« I want to paint an open spirituality that would belong to everyone »: the solar Street Art of INTI

By Michel Fily, April 3rd, 2019


In the Inca mythology, Inti is the manifestation of the sun. It is a divine force recognized by all the peoples of the Andes. According to this mythology, he is the son of Viracocha, god of the Inca civilization. He is represented by a solar disk with a human face. Contrary to what has sometimes been written, INTI is not the pseudonym of the huge muralist who has produces one of the biggest frescoes of the Peinture Fraiche Festival in Lyon. It is simply his first name, chosen for him by a father with premonitory instinct. Encounter with a solar artist.


Hello INTI, can you introduce yourself to the readers?

It’s difficult. That’s like putting me in a frame and I do not like it. I prefer that people define for themselves my work and my person. I was born in Chile. I live everywhere, but my studio and my house are in Barcelona today. It is a very interesting city, where many artists live. I chose Spain because I looked for a place to live that is cheaper than Paris, with a good atmosphere between people and near the sea. A city with a sunny climate and an international airport, in order to have an easy connection with the whole world. And I also needed a Latin language, easy to learn, like Spanish. But I could have chosen Italy…


How long have you been a muralist?

That too is a frame. I do not know if I’m a muralist or not. I just do my job, I do what I like. I was 13, 14 years old the first time I started painting in the streets. If it’s art, graffiti, muralism, I do not care. It’s always changing, so putting myself in a box will not help me to go on and explore different things.


What are your techniques and creative media?

I paint on canvases and sometimes exhibit paintings. I’m not really in the galleries, but you have to do it to make a living. I tried a bit of installations and sculptures, like in Paris, not very long ago. As for the technique, I do not use bombs! I paint with brushes, rollers, fingers, dirty t-shirts, my hair … Always with water. I use acrylic with water. Because spray paint contaminates the environment. And because it’s hard to find in some countries and it can block my work, while I can find simple paint anywhere. In addition, it gives me the opportunity to play more with the textures and to create a lot more colors than with spray. There are about 200 existing colors of bombs, while the human eye is able to see 3 million colors! This makes a real difference, especially considering the size of the areas I paint. It would make no sense to use spray on a 30 meters high wall.


What are your artistic or other influences?

I would not name artists, but rather works of art that I find incredible. I am thinking, for example, of Conor Harrington‘s wall in Miami. I think of Aryz, who is always looking for new aesthetics. And the wall GLEO did in the US during three months. These are the things I see today that inspire me. I think these artists are at the forefront of the movement. A movement in which there are always people who are doing new things. Like the works of Axel Void. They are artists who go beyond the boundaries of what has already been done. Apart from purely artistic influences, the original cultures of the world have allowed me to open my eyes. It is not museum art, but the manual work of people, their local crafts and the stories they tell. Sometimes, in a simple thing like a piece of cloth, there is, engraved, the whole story of a people. It makes a lot of sense to me. When I travel, I try to understand the cultures of the countries I visit.


Do your origins and Chilean culture accompany you in what you create today?

Since I left Chile, I feel more like a Latin American than a Chilean. When you begin to understand what your identity really is, you cannot reduce it to the political boundaries of a single country. There are other types of borders, for example the continent from which I come … Today I feel sometimes closer to Mexicans than to people from Chile. When I travel to Europe, Asia or anywhere in the world, I feel a profound cultural difference. I see myself through others and I know that I am Latin American.


Does this Latin-Americanism influence your art?

Allways, even if I did not want it. First, in the colors and in the way of depicting what is sacred. We all share the same story, from Mexico to Chile. The same periods of dictatorships, the same civilizations, the same legacy of pre-Columbian ancient cultures and the same mix with Western cultures. This sharing is part of me and it expresses itself through my work. It’s the same thing for religion. I am not religious at all, I consider myself as an anti-religious. As for faith, I would say that I am closer to spirituality than to belief. I think our brain is abble to do a lot of things if we believe in it. That does not mean it’s magic. It’s just the brain skills that are incredible.


Your characters are like icons…

They are icons. They carry within them something sacred. But the sacred I’m concerned about is not whether God exists or not, whether there is a force that can break the laws of physics. Science offers really interesting answers. More interesting for me than those offered by religion. And that allows me to have a spiritual life, even without religion. We have become accustomed to the idea that spirituality belongs to religion, but it is not true at all. One can be spiritually connected, with the world, with nature, without the need to have an institution behind that connection.


There is a constancy of colors in your work, the purple, the yellow orange, a very solar prism…

In Latin America, there is no fear of using colors. We are not afraid to mix a pistachio yellow with a bright red. It’s part of our culture. Like in the carnivals. We are used to the presence of colors in our life. For Latin American artists, the challenge would be rather to agree to use nuanced colors. We were just talking about it with GLEO (another guest artist of the Peinture Fraiche Festival), who is Colombian. She also began her career with very bright colors and we agreed that it is a real challenge to paint with more pastel colors. It has a strong connection with our culture, with the climate there. It is in us, it is not exaggerated or deliberate to represent Latin America. As for my colors, I make my own mixtures, so the yellow orange, the purple are always different. This yellow signifies the presence, the contrast with the world. And the purple is the sacred, desecrated.


