As one more year passed by, I found myself thinking about my happiest moments from 2016 and –undoubtedly- attending the legendary Nuart street art festival in Stavanger (Norway) was one of them.
Apart from a couple of interviews (with Axel Void and Henrik Uldalen), I still haven’t told you anything about that amazing experience, although you might have seen my round-up of outdoor and indoor murals and my recap of Nuart Plus academic conferences on I Support Street Art, the website I was representing at the festival.
So I guess it’s about time I shared what my favourite walls in Stavanger are, not just from last year’s edition of this independent festival, but since its very beginning back in 2001, when the English expat Martyn Reed founded one of the pioneering events dedicated to everything urban and public art, which –since then- has been breaking new ground in the street art scene worldwide.
NuArt 2016 > ADDFUEL (PT)
His art comes from the encounter between the Portuguese tradition of ceramic decoration and street art. With stencils and spray cans, he reinterprets the typical facades of Portuguese buildings covered with azulejos, transforming the purely ornamental decorative pattern into an unexpected and ironic scene filled with characters and pop elements.
This duality between past and present gives movement to his artworks, in the jump from overview to detail, that is from the initial illusion of being in front of a traditional work of art to a contemporary one. To contextualise his piece in Stavanger, Diogo worked with traditional ‘Rosemaling’ patterns from the Rogaland region.
NuArt 2016 > AXEL VOID (ES*)
*While we were walking back to the hotel after the interview, I remembered I’d always wondered about his nationality. And so I asked. “I’m the American guy when I’m in Spain and the Spanish dude when in Miami. I don’t feel I fully belong to any of these places, but I guess I’m closer to Andalusian culture”.
His work at Nuart 2016 is a bit hidden: it is located inside the courtyard of a kindergarten, and it is designed for the kids playing in front of it, rather than for the “art world”. Even the word written on it (‘klosser’, which means ‘toy building blocks’, like the ones held by the child portrayed) was chosen by the kids. This piece is a reflection on the meaning of playing at different ages of our lives, on how we progress from building houses with toy blocks to living inside actual houses we have built.
>> Read my interview with Axel Void
BORDALO II (PT)
I was wandering around the former brewery Tou Scene, the HQ of the festival, taking pictures of the amazing street art scattered all around, when I stumbled upon Bordalo II’s deer. And it felt like bumping into a friend in the street.
In Stavanger Bordalo II realized one of his iconic big trash animals, mixing sculpture, trash-art and painting to shape an animal out of car parts, old bicycles, pipes, screens and other rubbish, speaking against environmental degradation.
>> Read about my week with Bordalo II in Rome
Another pleasant surprise was stumbling upon Borondo’s piece, which he painted in 2014 and titled “Memories”.
I love his instinctive and strong trait, the way he shapes bodies and countenances with wide strokes, which are thick like the scenes he depicts. Here, the atmosphere giving off the man holding and smelling a heap of flowers is classic yet highly expressive, direct and gloomy, affecting and thought-provoking.
BORTUSK LEER (SLO)
Scattered throughout Stavanger are the happy, brightly coloured monsters by Bortusk Leer, who is originally from Slovenia. :-)
They are painted in a childish style, often on newspaper pasted on the walls, in neon, psychedelic colours to properly brighten up the passer-by’s day and put a smile on her face.
The monster invasion of the streets of Stavanger happened in 2015 and, besides the copious paste-ups of smiling and slightly deranged looking monsters, the artist also painted a wall. He has said that he likes to paint like a 5-year-old because he likes children’s spontaneity, and his philosophy is epitomised by his slogan: “Cheer Up You Bastards”.
I haven’t seen the big wall he painted in 2013, when this French stencil artist took part in Nuart festival (actually I’m afraid it has been painted over), but I did stumble upon a series of small pieces scattered around the town, part of his series of colourful signature portraits popping up all around the world.
CHRIS STAIN (US)
Chris Stain is best known for his huge stencil images that reflect his concern with social inequality. He paints other people’s struggles for a better life, aiming at inspiring compassion for the less fortunate individuals in society and making people more aware of each other.
Painted in 2009, his mural in Stavanger depicting a homeless man is now quite faded, but it still has a strong effect on the passer-by for the story it tells us.
