Street life in Olhão


Dario Silva isn’t a name that I knew until recently.  I’ve been seeing his handiwork around Olhão, in the Eastern Algarve, for a number of years, mostly on old and unloved buildings.  A prolific street artist, in 2009 he was forced to stop using spray paint.  The toxic fumes in the paint were damaging his liver.  But you can’t keep a good artist down.  “The street is my addiction”, he said.

In recovery, he turned to painting with a brush and water-based paints.  It’s a much slower medium but it enables him to continue to paint. His work might once have been regarded as vandalism, but now the commissions are coming in and even the local council have embraced him.  Many think that Olhão is a finer place for his intervention.

Vivenda Victoria is his best known work, in the main street of Olhão

Vivenda Victoria is his best known work

It’s virtually impossible to pass through Olhão without seeing Vivenda Victoria, in it’s abandoned state.  It sits on the E125, at the hub of the town’s shopping area.  Other works of art have started to mushroom in the most unlikely places, but you have to seek them out.



I had thought to include the street artworks in a Monday walk, but they straggle around some of the town’s less desirable parts, and that is surely the point.  At times I felt a little intrusive, wandering with my camera through the back streets of Olhão.

I had intended to link this post to Thursday’s Special, which this week is themed ‘Abstract’.  By definition abstract means divorced from reality.  My images are rather a reflection of sad reality, but I would urge you to visit Suzanne’s wonderful post.  It might set you thinking.

Do you have a favourite of these?  Mine is still the boy with sad eyes.


  1. I love these murals, they have a softness to them. Maybe it’s because of the brush and water paints rather than spray paint. Now I want to visit Olhao just to wander around and feast my eyes.

    1. It’s a funny old place, Julie. Like much of the Algarve it’s a mix of hyper modern and run down back streets. (but I guess you can say that about a lot of places 🙂 ) It does have a bit of an interesting Arabic twist to it, too, so you might well like it. Thanks for the company 🙂

  2. Hello, Johanna. I see your point. This is indeed impressive graffiti with the same proportions of the one I posted of Amsterdam. It seems to also serve the purpose to bring life to a sterile neighborhood.
    This boy’s image is simply enticing.
    Thank you so much for leading me to you post. I truly liked it.
    Have a good day!

    1. I seem to have seen dozens of street art posts in the last few days, AG, so it’s certainly acquiring a higher profile. I’m no fan of the scrawled variety but it can sometimes stop you in your tracks. And I like my art to do that 🙂

  3. Thanks for taking the time to go graffiti hunting for us, ha! 😀 It’s all worth it for us and for you. 😉 If I die, I want it to be from doing what I love to do. No, wait. I take it back. I don’t want to die from blogging. Ahihihi

  4. Greetings from a fellow itchy footed world traveller in the South East coast! I’m so glad you steered me in the direction of this post Jo. What a fascinating place it must be wander around.Yet another one for the ‘ole bucket list! A little reminiscent of Banksy but a lot lot larger and more colourful.

  5. Does you magical presence conjure up magical food for your camera? Your supply of subject matter has to be inexhaustible becaus of magic!

    (As you can see, I’ve recovered into comment.)

  6. Jo that is astonishing! Can you imagine being so artistic that you could paint building and steeple sized murals?! Sorry to hear about his liver issues though.

    1. I believe I’ve mentioned my matchstick men drawing ability before, Sue? It doesn’t exist, so I am totally in awe of this guy. I think he’s fit again now and undertaking indoor commissions as well as street art. 🙂

      1. Yes I do remember that reference Jo. I’m a stick man drawing type myself. Glad to hear that he is getting commissions as well. Deservedly so.

  7. Incredible artwork this Jo. I remember seeing art/graffiti like this in LA and was amazed by some of it. Better than seeing all those horrible letters and weird symbols, if grafitti has to be done at all. I would say the boy too…but so sad 😦 I like the Native American … or, taking another look, more Aztec?

    1. I’m not usually too fussed with graffiti, Sherri, but it sometimes transcends scribbles. This guy has developed himself a career from it and deservedly so. I’m not at all sure about the significance of the Indians 😦

      1. Absolutely hon and thanks for the lovely wishes. It’s still hot here, so you can send over that drizzling weather anytime. 😆

  8. I like the sad eyed boy to. What a talent, I can’t help wondering if the artist works on canvas as well, much as I love street art it seems a pity not to have more lasting work.

  9. ti dirè che non sono particolarmente attratta dai murales, anche se talvolta sono piacevoli e fatti da mano di artista, ma spesso mi sembra che interrompano l’armonia del paesaggio rendendolo troppo surreale
    buongiorno cara, come sempre ottimo il tuo lavoro

    1. I know what you mean, Ventis. Very often it’s not for me, but this is quite a run down town, neglected in places by the council, and his work has brought interest and life to the streets. Happy weekend, cara 🙂

  10. The boy with sad eyes is wonderful! Vivenda Victoria is striking with its realistic faces and colorful backgrounds. I like the crazy fish behind the old man. I’m glad Silva stopped using spray paint.

