3/24/2020

A City Story from Santiago de Chile.

As the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E team breaks new ground on the roads of the world, this is exactly where we find those who share our hunger to leave comfort zones and follow passions. What drives an artist to leave the traditional canvas and take his artwork to the streets instead? This is Chilean street artist Karim Sabal Benito’s story.

The instant the first drop of metallic blue paint hits the brick, Karim knows he’s right where he belongs – on the streets of Santiago, honouring what his hands and mind were made for. Making statements, brightening people’s lives and creating something out of nothing.

Karim is one of the 800 or so artists sharing their passion with the streets of Santiago. A city long known for its creativity, political and philosophical art movements, a thriving music scene and numerous culinary revolutions. In short, Santiago is the perfect home for the driven few.

Here, the attitude of ignoring the traditional and doing the extraordinary lives on every street corner, back alley, brick wall and shop front of Santiago’s creative district – Bellevista. A vibrant barrio nestled between the Mapocho River and San Cristóbal Hill, known as Santiago's bohemian quarter, home to Santiago’s “Curators of The Street” and their artworks.

And it’s here, while competing in our third ever Formula E race, we got talking to Karim about what drives him to pick up the spray can instead of the paintbrush and leave his mark on this colourful city instead of a canvas.

So, what inspired you to take up street art?

Karim: I was inspired by going scratching on the streets. Like the vast majority of those of us who now paint murals. I come from the graffiti scene, I’ve come from painting graffiti. And now I mix graffiti with murals. My designs are more graphic now. I design them. And what motivated me? Various things. School, my schoolmates used to scratch, to paint, and then I began to study it. I started doing stencils, I began studying design. Then figures, letters, and so on. And thus I was motivated by various people. My mother was a painter. That’s it.

Where do you find the motivation to keep pushing for your passion?

Karim: I find my motivation on the streets, where I began painting and where I am always going to end up painting. It’s the streets that motivate me. I like seeing that people like what I am painting and they are happy when they walk past, that it can be a factor for social change…

What do you think street art has to offer that other forms of art cannot?

Karim: It’s a form of expression where nobody sets you limits. Anyone can do it, and they can do it where they want. Because it’s free. Because it’s a branch that gives you freedom and gives you confidence too. It generates various positive things within a person.

What made you decide to decorate streets rather than produce art for a gallery?

Karim: I find street art more important, it is more fulfilling for me and for people, because in the streets, it’s freely available for everyone to see. You don’t have to go into a gallery and be put with other people who supposedly have some significance in the art world. I believe that in the street, an artist is appreciated more than if he’s exhibiting in a gallery. And also those of us who have come from graffiti and gone straight into murals. We are familiar with the street, we know what goes on, how it moves. How the street acts.

Do you care about success, your fans or what they are going to say?

Karim: No, I don’t care. In as much as, I don’t care what people say. Or at least if it’s destructive criticism. But constructive criticism, I do care about that, I like to know that people are getting the message or know that they are actually happy when I contribute to their lives and their day-to-day existence.

Have you ever thought of abandoning this passion?

Karim: No. I’ve never thought of abandoning this passion. Because it’s a part of my life. It’s an integrated part of my life, it’s like brushing my teeth, it’s like putting on my underwear. It’s something extremely personal which is already a part of me.

What is your inner drive?

Karim: Happiness and being able to show people my works of art. That’s what makes me happy, I’m glad to be able to contribute.

To see Karim’s Santiago story in full follow our Off The Track series on @tagheuerporschefe

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