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Walls, fresco's, graffity

'Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.'
-Michael Jordan (basketball player, 1963, America)



The Kremlin Wall, Moscow


The Chinese Wall   -   Poetry on walls   -   The Great Wall of Gorgan  -  Walls   -   Murals  -  Hadrian Wall   -   Frescoes   -   Another Brick in the Wall   -   The Iron Curtain   -  Sol LeWit  -  Graffiti   -   video 'Rotating outer Wall'   -   The Wall of Jericho   -   Babylon   -  Tadao Ando  -   Walls of Felix Nussbaum



The Chinese Wall

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China was built over 2,000 years ago, by Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China during the Qin (Ch'in) Dynasty (221 B.C - 206 B.C.). In Chinese the wall is called "Wan-Li Qang-Qeng" which means 10,000-Li Long Wall (10,000 Li = about 5,000 km).
After subjugating and uniting China from seven Warring States, the emperor connected and extended four old fortification walls along the north of China that originated about 700 B.C. (over 2500 years ago). Armies were stationed along the wall as a first line of defense against the invading nomadic Hsiung Nu tribes north of China (the Huns). Signal fires from the Wall provided early warning of an attack.
The Great Wall is one of the largest building construction projects ever completed. It stretches across the mountains of northern China, winding north and northwest of Beijing. It is constructed of masonry, rocks and packed-earth. It was over 5,000 km (=10,000 Li) long. Its thickness ranged from about 4.5 to 9 meters (15 to 30 feet) and was up to 7.5 meters (25 feet) tall.
During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Great Wall was enlarged to 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles) and renovated over a 200 year period, with watch-towers and cannons added.







poetry on walls

Jan Hanlo, 'De Mus' (The Sparrow)

The Great Wall of Gorgan, Iran

The Great Wall of Gorgan also called the Gorgan Defense Wall, Anushirvân Barrier, Firuz Barrier and Qazal Al'an, and sometimes Sadd-i-Iskandar, (Arabic for dam or barrier of Alexander) is an ancient defensive facility located in the Gorgan region of northeastern Iran, anciently known as Hyrcania. It protects the Caspian Gates which in turn gave access for the nomads of the steppes to the Iranian heartland, and through which Alexander passed on his hasty march to Hyrcania and the east. It is second only to the Great Wall of China as the largest defensive wall in existence.
The barrier consists of a wall, 155 kilometres long and 6 to 10 metres wide, along the length of which are located a number of fortresses, spaced at intervals of between 10 and 50 kilometres. The wall is made of standardized bricks, made from the local loess soil, and fired in kilns along the line of the wall.
This wall starts from the Caspian coast, circles north of Gonbade Kavous, continues towards the northwest, and vanishes behind the Pishkamar Mountains. A logistical archaeological survey was conducted regarding the wall in 1999 due to problems in development projects, especially during construction of the Golestan Dam, which irrigates all the areas covered by the wall. At the point of the connection of the wall and the drainage canal from the dam, architects discovered the remains of the above wall. The 40 identified castles vary in dimension and shape but the majority are square fortresses, made of the same brickwork as the wall itself and at the same period. Due to many difficulties in development and agricultural projects, archaeologists have been assigned to mark the boundary of the historical find by laying cement blocks.

Dr. Kiani who led the archaeological team in 1971 believed that the wall was built during the Parthian dynasty simultaneously with the construction of the Great Wall of China and it was restored during the Sassanid era (3-7th c. A.D.). In 2005 a team excavated samples of charcoal from the many brick kilns along the wall, and samples from the Gorgan Wall and the smaller Wall of Tammishe; OSL and radiocarbon dating indicated a date for both walls in the late 5th or 6th century CE.

"If we assumed that the forts were occupied as densely as those on Hadrian's Wall, then the garrison on the Gorgan Wall would have been in the order of 30,000 men. Models, taking into account the size and room number of the barrack blocks in the Gorgan Wall forts and likely occupation density, produce figures between 15,000 and 36,000 soldiers. Even the lowest estimate suggests a strong and powerful army, all the more remarkable as our investigations focused just on 200km of vulnerable frontier, a small fraction of the thousands of kilometres of borders of one of the ancient world's largest empires."