This street artist from China is well known for sketching animals and other figures in the form of metal tangles. His works are 3D, emerging from the wall as if they were made of metal shards, but are actually spray-painted onto a flat surface. The idea of movement is also suggested by a trail of fragments from which the subject emerges, infusing the scene with energy.
Much of his work consists in black-and-white portraits of wild animals, often in motion, like the horse he painted in 2013 in Stavanger near the harbour.
This acclaimed stencil artist is a regular guest of Nuart festival but, in 2015, he did something quite different from what he has done before on the streets of Stavanger.
Dolk surprised the public by creating a series of abstract pieces on 100 walls in 50 cities worldwide, highlighting the relationship between street art and censorship.
DOT DOT DOT (NO)
He has operated under several pseudonyms (as he prefers to remain anonymous), but when he successfully shifted to a more conceptual and figurative style he settled on Dot Dot Dot.
He is a recurrent guest of Nuart festival, and often the pieces he paints around the streets of Stavanger have pop art references. I especially like the girl with the puppets, whose bright red background stands out from the white of the buildings surrounding her. With the face covered, DotDotDot’s activist seems to suggest that life is just a farce.
The Dotmasters (Leon Seesix) took part in the production side of the festival as well. It’s the offspring of C6.org, a new-media based collective that bridged the gap between art and activism, such as with their most popular intervention (“Man in a box”, 1997) when they incarcerated and starved one of their members in a surveillance cube in a gallery in Brighton.
This mural in Stavanger is a transatlantic collaboration between C6.org and GRL, which was made possible thanks to Nuart.
ELLA & PITR (FR)
In Stavanger the French duo Ella and Pitr realized the biggest mural in the world, which unfortunately is visible only from a helicopter, as it is painted on a rooftop. Still in 2015, they painted more pieces in town, such as two lonely old men and an elderly woman all cramped inside three different houses.
Their gigantic characters are defined by an innate playfulness and a unique style appropriated from influences as diverse as comics and children’s books to graffiti. They use as much surface as possible, often sprawling across two sides of the same building, to create a sense of depth and dimension.
Their minimal colour palette always matches the neighbouring houses, and the clothes of their characters are often embellished with lovely patterns and polka dots.
ERNEST ZACHAREVIC (LT)
Internationally known for his series of interactive murals on the streets of Penang (Malaysia), this Lithuanian artist focuses on the spontaneity of children’s play tapping into the original instincts of adult viewers who may have lost their ability to access their playful nature.
As usual, the environment surrounding the mural inspired the artist: a classical bronze statue of two kids holding hands -Johanna and Broremann, from a popular children’s book. Right next to the statue, Ernest twisted this idyllic image by portraying the two kids separated, with a (real) tall barbed-wire door between them.
NuArt 2016 > ERON (IT)
I’m sorry to say that Eron’s work at Nuart was a big disappointment. I love his iconic ‘trompe l’oeil’ works based on the perceptive phenomenon of pareidolia, the visual form of apophenia, which is the perception of patterns within random data. He calls this series “Soul of the wall”, as the resulting pieces are ephemeral forms, images only just perceptible, like ghosts or contrails. And, usually, the outcome is stunning, but both pieces he did at Nuart 2016 –the wall and the indoors piece- were a bit so-so.
The mural depicts a young girl with a dolphin (or –perhaps- a whale?) at her feet and aims at highlighting the dangerous effects of oil spills, as Stavanger is an important town in the oil trade.
Ironically titled “hang-over” the mural depicts several images of a girl doing a cartwheel, like a series of motion stills. His usual style is simple yet beautiful, and smart: Escif always manages to make me smile, but in a bittersweet way.
ETAM CRU (PL)
In this piece painted in 2014 and titled “First day of school” we find the iconic style of the Polish duo: a figurative approach with a strong element of fantasy oozing with colour.
As usual, this mural melds elements belonging to the fantastic and the surreal to a lifelike scenario and hyper-realistic objects, which help the viewer to frame the fantasy in a realistic scheme and believe it.
NuArt 2016 > EVOL (D)
Back in Stavanger, the German artist Evol kept up with his series of stencilled buildings on electricity boxes.
Using a multi-layered stencil technique to transform electrical boxes into miniature architectural models, he comes up with “cities within cities” that are rendered so precisely as to look like real buildings when you see a close-up picture of them.
