Pepe Gaka is a pavement artist, or as they are called in Italy (Pepe is originally from Turin) madonarri. I had never heard this term until today when I read Pepe's signs. So, I looked it up on Wikipedia and here's what I learned:
The Italian Madonnari have been traced to the sixteenth century. They were itinerant artists, many of whom had been brought into the cities to work on the huge cathedrals. When the work was completed, they needed to find another way to make a living, and thus often would recreate the paintings from the church onto the pavement. Aware of festivals and holy days held in each province and town, they traveled to join in the festivities to make a living from observers who would throw coins if they approved of the artist's work. For centuries, many Madonnari were folk artists, reproducing simple images with crude materials such as tiles, coal, and chalk. Others, such as El Greco, would go on to become household names.
Interesting stuff don't you think? And to say that Pepe's work is absolutely stunning does little to convey its beauty and extraordinary technical quality. And this artist is not only talented, he spends his spare time volunteering as an art teacher, gives away completed works to charities and is, in the next couple of months, headed off on a world journey that will take a few years and see him travel around Australia and New Zealand, to several Asian countries, to Canada and the US, before heading for Europe.
Pepe makes his living from donations from passersby who appreciate his work, just like all the madonnari before him. It's a fine tradition, and one that is alive and well on the streets of this modern and cosmopolitan city thanks to this fine artist.
You can find Pepe Gaka at the following places online:
His own site
Or, if you're really lucky, you can find him most weekends at Circular Quay in Sydney. Either way, make sure you check him out; you won't regret it
PS: I'm hoping to post more photos, and perhaps a short video, I am planning on making from that train platform. So, stay tuned!