Recently, world-renowned artist António Correia (aka Pantonio) painted a mural on the front wall of the Aquarium of the Pacific as part of the POW! WOW! Long Beach street art festival.
Hailing from the Azores islands off the coast of Portugal, Pantonio is no stranger to the ocean and the animals that inhabit it. That’s why most of his pieces include a natural element, such as whales swimming through the ocean, fish swarming, or birds that seem to be flying up the side of a building.
Pantonio’s artistic approach is intuitive and improvisational. While some artists plan everything ahead of time and arrive at their mural site with a finished sketch, Pantonio prefers to take in the space where he’ll be painting.
When he arrived on Thursday, he immediately sat down in front of the wall to evaluate the size and scope of the wall where he would be painting. Then, he set out to explore Long Beach and the surrounding area.
After a couple days of sketching, he decided on an idea, a group of rays, and had painted the outlines of the rays in black within moments.
Once the outlines were complete, he began a part of the painting process that Pantónio describes as brutal. He would dip a roller brush attached to a metal pole into a tray of black paint and then leaned over the edge of a boom lift to fill in his outlines. It’s physically demanding work, and the resulting image is stark, but listening to music with a driving beat like Massive Attack helped get him through it, he said.
It wasn’t until Wednesday that Pantonio began to add detail to the black shapes. As he listened to the music of Portuguese guitarist Norberto Lobo, he moved his paint brush over the black forms in graceful, focused swoops. After a few days of details and touch-ups, the piece was finished only a week after he started.
No matter what subject he paints, the idea of motion and fluidity is always present. Often his paintings extend to the edge of the wall suggesting that the animals continue moving past the confines of the painted surface. Such is the case for his piece at the Aquarium, where a group of manta rays seems to be swimming away from a net on the left side toward the upper right hand corner of the wall.
Watching the mural unfold each day was an inspiring process, but experiencing the final masterpiece is a true joy. The artist prefers that you view his work from close up (about twenty to thirty feet from the wall) so that you feel as if you are within the piece itself and are swimming in the ocean along with the rays.
Pantonio’s mural will remain on the front wall of the Aquarium of the Pacific through early 2017. You can also look forward to an exhibition of his work in the Great Hall set to debut later this year.