A mural is a painting on a wall, ceiling, or other large permanent surface.
Murals of sorts, date to prehistoric times, such as the paintings on the Caves of Lascaux in southern France, but the term became famous with the Mexican "muralista" art movement (Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, or José Orozco). There are many different styles and techniques. The best-known is probably fresco, which uses water soluble paints with a damp lime wash, a rapid use of the resulting mixture over a large surface, and often in parts (but with a sense of the whole). The colors lighten as they dry.

Dunescape mural, Scott Bloomfield, Los Angeles

Mural MAXX, L.A.

Murals today are painted in a variety of ways, using oil or water based media. The styles can vary from abstract to trompe-l'œil (a French term for "fool" or "trick the eye"). Today, the beauty of a wall mural has become much more widely available with a technique whereby a painting or photographic image is transferred to poster paper which is then pasted to a wall surface.
Murals are important in that they bring art into the public sphere. Due to the size, cost, and work involved in creating a mural, muralists must often be commissioned by a sponsor. Often it is the local government or a business, but many murals have been paid for with grants. For artists, their work gets a wide audience that otherwise might not set foot in an art gallery. For the city, it gets beautified by a work of art. Murals exist where people live and work and affect their daily lives.
Murals are a relatively effective tool of social emancipation or achieving a political goal. Murals have sometimes been created against the law or have been commissioned by local bars and coffeeshops. Often, the visual effects are an enticement to attract public attention to social issues.
World famous are the murals in Mexico, New York, Philadelphia, Belfast, Derry, Los Angeles and in India.which have functioned as an important means of communication for members of socially, ethnically and racially divided communities in times of conflict. They also proved to be an effective tool in establishing a dialogue and hence solving the cleavage in the long run. State-sponsored public art expressions, particularly murals, are often used by totalitarian regimes as a tool of mass-control and propaganda. However despite the propagandist character of that works, some of them still have an artistic value.

Hadrian Wall

Hadrian's Wall is a stone and turf fortification built by the Roman Empire across the width of modern-day England. It was the second of three such fortifications built across Great Britain, the first being Gask Ridge and the last the Antonine Wall. All three were built to prevent military raids by the Pictish tribes (ancient inhabitants of Scotland) to the north, to improve economic stability and provide peaceful conditions in the Roman province of Britannia to the south, and to mark physically the frontier of the Empire. Hadrian's Wall is the best known of the three because its physical presence remains most evident today.
The wall marked the northern limes in Britain and also the most heavily fortified border in the Empire. In addition to its use as a military fortification, it is thought that the gates through the wall would also have served as customs posts to allow trade taxation.
A significant portion of the wall still exists, particularly the mid-section, and for much of its length the wall can be followed on foot. It is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern England, where it is often known simply as the Roman Wall. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. English Heritage, a government organization in charge of managing the historic environment of England, describes it as "the most important monument built by the Romans in Britain".

Hadrian Wall at Greenhead Lough



Location of Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall in England and Scotland


Fresco in Villa Oplontis, near Napels, Italy. The motif in the middle represents Herakles in the garden of the Hesperides.

Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337), Cappella Scrovegni a Padova, Life of Christ, Lamentation (fresco)

Apodyterion (changing room) in the Stabian Baths at Pompeii in Italy.

