Graffitist Saype unveils giant artwork about friendship on Belfast lawns

A colossal graffiti artwork showing two intertwined hands has been unveiled on the lawns of Stormont Estate in Belfast. The piece is part of an international art project called Beyond Walls, courtesy of French-Swiss artist Saype.

Designed to be seen from above, Saype’s new artwork is a staggering 240 metres long and 45 metres high. A mesmerising video captured by drone allows viewers to really grasp the scale of the piece. “When people see my work, they said, ‘super cool, we need this kind of message right now, but we can’t understand the painting on the ground’”, explained Saype. “And then when we show the picture [from the drone], they say ‘wow’, and they love the idea that when you’re in front of a situation you don’t understand what it is, and when you take a little bit of distance, you see it more clearly.”

Saype’s artwork symbolises the limitless power of friendship, dialogue, and solidarity that extends beyond our geographical and societal barriers. The artist chose the striking location for his artwork because the Northern Ireland Parliament Buildings are “a place where people come to speak to each other to find a common solution“.

Saype began the impressive piece by setting down a black outline of the entire image. He then proceeded to painstakingly build up layers of spray paint to create the astonishingly realistic hands. As with all his landscape works, the artist used biodegradable pigments of chalk and charcoal which will slowly fade from view over time.

One of my aims is to not only shed light on issues of social transformation but to promote eco-friendly and sustainable methods of creating art through respecting nature,” remarked Saype.

Belfast is one of 30 cities taking part in Beyond Walls, including Paris and Geneva in 2019, and Dubai in 2021, each city linked to the next with similar images of large-scale hand holding. The project has been supported by the Embassy of Switzerland in the UK.

Saype, whose real name is Guillaume Legros, worked as a nurse in Switzerland before finding international fame as an artist activist. He kicked off his career ten years ago by making graffiti artworks on subways, later becoming a pioneer of eco-friendly street and land art.

Beyond Walls has also collaborated with Belfast Photo Festival, which runs until 30 June 2022, to help preserve the ephemeral piece. Michael Weir, Director of the Belfast Photo Festival, said “due to the fleeting lifespan of his art, photography is an integral part of the process, capturing the tangible presence and preserving its message for people to enjoy, even when the physical piece has long disappeared.”

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