What’sArt 2nd Artist in Residence Marly Gallardo creates a mural capturing the «Energy» of Betahaus Barcelona

What’s Art Collective in it’s new “What’s Art” residency program encourages collective creation, experimentation, and multidisciplinarity.

A marvel – word to describe those 3 months of an artist in residence we get the chance to witness.  This summer Betahaus had yet another great opportunity to collaborate with What’s Art Collective and host an artist – Marly Gallardo. She is a multidisciplinary artist and an Ecuadorian digital illustrator based in New York City. This was the 2nd “What’s Art” project carried out in Betahaus coworking space, and this time the community received a powerful mural with strong energy.

 What’s Art Collective is the first initiative in Spain that explores the conflicts of the “creative soul”. It urges artists to create a cultural debate and educate society through workshops, talks and other practices. What’s Art Collective’s mission is to take artists out of their comfort zone to identify problems that can be solved through creativity. This time the Artist who explored the history of Barcelona and through her work paid tribute to the creative boom of artistic expression displayed in the Olympics of 1992 was Marly Gallardo. [/vc_column_text]

Marly is an inspiring personality and a skilled professional in the field of digital art. She has a Bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the Rhode Island School of Design and has gained international recognition for her conceptually driven artwork, campaigns, and editorial publications. She has worked as an illustrator for many internationally recognized companies, including The New York Times, Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Adobe and more.

Her sentimental narratives that are thoroughly investigated and conceptualized explore surreal elements in the everyday world – captured with a romantic blue palate. Marly takes on every artistic challenge with seriousness. She is an artist that concentrates on heavy content. “Concept is as important to me as my work,” she says. “When there is a concept behind something when it makes you think – that is a more powerful piece. I need to have an idea. I have to think of the subject that I’d like to tackle and I do my research about it first. And through that research, through reading about that subject, I am able to build something off of it. That’s when my imagination starts going wild.”

How did the idea for this mural arise?

I usually work with articles allot, I condense everything.

I ask “What is the theme?” And the theme for Betahaus was Energy. So I learned about the creative boom that happened in the 80s and 90s in Spain after the regime of Franco – the community here had an opportunity to open up again. That was the year when Spain was also hosting the Olympic Games, so it was the perfect opportunity.

So many things came together. When you’re opening the doors to the world again you regain the freedom of self-expression within furniture, paintings, films. The design was one of the biggest spheres. From that time there were very iconic photos of swimmers diving in Barcelona. They look like they’re flying in the sky. That kind of energy I wanted to transmit from this particular time of Barcelona history into this mural.

Why a mural? I hadn’t had the opportunity of creating a “hands-on” project. So in collaboration with Johanna Escobar from What’s Art Collective, we decided to add something to the ground floor in Betahaus since it is the welcoming area. I wanted to create an illustration that could capture the community here.


Are there undetected, transversal messages behind the painting?

I knew that for this piece I wanted there to be a center point – the sun. So that’s one symbolism there. I am a person who finds energy within the sun a lot. It is that point that just kind of unifies the entire piece. You can actually look directly into the sun for the first time. Also, for me, it is always very important to include diversity, so one female character is fair-skin and one is darker. Subconsciously it’s showing everyone that “Hey, there’s diversity here also!” Because it’s such a diverse community here in Betahaus – expats from around the world! I wanted them to be strong women. I think that there is a strong female community here and in Barcelona in general. It has been a feminist city even before the recent movements.

How was it collaborating with people from What’s Art Collective and Betahaus in the creation of your mural?

This is the first collaboration that I have ever done. I usually work solo, so it’s a learning experience. I’m not used to having to rely on other people and needing community support for painting, so it has been really nice to see the support that everyone gives. Even if someone just drops by and says: “Oh, that’s really beautiful.” To receive so much love from a community was something new to me. And the co-painting also taps into the support. Johanna was able to organize members from What’s Art! Collective to help in the painting process. It was nice to see people who are not that technically advanced in using paint trying to help. There was this one member from Betahaus – I think he’s the tallest member here. He hopped on the ladder and tried to paint the blue sky next to the ceiling because I couldn’t reach it even with the tallest ladder. He was so scared, but he really tried to pain that for me. He said: “I don’t want you up here, let me do this”. So I hopped on another ladder and held the paint.

Do you think the input of other people will reflect in your work?

I think that on an emotional level, yes, because the Betahaus community has been seeing it first as a drawing, then just the blue, and now – the finished piece. I remember this one moment when a member just dropped by, looked at the paint and said: “Can I do something? I would like to look at this and say that I helped to create it. I painted this spot.” It’s similar to my attachment to my own pieces; I would like the community to also be attached to it. I can already tell that the mural is serving with the energy that I wanted to give downstairs: welcoming you into this energetic community.


Do you have any future projects already in mind?

At the moment I’m wrapping up a Samsung campaign, I’ve just accepted a commission to do a cover for a tech magazine once I fly back to New York. And regarding my own personal work, I’m going to set up some meetings regarding book publishing… I’m working on a children’s book and also writing the story. It is about Latin culture. It tells a story of a child and her family going through South America, but in a very magical realist approach. So there will be a lot of surrealism elements. 


So you’re returning to digital work?

Yes. I miss my digital work. I’m not used to being so messy all the time. But for a while now I’ve wanted to do more murals – to transmit my work in that way. I feel like I learned a lot from this project, working with What’s Art Collective, and next time around I’ll do a couple of things differently, but I’m definitely placing this artwork in my portfolio. Should an opportunity come up again, I will definitely take it. I really enjoyed painting again, so I might do my own paintings once I’m back. 


Do you have a final message about your time in Barcelona, in Betahaus, working with What’s Art Collective?

I came to Barcelona without any friends or any idea of what I was going to do. So I’m very thankful for having been received into this community. It completely changed my experience. I tend to travel a lot. I like to move to places for at least a month. Those are more introspective times, but during my time in Barcelona I made a family and that is amazing. I’ve made some life-long friends here and I am grateful to this community, to Betahaus and What’s Art Collective. I’m happy that I get to leave some things behind, for now, because I will return. 


This article was written by Dārta Legzdiņa.
Dārta is a visual and audial artist, a creative writer and a translator with a degree in Multimedia Communication from Riga Stradins University. She has worked in PR, entertainment, event management, hospitality and coworking. By being an artist and a singer-songwriter she recognizes the creative threads that guide each creative’s journey. So she is passionate about helping these creatives reach a wider audience.