    1. Vivenda Victoria has been there for all of the 10 years we’ve been coming here, in that dilapidated state. It’s only in the last year or two that it’s been added to. 🙂

  11. These are fascinating. I love street art. Some might call it graffiti but when it rises to this level of expertise I would definitely call it art. I’m impressed that the artist could do all that with a brush. I used to do spray paint art (on canvas) but had to give it up for the same reason). Since then I’ve taken photos but really want to get back to painting. This post inspires me.
    I really appreciate you linking to my challenge on Paula’s blog. Who knows – maybe next week you’ll find some abstract street art 🙂

    1. Thanks, Suzanne 🙂 I thought that you still painted. I’m sure that with more time you’ll get back to it (I know- what time???) I don’t visit as often as I would like but your blog is full of artistry and interest.
      Yes… maybe 🙂

      1. Glad you enjoy my blog – it is an eclectic mishmash really. As for painting – strangely just after reading your post a friend offered me the use of her studio while she’s not using it. Maybe I’ll do some painting soon after all

  12. Amazing art work and to do it in water based paints would be so slow in comparison to doing it with spray paint. He is a truly dedicated artist and I love how street art livens a place up. Thumbs up to the council allowing it…

    1. I think it’s only the paint that’s holding some of those buildings together, Pauline! The council have jumped on the bandwagon because it’s to their advantage.

  13. Am glad you navigated the back streets and captured these. Uncensored and even encouraged. How beneficial for all. Che seems to crop up unexpectedly everywhere. The sad eyes get my vote. 🎨

  14. This is fabulous Jo, you have really captured the other side of Olhão which is just as amazing as the bits us tourists usually stroll along. I’ve also tried to show the hidden delights of Olhão not quite as dramatically as you but I hope this post shares a little bit more. See

    1. Hi Becky 🙂 Nice to meet you! Yes, it’s an ‘interesting’ place, with many aspects. Thanks a lot for this. I’ll pop over as soon as I’ve finished answering comments (and thanks for the follow)

  15. As I walk around the practical monotoned streets in the UK I can’t help thinking we are missing out on some aspect or awareness of life in this country, especially when I look at the amazing vibrant colours seen in your lovely photographs

    1. It must be wonderful to express yourself this freely. 🙂 When he first started working the streets he sometimes had the police called out to move him on, Peter.

  16. Looks pretty yuk to me Jo. Don’t remember seeing any of his work years ago. But the last time we went the gypsy encampment by the railway lines had gone in favour of huge new flats so I guess this one more reason why I would hardly recognise Olhao. Prefer the blue and white tiles myself …

    1. Can’t please all of the people, Kate. 🙂 If the council had a more responsible attitude to their dilapidated buildings maybe it wouldn’t happen. I love azulejos as much as anyone but there’s a time and a place.

  17. The scale of his work is impressive Jo . I guess he was given free rein for subject matter , how marvellous .
    I wonder how long they will survive … the strong sunlight in Portugal must surely have quite an effect on the permanence of such paintings ….

    1. He used to be moved along by the police on a regular basis, Poppy, but he now has gallery commissions so maybe the street art will be phased out… who knows? Some of the buildings are in a deplorable condition anyway, so the council have benefited. 🙂

  18. Oh Jo, It’s so frustrating here lately as my internet is horrible. I’ve already tried twice to post a comment here and then lost it. Anyway, I love this artist and what he’s done to enliven this town. Your pictures are great too! I’m glad he’s getting recognition and also that he’s found a method to paint that’s not hazardous to his health. What a lovely post. I hope you’re getting some spring weather now. 🙂

    1. Sorry about the problems, Cathy! I saw you have a new post and will come and read it later. No- it’s not a good weather week but Winter’s gone (should I dare say that? 🙂 )

      1. Don’t speak too soon, Jo, about winter’s disappearance. You know how it has a way of hanging on! I’m hoping for the same here as the forecast promises improvement next week. But I hope it doesn’t turn into summer immediately. That will be too hot and sticky and miserable. 🙂

  19. my fav is the front of Vivenda Victoria – the bird looking up and the mixed colors -and then I think you give us three views of that bird – so as to really get a feel for it – and you are right sad reality depicted – chilling

    1. I don’t like scrawls, Viv, but some of this is astounding. And if the council had looked after some of these properties better it might not have happened. 🙂

  20. I do love street art and this work is amazing. I have never seen anything on the scale of Victoria Vivenda.
    Street art has become such a huge international “industry” that I may get to see some of Silva’s work elsewhere.
    Just off for a walk of my own in fact – to track down some Viennese street art. If I’m successful I may take you with me on Monday 🙂

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