People working as shoeshiners use cobbled together wooden cases of randomly found urban materials with a little compartment inside and a handle at the top for transportation and storage of their shoe shine materials.

Spanish artist Lupe Godoy first came across these boxes when she joined a socio-artistic project in Ethiopia in 2008. In exchange for their used boxes the young shoe shiners in Addis Abeba were given a new one. Thus, more than 3500 boxes found their way to Berlin, where Godoy was part of a team that indexed the cases and built them into a compelling, spacious installation. The majority of those 3500 boxes went through her fingers, which affected her deeply: “These shoe shine boxes are my source of inspiration. They challenge me in a liberating way.”

Frequently, the artist begins her creative process with the work on her series One Box, One Voice, that she has been working on since 2013.

The boxes are fascinating not only because every single one is unique in its form and material, but also because they are infused with the very personal stories of their former owners. The material from which they are made is more than just rubber, wood, wire and paint: it creates the surface for numerous biographies embossed into the shoeshine box. The sweat of the hands that carried them, the dust and mud of the streets on which they were standing, and traces of paint on the wood create a patina that adds a very particular energy to the boxes.

This energy is the source of inspiration for Godoy’s large series One Box, One Voice. Rendered as painterly collage, in different sizes, she finds new interpretations of the boxes’ square forms over and over again.

Lupe Godoy was born in Spain and graduated from the University of Valencia. In painterly collages the artist reflects the socio-ecological state of the world. Skilfully, she combines cuttings from magazines, used paper and found materials with ink and acryl to form new associations and narratives. Paint is used in many ways: it appears as glazed varnish, combining or disrupting spaces, pastos outbursts next to figurative details.

In the series One Box, One Voice Godoy highlights the collage character of the surface and at the same time emphasizes the deep symbolic meaning of that surface.

The shoe shine boxes themselves are actually collages since they are made from found materials such as used wrapping materials, wooden crates from China or old car tires. Lupe Godoy repeats the process of material assembly and transfers it onto paper. The sculptural quality of the boxes is transform into the plain surface and thus creates a close analogy to the technique and the meaning of the shoe shine boxes. As numerous and unique as the sheets of the One Box, One Voice series so, too are the previous owners of the shoe shine boxes.

Although the initial inspiration originated in Ethiopia, Berlin-based artist Godoy understands her series as geographically and temporally open. The local specifics refer to global phenomena and thus, the boxes become symbols of migration and of globalised economics.

Godoy’s painterly collages explore and transcend the vast variety and poignant aesthetics of the boxes that initially were made as a mere basic commodity. They refer to the beauty of things found by chance and to the biography of the owners of the shoeshine boxes.