S-tree-t Art

Lea Marrazo examines the Roman street art renaissance, led by eco-artist Andrea Gandini

Image: Bianca Hirata

For the past few years, the walls and buildings of Rome have become the canvas of choice for young artists. And in doing so, they have created a public space of expression for those who are most unlikely to be heard in such a chaotic city. Through these forms of art, which can be visual, written or both, young artists have found a way to communicate their personality or to protest against the general malaise which reigns in Italy. A country where the unemployment rate increases daily and where art and culture funds are often cut.
Unfortunately, these young artists are all too often mistaken for vandals and the chance to find appropriate spaces to communicate is low. Despite these commonplace difficulties, the Roman street art scene is developing at a vibrant rate and attracting more interest through artist collaborations and social media channels.
Indeed, independent art groups and locals have started to organise street art tours, especially in the suburban and less developed areas of the city. These areas are often avoided by tourists and natives because of their bad reputation as desolate spaces where criminality and poverty dominate. However, this bleak reality is starting to change for
the best. An artistic and cultural re-evaluation of these peripheral districts is growing, grounded in the hope of catching tourists’ attention and creating positive connections between the city centre and the surrounding area. This new general interest in the street art has opened the way for young artists, such as the recently discovered street sculptor Andrea Gandini.
If you ever happen to be in Rome on a crowded sidewalk, just look down to one of the many abandoned tree trunks on the border of the street and you may just find an artworks by the rapidly emerging Andrea Gandini. A student at the Statale Rippeta art school, Gandini began by modelling clay and then moved onto wood carvings. Initially, he sculpted various pieces of wood in his garage, creating strange figures and shapes, but one day he lacked material, then he decided to engrave the trunk outside his garage.
Necessity has been transformed into a virtue by Gandini, who immediately attracted the attention of media and locals. Journalists have described him as the artist who has helped to inject creative vitality back into Rome, one of the most beautiful and neglected cities in the world. Others described him as the precursor of a new kind of street art, which is not only aesthetically pleasing, but is also ecologically friendly. In his recycled trunks, there is an attempt to recover the relationship between nature and our increasingly polluted cities.
Once he’s polished the surface of the trunk, Gandini looks carefully at its natural nuances and listens to the wood’s soul. With this connection in mind, he engraves faces, each one different because they reflect the trunk’s personality and they often express the suffering of their abandonment and death after having been deprived of their branches, flowers and leaves.
In the last few years, Gandini has found substantial success and has now sculpted around 48 trunks in various areas of Rome and more widely around the whole of Italy. He has won a number of commissions from the council of Rome and he is now working on a monumental project in Villa Grazioli, a 16th century villa located in the Roman countryside.
So, if you ever happen to be enjoying a trip to Rome and find an abandoned trunk which has not yet been brought to life by Gandini, try writing a message to him and he will be more than happy to revive the spirit of Rome’s trees.