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Visit the Magical Painted Forest of Oma in Basque Country, Spain

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Painted forest of Oma
All photos CC by-SA Danel Solabarrieta

Click for larger image of the painted forest of OmaHidden away among the Basonda and Oma Valleys, close to the mouth of the River Oka in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, is the perfect and magical place for a gentle stroll.  In this stunningly beautiful UNESCO listed area, a Basque artist has gone one better than nature and has created a colourful landscape, quite unlike any other.

The Forest of Oma is situated just to the north-east of Kortezubi, a small town in the Basque Country of Spain.  Here the artist Agustín Ibarrola has created what is probably the best-known of his artistic endeavours and a perfect example of what is known as “land art,” an artistic trend that began in the 1960s that quite literally takes art into the countryside and uses nature as its medium and its frame.

Click for larger image of the painted forest of OmaIbarrola was born in Basauri (Biscay) in 1930, and while his first artistic attempts were on a self-taught basis, in 1948 he received a grant which enabled him to travel to Madrid where he was able to further explore art, especially constructivism and cubism, and to produce work which is away from the norm, a more social and less pure form of art.

Click for larger image of the painted forest of OmaThe painted Forest of Oma is typical of Ibarrola’s artistic outlook.  He started the work back in 1982 and says that the magical landscape represents the social reality, the “eyes of our ancestors,” and “the light that entered the forest and stayed there.”  It is public art, made to be shared with the people.
Map showing location of the painted forest of Oma
Throughout this forest, he has painted colourful patterns, figures and shapes and taking a stroll through this wonderland can be different for everyone. 

Some of the work is painted on one single tree, other patterns are spread over several trees, forcing the viewer to see them as a landscape in themselves, varying depending on the angle from which they are viewed.

In this article are three examples of this work - by clicking on each image you can see a larger version.  However, to get an idea of the sheer variation and beauty of Ibarrola’s vision, Bizkaia.net has a full photo gallery of various parts of the forest as well as audio guides to download before visiting the area.  The map on the right is courtesy Bizkaia.net.

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Latest update: August 15, 2016