Technique: BRUSH, ROLLER


Location: Rue de Beau-Site 13, NORTH-EAST FACADE (rue Jean-d'Aarberg)

Surface area: 120 m2

Followed by tens of thousands of fans, Mantra has built a strong international reputation for painting giant butterflies on the walls of many cities and megacities.

Governed by ecological considerations, his artistic approach is inspired by that of a naturalist, a profession he dreamed of practicing as a child. With the seriousness of an entomologist, the artist wants to faithfully represent the butterflies that are the object of his attention.

Almost everywhere on earth, the number of lepidopterans has fallen dramatically in the last few decades, as a result of the disappearance of ecosystems, pollution and the use of pesticides. As the species of the Neuchâtel mountains do not escape from the hecatomb, Mantra did not hesitate to seize his paintbrushes to help them. Aware that art does not have the power to change the world and that it is only a reflection of it, he nevertheless hopes, by means of his monumental works, to raise public awareness of the mass extinction of these graceful and useful insects.

In Le Locle, in the fresco he created at number 13 rue Beau-Site, all the species illustrated are present in Neuchâtel. They have been selected by the artist thanks to information collected by biologists in charge of the study and protection of their environment. While Mantra was painting, perched on an arial work platform, butterflies that were foraging in the surrounding vegetable and flower gardens stopped their feasting to fly around him. Among these surprise guests, the artist identified specimens of the species he was painting. Did they want to thank him for his concern? Those with a childlike spirit will be amused to think so.

To display their collections protected from dust, entomologists traditionally use small wooden cases, in which they methodically pin up the insects they are studying. When Mantra paints such a box on a building facade, the three-dimensional effect is maximal, when the edges of the container correspond to those of the building. With this in mind, the exomusée selected for this project, a façade composed of four rectangles that simulate the presence of the same number of entomological boxes. In these boxes, Mantra has placed eleven insects, carefully aligned.

In their eternal sleep, a dragonfly and ten butterflies seem to be performing an immobile dance, in a choreography dear to entomologists, collectors and other still-life aficionados., while taking care not to touch their neighbours with their wings. Their wings are perfectly unfolded, as are their antennae. In entomological jargon, we speak of « spread insects », i.e. specimens that have been dried in positions that facilitate their observation. Entomological displays are not only of interest to naturalists. For their aesthetic qualities, they are prized decorative objects. « But do we have the right to kill living things in order to appreciate their beauty? » asks Mantra, who deplores the propensity of humans to appropriate nature and put it under a bell.

Through a skilful use of perspective and a perfectly mastered pictorial technique, Mantra succeeds in creating the illusion of objects borrowed from reality. However, his works are not trompe-l’oeil in the classical sense of the term, since the size of the subjects represented is disproportionate. This gigantism gives his works a surrealist, even hallucinatory presence.

Not departing from his usual practice, Mantra has created this fresco freehand, using brushes and rollers. His gestures are not influenced by any stylistic research. The pictorial touch only serves the purpose: to faithfully reproduce the physiognomy of the insects. The impression of depth of the boxes is given by a subtle play of light and shadow.

The insects are fixed to the bottom of the boxes by invisible needles, as if the artist, even in painting, could not bring himself to pierce them. The painter has enhanced the edges of the display cases with green edging, as this type of decoration is common on entomological boxes. By extending the fresco onto the the sides of the building, the artist simulates the edges of the display covers. The addition of these two vertical strips reinforces the illusion of being faced with objects that have fallen from a giant’s pouch.

By offering us a macro-photographic view of insects, Mantra symbolically reverses the power relationship between them and our species. In his works, the insects are inversely proportional in size to the interest that humans show in them. He reminds us that butterflies are very useful pollinating insects, just like bees. In cities, Mantra is calling on gardeners to avoid using chemicals and to prefer flowering meadows to lawns mowed by robots.

> Link to Mantra’s website

© exomusée – August 2022 – Redaction: François Balmer – Translation: Wolfgang Carrier

- The species -

11 Specimens​

Rue de Beau-Site 13, façade nord-est (rue Jean-d'Aarberg)



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> Link to Mantra’s website


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