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Pompeii fresco from the villa of P. Fannio Sinistore in Boscoreale



Another Brick in the Wall - Pink Floyd


The wall between east and west, "The Iron Curtain", Berlin

The Wall, Berlin 1988  Photo's: alywagenvoorde







Zest, Brood graffiti, Delft

Graffiti Hengelo, Holland

Dublin, Ireland

The Cat, City Road, Londen, UK

Hengelo, Holland



graffiti photos © janblaauw

Sol LeWit

Wall paintings in the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

Isometric Forms, Sol LeWit (1928-2007), wall paintings in acryl, 2002






video "Rotating outer wall"


The wall of Jericho

The story of the walls of Jericho

The story of the walls of Jericho is the story of how the Israelites have been lead out of the slavery in Egypt by Moses. Moses leads them to the promised land. They wander in the wilderness for forty years, before they finally enter the promised land of Canaan (Israel).
There they begin to take possession of the land through conquest.
Jericho was the first city they came across, having entered Canaan. Following God's instructions, they marched around the city once a day, during six days. Then, on the seventh day, they marched around Jericho seven times. After that, they blew on their trumpets. Then God caused the walls of Jericho to fall down...

Sketch by Gene Fackler of the north side of ancient Jericho

The walls of Jericho crumble as the priest blows his horn in this illustration from a 14th century Icelandic manuscript.


Jean Fouquet, Taking of Jericho 


Procession road with walls, Babylon

                         Procession road and Ishtar gate

Procession road Babylon (now in Pergamonmuseum, Berlin),
©Foto: alywagenvoorde, 1999

Tadao Ando (Japanese architect) and his walls

"In all my works, light is an important controlling factor," says Ando. "I create enclosed spaces mainly by means of thick concrete walls. The primary reason is to create a place for the individual, a zone for oneself within society. When the external factors of a city's environment require the wall to be without openings, the interior must be especially full and satisfying." And further on the subject of walls, Ando writes, "At times walls manifest a power that borders on the violent. They have the power to divide space, transfigure place, and create new domains. Walls are the most basic elements of architecture, but they can also be the most enriching."                                                                                   

Water Temple (Shingonshu Honpukuji), interior
Tadao Ando 1991

The Temple, originally for the Shingon Buddhist Sect, is approached from a long uphill path traversing the original temple compound and cemetery. 


Water Temple (Shingonshu Honpukuji)
Tadao Ando 1991

One is then directed, indirectly, through a simple series of two gesturing white-washed concrete walls of light and shadow that eventually lead one to what seems like a pool of water. The pool itself is filled to its outermost perimeter, forming a boundless horizon line about which it infinitely reflects its surroundings of mountains, sky, rice paddies and bamboo groves. The stillness of the water has a meditative effect and perhaps implications of a spiritual cleansing.

Walls in the paintings of Felix Nussbaum

Felix Nussbaum

In his work the German-jewish artist Nussbaum (1904-1944) reflects directly on the dramatic events in the years preceding World War II. Hitlers grab for power in 1933 leads to the end of the study stay of Nussbaum in Rome. A number of apocalyptic paintings clearly show his desperation and the sense of foreboding doom.
The deteriorating situation of the German jews led to Nussbaums 'Exile' to Belgium in 1935, where he led a painful life as a stateless citizen, together with his wife, a Polish jewess. His works here give a probing picture of the state of collapse of a refugee.
The German occupation of Belgium in 1940 made an end to the few certainties. The loneliness of his going underground and the degrading circumstances in an internment camp St. Cyprien (1940) become the leading themes in his work. He reaches a great itensity in his art when he finds out, that his parents and brother - who had fled to Amsterdam - had been interned in Westerbork in 1943. Nussbaum himself, escaped from St. Cyprien, lives three years in Brussels as a person in hiding, and paints there the life of the damned. In 1944 he and his wife were arrested and via Mechelen transported to Auschwitz.

Felix Nussbaum painted many paintings with a wall on it. There are a number of examples between the Dutch and the English text.

Felix Nussbaum, Postman, 1928


Lovers, 1928, Berlin

Dance at the wall, 1930

Desolate street, 1928

Selfportrait with apple blossom, 1939

Felix Nussbaum



Wall in Rome, 1932


Horseman and death, 1935

The comic concert, 1935

Jaqui in the street, 1944

More walls on the Dutch section. Click HERE.