In an old, abandoned corridor with paint peeling off the walls, something surprising awaits. Indeed, it looks as though ghostly intruders are stalking through the rooms of this spooky old asylum, but not everything is quite what it seems.
This is the work of Herbert Baglione, a street artist from São Paulo, Brazil, who travels the world making his mark on far-flung locations such as France, Mexico and Italy. In fact, he has built up a reputation as an internationally-renowned graffiti artist, known for his distinct style.
Indeed, Baglione’s work typically features simplistic images of human figures that are twisted and distorted into exaggerated versions of themselves. He paints mostly in black and white, and he has a habit of leaving murals in some of the most unusual and unexpected of places.
The artist seemingly gets his inspiration from the cave paintings of the American Southwest Pueblo culture, and he aims to take his work beyond the superficially pleasing. In fact, he has said, “An artist who stimulates the spectator’s pleasure and desire to research his production is most important. Being aesthetically beautiful is not enough.”
Moreover, Baglione’s work has often been known to have a slightly sinister edge. Back in 2012, for example, he launched his show Obituary in Bogota, Colombia, and it featured paintings drawn with his own blood. Additionally, he has also dabbled in photography and posted gritty images of drugs, litter and detritus left behind on city streets after parties.
However, it was his desire to hunt down new and exciting locations that led Baglione to a haunting, abandoned psychiatric hospital in Parma, Italy. Little is known about the location or history of the building, but it is clear from the photographs that it was in a bad state of repair at the time of Baglione’s visit.
Indeed, with its creepy, empty hallways and discarded medical equipment, the Italian asylum certainly looks like an eerie place. Still, any urban adventurers seeking thrills in this particular building might get a lot more than they bargained for.
That’s because in July 2013 Baglione infiltrated the asylum with the aim of bringing his unique work to its walls. And the pieces that he created inside are enchanting and terrifying in equal measures.
After all, the artist populated the abandoned building with ghosts, painting strange ethereal figures along the walls and floors. In one room, for instance, a wild shadow reared up from an old wheelchair and made a break for an open door. Elsewhere, a black wraith drifted silently between rooms.
The overall effect of the art is unsettling to say the least. Moreover, in leaving behind these surreal figures, Baglione is not just leaving his own physical mark on the place – he is calling up the presence of all those who walked these halls.
Interestingly, the artist began experimenting with the shadows that would become his signature style as far back as 1999. But it was in the psychiatric hospital that they began to take on a life of their own.
So, having painted his haunting figures throughout one abandoned building, Baglione decided to extend the project – and the idea for 1000 Shadows was formed. Through this extended body of work, then, he has brought his dark visions to abandoned and forgotten places all around the world.
In the French city of La Rochelle, for example, one of Baglione’s shadows escaped from a disembodied pair of legs seated on a bench. Manifested from chunks of black stone, it added an otherworldly dimension to this otherwise calm-looking garden.
Meanwhile, at an underground hospital in Niort, also in France, the same figure loomed out from an abandoned trolley, its limbs and torso conjured from dried autumnal leaves. And over in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a group of them stood atop one another’s shoulders, slithering over the roofs of ramshackle buildings.
Baglione believes that his work allows these buildings to be seen in different and unusual ways. “The ‘reading’ of these places allows me to take the shadow to a unique path, which usually feeds and broadens the discussion because it brings light to the abandoned environment,” he told alternative fashion and lifestyle blog Upper Playground.
And his shadows constantly changed, taking on different appearances as they traveled the world. In Frankfurt, Germany, for instance, they were huge figures spray-painted across the ground. Meanwhile, in São Paulo, Brazil, they took the form of smaller figures hiding in gutters and kerbs. But wherever and whatever they were, they all served to draw attention to places that were often overlooked.
Understandably, reaction to the pieces has been largely positive. Indeed, art and design blog Beautiful Decay praised them as “traces of a persisting darkness that inspire us, emotionally and imaginatively, to close the gap in time.” Meanwhile, Facebook fans complimented Baglione’s “whimsical sense of humor.” One even going so far as to say, “They touch a part of me not reachable by other art.”
However, not everyone has been impressed, particularly by the works located in the old psychiatric hospital. In fact, some considered these murals a step too far, with one Facebook commenter complaining that the installation lacked sensitivity. After all, they did feature such symbols as an inverted cross and a pentagram.
These days, though, Baglione continues to travel the world, painting his shadows and other artworks across cities from England to Italy. But although his murals can be seen in all their glory in destinations such as São Paulo and Rio, the exact location and current status of the transformed psychiatric hospital remain unknown.
Online, social media sites are littered with individuals trying to track down the mysterious building, but they either haven’t succeeded or have kept their mouths tightly shut. Regardless, the elusive nature of this amazing artwork certainly adds to its appeal.