Creating Art From Trash – Q&A with Street Artist Artur Bordalo

Artur Bordalo II is a Lisbon-based artist whose works have been exhibited at solo and collective shows, as well as festivals, since 2011. His artistic approach is what some might consider a little unusual; his tools of the trade aren’t exactly a paintbrush and easel. Trash is the mixed media of his installations, and one might describe the urban landscape as his canvas. 

In an ongoing exploration of the nature of waste, greed, and consumerism, Bordalo II transforms end-of-life materials into works of art, with a particular focus lately on the creation of larger-than-life animal figures.

We recently had the opportunity to discuss his artistic approach and environmental vision.

Your work is stunningly complex and larger than life. It certainly inspires deeper contemplation of the old saying, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. What compelled you to go on this journey of spreading the important message to reuse and recycle in such a beautiful way?

I am trying to make a point by creating something beautiful out of what we normally see as debris. My goal is to make you think about what´s behind the colors, shapes, and the overall image. It´s a mix of subliminal messages that uniquely illustrate how our bad habits are destroying nature, the animals, and our habitat.

At what age did you know that art would be such an important medium for you?

Ever since I was born I have loved art and have been a creative spirit. I spent quite a few years secretly doing illegal graffiti around the city of Lisbon. In 2013 I discovered that I didn’t want to be an “underground” artist, and I started looking for ways to share my message in a constructive manner.

Did you study art professionally?

I went to the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon, but unfortunately, I never finished.

Have you always seen art in ordinary things?

Maybe… I believe that our conception of art is built on maturity, life experiences, routines, and feelings. My perspective changes everyday, depending on my experiences that day.

You choose to create animal figures. They are seemingly a symbol of nature — is this intentional? Do you ever make other creations?

Yes, I have created other series of work, but the big trash animals are probably my most important series. The animals are not just animals by themselves, but they are a symbol of nature and how the whole world is in danger.

What is your process?

It starts by choosing a location and then I research the local species, problems, etc. After that I collect the materials I need. I lay it all out on the floor and I begin to shape, cut, bend, and assemble. Once that is done it is then attached to the wall or other substrate. As a final step, I add paint to create detail.

Who funds these projects? Are they commissioned privately or by the city of Lisbon?

They are commissioned by festivals, private art collectors, museums, and businesses with environmental integrity.

Does your work live in any other cities around the world?

Yes, my art lives in several European countries, but Lisbon is where I work most.

What would you say to a group of young inspiring artists if given the chance?

Express your feelings, do what you believe, and have a voice within your work.

Can you explain what the roman numeral two is after your name? Are you named after your father?

My grandfather is Real Bordalo, a painter. It’s a way to pay homage to him.

What is next for BORDALO II?

Ha! Well, let’s just say that there are always challenges ahead, so I will have news…but I don’t want to reveal all my secrets.


All photos are courtesy of the artist