The walls of Lyon tell stories; they transport you through time and space, weaving tales and illustrating myths. When it comes to murals the French city is the widely acknowledged world leader although the painters of mural collective Cité Création have been busy elsewhere in Europe over the past 35 years.
Pushed by relentless urbanisation, demand for murals is growing around the world and as the demand for the pictures themselves grow, so does the need for skilled mural painters. So in conjunction with established art school Emile Cohl, Cité Création has opened the world’s first mural painting school; EcholCité.
Gilbert Coudène is co-founder of the school and one of the co-founders of Cité Création. He said, “We are not artists, we are mural painters, craftsmen, it’s very important. That means that we are serving a project, serving a place, serving people. We don’t do what we really want to do, we do what the place or the people need or want us to do. The walls are the skin of the inhabitants. You have your first skin which defines you but what defines you just afterwards are the walls of the house in which you live. When people are comfortable in their skin, comfortable in their walls, they don’t harm them. When they are comfortable with their walls, they even protect them, but when it is the reverse, when you are ashamed to say where you live, when you are stigmatised by having to give your address, at that moment the place you live – your second skin – makes you ashamed.”
During the three year course, students study drawing basics, urban landscapes, trompe l’oeil technique, site logistics and safety. They learn how to take an idea and turn it into a monumental mural. The image is broken down into smaller sections and traced onto squares of transparent paper. Tiny holes are punched along the drawing and then powder is blown through the holes transferring the images onto the wall.
Le Mur des Canuts in Croix Rousse, Lyon was first painted in 1987. Now, work has just finished on a 200,000 euros revamp of the gigantic mural. Measuring around 1,200 square metres, it is one of the largest murals in the world.Eight people have been working on the third version for three months.
Joelle Bonhomme is one of the Cité Création co-founders and artistic director at the site: “In fact I think the hardest thing is working in winter on a facade that faces north, with no sun. Also you can’t suffer from vertigo, you must be at ease high up but when you do a job like this it is almost second nature to climb and walk on scaffolding.”
The mural-painters wanted to update the mural to reflect that the city around it has changed. One example is the
Carbonare family, who have appeared in one form or another in all three versions of this mural, each child appearing in different versions as time passes.