We met Juan Fernández at VukovART – a big street art festival in Vukovar (Croatia) and we hosted him in the latest Bikademy cycling interview. Juan graduated in Fine Arts, and except on the topic of his murals, we connected on bicycles and cycling. It’s a wonder how bike connects many different people from all around the world!
Hi, Juan. Can you tell us more about yourself?
Hello! I’m just a normal guy, based in Madrid, Spain. Bike lover, passionate about nature and outdoor activities. I´m part of the artistic collective Boa Mistura. We focus on urban art and big-scale interventions. I think an artist is such a big word, as I don’t see myself like that, but as a muralist.
Why do you focus on street art?
We deeply think art can inspire people. As a collective that works on the street we feel we have a responsibility while intervening in the public space. So we try to link our projects to the place we are working, be respectful with the local identity and give a message that invites people to reflect on it.
Street Art thinks the public space in a creative way, today there are so many talented people who are redefining cities worldwide.
What does Boa Mistura mean and how come that four of you started to work together?
It means Good Mixture in Portuguese. It shows the diversity of perspectives we have in our approach to ideas and in creating something.
We are four friends from the same neighbourhood on the outskirts of Madrid. We’ve known each other since high school. We’ve been together since then. We started painting graffiti illegally in the late ’90s.
In the beginning it was a way to interact with each other while painting murals. Then we started travelling the country on exhibitions, then around Europe.
Back in 2009 we had the chance to travel to South Africa for an art residency. We were painting a bike club house built on containers located in Khayelitsha, one of the largest townships in Africa. The club was called Velokhaya that means “home of bikes” in Xhosa. More than a hundred kids trained there every afternoon, learning teamwork and sport values. That is going to be the new South Africa youth generation. We had a limited time, so they helped us on the project in a very spontaneous ways. We painted together and it was the first time we had a participative process. That experience and the influence from Mandela made a huge impact on our lives and changed the philosophy of the Studio.
We feel very lucky to have the chance to make our living from our passion. When you wake up every morning and feel passionate about what you do, that’s what matters the most.
We saw on your social media that you travel a lot, mostly because of the projects you work on, but you cycle also? Since when do you ride bike?
Yeah, we spend most of the time abroad. With Boa Mistura we spend more than half of the year out of Spain painting worldwide. And always try to escape from the city when I have the chance.
I was messing around with bikes since I was a kid. The first ones were inherited from my older cousins. So they were kind of shitty and rusty ones. They needed a lot of maintenance all the time which was very useful cause I learned a lot of the mechanic basics.
Now I commute to the Studio every day when I’m in Madrid. I like the feeling of flowing into the urban space, despite the fact Madrid is not a friendly bike city so sometimes it’s tough and you are struggling on the road between rough taxi drivers. Still needs a lot of vial education and respect between people. But happily this is slowly changing thanks to all the community.
But I prefer to travel by bike and get lost in nature more than commuting. Have a clear horizon in front of you. Just you, your bike and your thoughts. You really feel the destiny is on your handlebar. Never felt more real freedom than while pedaling.
What are the best destinations for cycling that you’ve been to?
Berlin is a great city to cycle, with bike lanes all around and full of creativity everywhere.
Barcelona its wonderful too, plus you have the seaside and the mountains very close.
NYC is also a very cool and easy city to ride. You don’t wanna miss any part of it and it’s always fun.
Mediterranean Islands are great for travel, beautiful landscape, wonderful to beaches to relax after the day and delicious Mediterranean food. I´m vegan so it’s also really easy to find local fresh products.
I like to travel light, so in the summertime you can skip the tent and just sleep under the stars.
Do you have an artistic project that includes cycling?
We are currently in the Netherlands, developing a 15.000 squared meters intervention in Heerlen. The city is very well located in the south of the country between Belgium and Germany.
So I was planning to explore around during weekends and travel to the countryside on my holidays.
I sent a vintage randonneur Peugeot but POST NL lost the parcel with all my gear inside. So trying to figure out what to do now. For sure next time I´ll send it by a private company.
What are your plans for the next year? More cycling and art?
SURE! Luckily we have many upcoming great projects, so we are very excited about it.
I am planning to cross France from North to South. But new adventures are always welcome.
I wish that, in the future, I can have a more nomad lifestyle.