Imon Boy: The rise of Spain’s mysterious graffiti artist who exhibits in Los Angeles and Hong Kong
“Want to paint?”
In the WhatsApp group shared by artist Imon Boy and his friends, that simple question is enough to kickstart the action. Armed with cans of paint and rollers, this young man sets out each morning to the chosen location. He chats there with his friends as they paint, snap photos with their hoodies up, and leave without a trace. Back in the tranquil solitude of home, Imon Boy reflects on life and transfers these thoughts onto canvas with deliberate strokes. Few know the identity of the artist who leaves his signature in every city he visits, and also exhibits in museums and galleries in Ibiza, Dubai, Los Angeles and London. Born in Málaga (southern Spain) in 1992, Imon Boy combines the furtiveness of street art with incognito appearances at gallery exhibitions of his work. “That waiter actually follows me on social media, but he has no clue who I am,” the artist says casually over breakfast at a nearby seaside café. He just returned from Havana where he recently took part in a collaborative project by the Figueroa-Vives Studio. Imon Boy will travel next to Hong Kong for hisWe Have it Allexhibition, which runs from January 5 through February 3.
Like many other graffiti artists, including the famous Banksy, Imon Boy decided to remain anonymous out of safety concerns. No one — especially the police — would be able to associate him with his street art. Nowadays, he maintains this anonymity for convenience and peace of mind. He prefers not to be recognized or singled out for what he does or doesn’t do. This leads to interesting situations, like when people occasionally introduce themselves as Imon Boy. He recalls a guy “revealing” to him that he was Imon Boy, and then began to explain the inspiration behind a recent piece they had just passed on the highway. “So, when I got off,” laughed Imon Boy, “the driver, who actually knew me, told the guy, ‘Man, you really screwed the pooch!’”
His real name remains a mystery, but his favorite places are no secret. He captures them in artwork where the Mediterranean presence is unmistakable, revealing his deep connection to the Costa del Sol. Sunsets, palm trees and beaches sprawl over his canvases, portraying sunbathers lazily whiling away the hours and snorkeling in the waters of his beloved Nerja coast. His paintings are a sort of diary, reflecting his daily life at home, on the coast or in the countryside. These are the places that energize him, where inspiration flows as he spends time with his friends — the same ones he had at 13 when he first picked up a can of spray paint. What started as a lark became a passion. He developed his own style, discovered new places to express himself, and explored various techniques along the way. But not without collecting many police warnings and fines. “Almost everything you do on the street is illegal. But personally, I always go for spots that won’t bother anyone. I don’t go around painting cars, shop windows or any place where I wouldn’t want to see graffiti myself,” he said.
He started by painting on walls, street furniture, platforms, breakwaters and abandoned houses. When he studied art at the University of Malaga, the experience expanded his perspective and gave him a more comprehensive understanding of the art world. “That really helped me envision my work in other places, not just on the street,” he said. He made his first sale in his early twenties. It was a drawing on paper made during one of his university classes. A young Swiss man who followed him on social media saw it and bought it for €100. “That changed everything. All of a sudden, there was this unknown person who showed interest in my work and bought it, no middleman involved. It felt very pure.” Imon Boy says he could probably sell that same piece today for $1,000.
He initially uploaded photos of his early work on Esflog and later on Fotolog. Instagram has now become his platform of choice, with over 76,000 followers. His first clients and offers from galleries came to him through direct messages on social media. In 2016, he made his debut with other artists in a Sydney gallery, and had his first solo exhibition in Córdoba (Spain) in 2017. Since then, he has exhibited in galleries all over the world, including Barcelona, Marbella, Chicago, Madrid, Geneva, London, Shanghai, Dubai, New York, Taiwan, Hawaii, Ibiza, Mexico, and Japan.
Imon Boy had his solo debut exhibition in Asia on January 5 in Hong Kong’s influential Aishonanzuka Gallery. The gallery has also exhibited work by Javier Calleja, another very successful artist from Malaga. “He [Calleja] is someone who has helped me a lot. Not just because of the conversations we’ve had or the people I’ve met thanks to him, but also because he’s showing me what’s possible. He’s opening a path that other artists of my generation are now following,” he said. The We Have it All exhibition sums up Imon Boy’s work well. The pieces are like an album of summertime memories of Málaga — a popular vacation spot he is lucky enough to call home. He paints friends enjoying a beer at sunset, snorkeling in crystal-clear water, walking to the beach with surfboards, and taking late-night swims in the pool, all moments that exemplify the carpe diem spirit of his work.
Imon Boy’s subjects exude sympathy and innocence, embodying youthfulness shaped by the movies, video games and everyday life of the 1990s. They indulge in beach trips, music, phone browsing, reading, snorkeling, drawing, preparing for dates, and late-night fridge raids. Their experiences are enriched by picturesque and bucolic landscapes and vibrant sunsets. “They could be my friends, or it could be me. Everything is open for interpretation,” said Imon Boy. He has also turned some of his paintings into sculptures for his exhibitions and art objects sold by AllRightsReserved. The police make regular appearances in his work, and anecdotes about his run-ins with the law are a frequent artistic muse.
Sketchbooks are scattered all over Imon Boy’s simple apartment. They show how he explores creative ways to express himself on walls, abandoned public works and old highway billboards. Only a few sketches make it onto the canvases in his living room, surrounded by jars, brushes and markers. His two cats, Benito and Pompón, roam around stealthily. The artist’s most recent paintings are in the Hong Kong exhibition, and will then be shipped for an exhibition in Barcelona in February.
Imon Boy is currently considering which other projects he wants to join in 2024. He has some doubts, but still he smiles because for the past four years, he has enjoyed the luxury of making his own choices and setting his own work schedule. Making a living from art can be challenging, but for now, Imon Boy is doing just that. “It’s not easy to pay rent and living expenses just from selling your work. Only a few people from my generation have managed to do it, and that really keeps me grounded, you know? Having the freedom to choose who I work with and set my own schedule, now that’s real freedom,” said the artist who now paints more on canvases than on walls. But he says he’ll never stop going out on the street or driving around in his camper plastered with stickers. Want to paint?