Street artists Charquipunk and La Robot de Madera have painted a stunning series of murals in Valparaíso, Chile and also in Buenos Aires. They told Buenos Aires Street Art about the amazing street art scene in Valpo and the inspiration behind their designs.
Native birds of Chile are a common theme in Charquipunk’s artworks. His home is full of books on ornithology and he has spent years studying his feathered friends. Charquipunk, who is originally from Concón in the region of Valparaíso, visits the coast in Chile when he can and also goes to the nature reserve in Puerto Madero while he is in Buenos Aires to photograph its wildlife.
There are 18 species of birds such as Perdiz chilena, Choroy, Cauchudito de Juan Fernandez which are endemic to Chile and they provide the inspiration for many of Charquipunk’s eye-catching designs. However, many of Charquipunk’s birds are not real but his own creations with a touch of fantasy.
The bird that features most in his murals is the hummingbird. “For me the hummingbird is an incredible bird,” says Charquipunk. “It is so small yet moves so fast, and to do this it needs a very big heart. So in another way with you can say it’s a very kind creature.”
And the Juan Fernandez hummingbird (picaflor de Juan Fernandez) has a special significance for Charquipunk. “In South America there are lots of different types of hummingbird,” he says. “The Juan Fernandez hummingbird only exists in South America so when I paint hummingbirds in Europe for example it’s as if I am taking something indigenous from South America and bringing it to another continent.”
Traditions and Latin American history are also important elements in the collaborations that Charquipunk and LRM make together. And Charquipunk, whose real name is Sebastian, explains how his pseudonym has come to define who he is. ‘Charqui’ is an ancient word used in the Andes to describe dried meat which was traditionally salted and left to dry in the sun to preserve it, while the English word ‘punk’ to him signifies rebellion against modern society and the establishment.
Simon took the name La Robot de Madera meaning ‘Wooden Robot’ from a character in a book he used to read as a teenager. He says the name signifies “creating the impossible”.
Simon studied painting at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Valparaiso where he learnt to recreate the human form. He then started making interventions in the street with stickers and stencils in 2005 before taking up street art on a more regular basis in 2007.
The duo now combine their talents and it’s a partnership that functions really well says Simon: “There are lots of different ways in which we work together and from the beginning we realized that we had something really dynamic.”
Charquipunk added: “Simon has been working a long time with the human form and I have been focusing on painting birds so there was a fusion between the two of us. Also it bores you when you always paint the same things by yourself so it’s been a challenge with the two of us working together, sharing different ideas and it helps encourage and inspire one another.”
Another animal Charquipunk has become synonymous with is the cat. Like the hummingbird, the moggy has also become one of his hallmarks. You can find Charquipunk’s smiling cats all over Valparaiso and Buenos Aires too. “I’ve never painted letters but I wanted to have a signature so I decided to paint this cat,” he says. “They don’t take long to paint so they’ve become my signature.”
Since Valparaiso was named as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003 it has become a popular destination for tourists as well as foreign street artists. In the last few years the pair have painted with the likes of Cern, Julieta from France, Egs from Finland and Jaz from Argentina. “Foreign artists come to Valparaiso for the first time and go ‘wow!'” says Charquipunk. “They always come back, sometimes after two or three years but they always return.”
The streets around Cerro Alegre in particular are full of Charquipunk and LRM’s brilliant murals but more recently the pair have been focusing on painting in areas further away from the traditionally touristic neighbourhoods.
“We want to make other hills more popular for the common people not just the tourist,” says Charquipunk. “In places like Cerro El Litre we have friends from poorer, more authentic neighbourhoods. For us it’s beautiful to go to these areas because the people offer you their houses to paint, they are really generous, they give you food and they appreciate what you are doing so much.”
Charquipunk and LRM have also been to Buenos Aires on many occasions to paint with the likes of Ice, Pelos de Plumas, Jaz, Ever and Nemer and it’s something they love doing. “Buenos Aires isn’t that far away and isn’t that expensive if you have a place to stay,” says Charquipunk. “Since 2004, I’ve tried to go to Argentina once a year to paint but this year it wasn’t possible as we were in Europe for three months.”
Check out more of Charquipunk and La Robot de Madera’s amazing artworks at
Interview and all photos © Buenos Aires Street Art