in Cantabria. The polychrome paintings in the cave are famous in Spain, and the government of Cantabria uses a logo that derives from the arts to promote tourism. A 20th-century cigarette brand also has a drawing from the cave as part of its logo.

So many things in Cantabria and the wider Spanish region borrow from the cave of Altamira. It makes the cave a very significant part of the area and a very useful discovery that has laid a foundation in the community.

A Spanish comic character and a series are known as Altamiro de la Cueva are because of the cave of Altamira. The storyline of the comic explores the life of cave dwellers. The Caves of Altamira song is a 1976 album that also circles the cave. The song was originally jazz but was then soul group, Perri did another version.

Viktor Schreckengost made dinnerware designs for Salem China that had inspirations from the bison, deer and the stick figures that were in the cave. The dinnerware, made in the mid-20th century. A second song on the cave came up in 1978 by a rock-folk group Ibio. The Bison image is on the cover of the album.

The impact of the cave has been evident in many areas, from entertainment to dinnerware and cultural implications. Modern day film, Altamira by Hugh Hudson in 2016 is about the discovery of the cave. The film stars a famous Spanish actor Antonio Banderas.

The discovery of the cave may have been rocky and disputed but once it gained acceptance everyone was able to see what a remarkable finding the cave is and it has helped benefit many people over time. Cantabria boasts of the status of a world historical site because of the Altamira cave. Even though Marcelino did not live to see the acceptance of his discovery of the cave, he opened the doors to a lifelong treasure that is the Altamira cave.