Kelburn Castle Graffiti OSGEMEOS
About the Artist/Site
When the walls and the turrets of the 800-year-old Kelburn Castle in Scotland needed repair in the early years of the 21sh century, the son and daughter of the castle’s owner, Lord Glasgow Patric Boyle, suggested that the grey appearance of the cement covering could be enhanced by adding some external decorative treatments. The master of the house agreed and asked the local authorities permission to do so. After a positive opinion from Historic Scotland, the executive agency of the Scottish Government that safeguards the nation's historic built environments, and from the North Ayrshire Council, permission was granted to do the repairs and to apply decorations, although the latter just for a period of three years.
For the decorations, Lord Boyle, son David, and daughter Alice decided to commission the São Paulo Crew, a Brazilian group of graffiti artists consisting of Otávio, Gustavo, Nina, and Nunca Pandolfo. Otávio and Gustavo are identical twin brothers (os gêmeos in Portugese). Born in 1974, by a very young age they were already attracted to painting and drawing, and in 1987 they began doing graffiti, signing their creations as OSGEMEOS. They soon took a leading position in the São Paulo street art scene and would soon rank among Brazil's best graffiti artists.
Their international reputation also grew, with their first solo exhibition in the United States in 2003 in San Francisco, California; later they were commissioned to do murals in various cities outside Brazil, including Heerlen, the Netherlands (2005), New York City’s Chelsea district (2010), and Minsk, Belarus, where in 2015 they decorated a wall of the new Brazilian embassy.
The Kelburn Castle graffiti project began in 2007 and the artists stayed in residence for a couple of weeks as they emptied some 1500 aerosol cans, at a cost of £20,000. Their unique style, readily apparent in their work on the Castle project, includes the portrayal of quirky human figures, which are usually oblong, with round, often yellow-colored heads. In general the scenes they create in their pieces evoke a fairytale-like atmosphere, although specific items on the Kelburn Castle mural have a similarity with those painted by the16th-century Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch.
To earn money for the maintenance of the castle the Boyle family, which has owned the property since the 12th century, opened the grounds as a public park in 1977. They organize events on the castle's large grounds such as music festivals, wedding parties, camping, etc. For kids there is an adventure playground, a maze, and a Secret Forest to discover. The graffiti combines well with these leisure activities, and in general the public has reacted positively to the paintings applied on the walls and turrets of the castle.
A conservation review in 2012, however, revealed that the cement used in the 1950s to coat the castle had created a build-up of moisture, causing the original stone walls to deteriorate. It needed to be moved and replaced by another coating, perhaps of harling chips. This, however, will be extremely costly. Further, given that in 2009 part of the castle's roof was harmed by a fire – causing it to be closed to the public – it remains to be seen whether enough money will be available to make repairs, which are estimated at over £500,000. And while the Earl of Glasgow has petitioned for the graffiti to remain, it is not clear whether it will be preserved, although as of this writing the graffiti is still extant.
-Henk van Es
Map & Site Information
Fairlie, KA29 0DE
Latitude/Longitude: 55.757375 / -4.853477
East Dulwich, England