In January 2017 I took rather unusual project of restoring the Chilean mural at Leeds University building. The mural was painted in 1970’s by Chilean refugees during the Pinochet regime era. Hidden away for many years behind a plaster board, the painting was accidentally discovered in 2017 during a restoration work at the building.
It is the only mural of that kind left in the world as dozens of the original wall art was destroyed during the regime.
Executed in a distinctive Ramona Parra style, the mural is a rare example and an incredibly valuable piece of heritage of the Chilean political muralism.
The project was simply one of the best experiences I had as a muralist, due to an amazingly friendly working relationship with the Leeds Universe Union staff and local Chilean community.
From collaborative painting to collaborative lunch, the project ended with a loud celebration, with special guests of the South American band from Liverpool.
The technical challenges during the restoration were great. I worked on matching the original colours, redrawing the missing elements and painting in an unfamiliar Ramona Parra style - all this whilst preserving the story of the mural. The surface of the painting, revealed the level of damage and the complexity of the restoration. Leaving the surface rough but restoring the painting allowed to preserve the story of the painting and the artwork gained a new level of cultural significance.
Through the painting, the Chilean community, including the refugees from the 1970’s , had once again, a chance to gather together, work together and most importantly, tell their story, once again, to an existing and the new generation of Leeds University community as well as to their friends and family. It was a fantastic cultural re-union, creative challenge, and an important rediscovery of Leeds’s tradition in mural art.