Your characters often have their eyes closed, or hidden…

The character I paint here, at Peinture Fraiche, has flowers on his eyes. It is perhaps because characters that are not looking appear to be in introspection.


They are often standing, like icons…

That’s done on purpose. I often look for the front side. Not always. Sometimes I paint moving characters, more related to the carnival and festive side, also mixed with the sacred. In Latin America, the feast and the sacred are never separated. My other characters, like the one I’m painting today, are frontal, and it has to do with identity. When someone is arrested, the police ask him to stand up straight when they take a picture of him. The front side gives more strength and more impact to my characters in people’s eyes.


What do you want to convey to people who are watching your work?

I do not have any requirements or preconceived ideas. I like science, so I prefer questions to answers. When someone approaches me with readymade answers, I flee or laugh at him. With my work, I try to ask questions all the time. Then I add details that have to do with my relation to the place where I paint and to what is happening while I’m painting. I always start with a composition and at the end I add elements. It’s a game that makes sense to me. But I like people to have their own interpretation of my work.


Do you have anecdotes of special encounters with your audience ?

It happens all the time. When people ask me « what does that mean?” I answer them « what do you see? « . Listening to the answers is most interesting. People are really creative. Sometimes they have better ideas than ours! (Laughs) In Paris, I was doing a Madonna playing with an apple. A passer-by looked at it and said « ah, it’s Newton ». I found this idea incredible. So I started adding lots of little science-related things. Finally I wrote the letter G (initial of the word « gravity ») on the apple, to refer to Newton’s apple and the story of the science.


What do you think of the evolution of Street Art?

Today’s Street Art has prostituted itself! We have cleared the boundaries between art and the commercials. And it became normal. In the past, when an artist accepted to use his work for brands or advertising, he was criticized. Today it has become a standard. It’s more like « oh yes, you did a job with Adidas, it’s cool! ». Street Art was originally a resistance movement, which went against the commercialization of public space. We wanted to open this space to do something different. We completely lost this idea and it’s sad that new generations do not care.


I understand what you say, but there are also young people who want to make a living from their art and galleries do not open easily to all…

If a young emerging artist needs to do some business to live, I totally agree. I have friends who do it and I did it myself. But there are artists who do not need money, who are already known. And still, they choose to work for those who pay the most, by doing exactly what they are asked to do, even if it’s a kitschy dolphin jumping in the waves, with a sunset behind it. They have no intention of making meaningful art. Street art is a powerful tool and we are missing it completely when we take walls to make decoration.


Do you think that can destroy the process?

No, it won’t be enough to destroy it, because there are not only unscrupulous artists in the new generation. It’s just scary, because it became normal. Fortunately, there are many new Street Artists who are truly socially engaged and who really want to change things. GLEO, who is 8 years younger than me, is really connected with these topics, it’s someone who thinks what she does and it’s nice to see. The Street Art movement will not disappear, but I think it will separate into several movements. This is already happening. I do not know how many paths there will be, but it will be necessary to find new words to define them. The word Street Art already means several different things today.


Do you consider your art as political?

Everything is political. Of course, I try to make a political art. But I do not treat the subject directly. I prefer to be a little more subtle. I do not choose, for example, to deal with topics that everyone is talking about on television, just because it would give me more « Likes » on social media. I may be doing something that is not going to change the reality of today, but maybe my art will bring something to the future generations. There are people in Latin America who consider my work as an ambassador of our culture. I do not like it very much, although I work a lot on the subject of Indians and the mixing of cultures. But I do not want to go into a specific scheme that would prevent me from finding other topics. I play with cultural syncretism. Latin America is a mixture of cultures that have nothing to do with each other and that, together, create a truly surrealistic result. It is this spirit that inspires me in my work. I play with all the small pieces of culture that made me to make a great surreal patchwork, things that do not really go together, but that I manage to mix.


What do you think about your success and what are your dreams?

I wish I had more freedom to do my job. This is the dream of all artists. It’s a bit of a cliché, but I would like to gain more respect and I would like people to like what I do in order to have more space, to be able to create more walls and to be free from the work for the galleries. I would like to make paintings only when I want to and not because I need it. There are cool people who buy paintings and who invest in art and it allows us to go out on the street without being thinking about the money, but I would like to feel free to travel and to take the time to meet and to get to know the people in the places where I paint. And to really achieve something that makes sense.


Is there any country left where you did not paint?

Many countries. Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, or Indonesia, are places I would like to go to paint. There is a lot to discover there.

If I were the genie of Aladdin’s lamp and you could choose a crazy place or paint, which one would you choose?

Notre Dame. It was burned and everyone felt bad, because it’s part of the Western culture. Notre Dame belongs to everyone in France. That’s why I would like to paint there. To signify again its religious character with a non-religious icon, an open spirituality, which would belong to all.




“Peinture Fraiche” (Fresh Paint) Festival, 10 days, 70 artists, 12 countries. 3rd to 12th of May 2019, Halle Debourg, 45-47 Avenue Debourg, Lyon (Metro, Tramway, station Debourg).


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