This year, Evol fixed some of his previous buildings and also made some new constructions, including a stunning collaboration with Addfuel for the indoor exhibition.
NuArt 2016 > FINTAN MAGEE (AUS)
This colossal diptych is my favourite mural in Stavanger. Titled “Monument to a disappearing monument”, this epic work on two 32-meter silos is about the fall of the price of oil that brought unemployment and economic crisis to the oil-driven city of Stavanger.
It was painted in the former industrial area of the city, which will be demolished soon (yet another consequence of the crisis). It depicts a man working in the oil industry and his reflection, which is faded and blurred, as the economic future of the working class and –therefore- of the city.
Fintan Magee often highlights social issues like climate change or class struggle and in this case the message is not only about job losses in Norway but highlights the global crisis and the collapse of western industries as a whole.
NuArt 2016 > HAMA WOODS (NO)
Hama Woods is a Norwegian stencil artist known for her sociological approach to consumerism and the effect it has on the natural environment.
Inspired by mainstream culture, her work demonstrates a reverence for nature and its immediate connection to humanity.
NuArt 2016 > HENRIK ULDALEN (NO)
Henrik is a young and very talented artist originally from South Korea but raised and based in Norway. This wall is just his second outdoor mural ever, and it depicts a couple floating in a dark void, cuddling. With this image of love, Henrik wants to bring some warmth to that ‘shitty world’ he is so afflicted by. It’s a tender message, albeit still wrapped in his usual dark colours and nihilistic concepts.
>> Read my interview with Henrik Uldalen
To be honest, I don’t understand why everybody is so enthusiastic about the German artists Hera and Akut.
The only charm I find in their work is the schizophrenic message by two different artistic approaches seeking to express themselves within only one picture. But it doesn’t always turn out right, as with this work, titled “I had to cage you because I envied you” depicting a boy and two -caged- monkeys.
HOW & NOSM (ES)
Born in Spain and now based in New York (where they became members of the legendary TATS CRU) these twin brothers took an original approach restricting themselves to a sparse pallet of red, black and white. This limitation of colour accentuates every line, creating a framework that jumps to the foreground. The drawings maintain the aesthetic of Jacks, Queens and Kings pulled from a pack of playing cards: meticulous lines, intricate patterns and minimalist fashion.
Trained as a graphic designer and illustrator, fascinated by Asian graphic novels and inspired by Mimmo Rotella and Roy Lichenstein, Hush mixes Eastern art with Western traditions of action painting and graffiti, a method that he calls “pure expressionism”.
His colourful patterns range from geometric repetition to pop-graphics and graffiti. In 2013 he came to Stavanger to layer complex textures and colours in matrioska shapes, keeping up with his work on female figures in art.
NuArt 2016 > HYURO (AR)
“Let’s go take a final shot of Hyuro’s work. Last time I saw it, it wasn’t complete”
“I’m afraid that was complete. After you took the picture, they pulled away the lift”
This conversation I had at Tou Scene perfectly summarizes everyone’s reaction to Hyuro’s piece. We all expected a character to stand out against the drape, and there is nothing worse than unfulfilled expectations. Titled “The action of occupying a space”, Hyuro’s mural is about the meaning of working on the streets using the spaces of the city in a meaningful way, being aware of your own impact on the urban landscape. Which, obviously, isn’t her case –at least not this time.
ICY & SOT (IR)
Brothers and stencil artists from Tabriz (Iran) currently based in New York. They stencil images of war, peace, hope, despair, society issues and human rights. Invited to Stavanger in 2014, they realized a monochrome three-dimensional mural composed with hand-cut boards shaped as homeless people.
NuArt 2016 > JAUNE (B)
Jaune is a stencil artist and urban interventionist from Brussels. His work is based on the paradox between the visible and the invisible, and sanitation workers (his “working class heroes”) are the main protagonists of his humorous installations because they exist in the background of our urban environment, becoming almost invisible.
But Jaune, who was a sanitation worker himself, frees them from their jobs by symbolically placing them in absurd scenarios, making them do anything but work and ironically playing with the surface he is painting on.
NuArt 2016 > JEFF GILLETTE (US)
During the festival, Nuart Gallery and Project Space presented “Dismayland Nord”, a solo show of Jeff Gillette’s works made up of canvases, sculptures and installations of slums. While in Stavanger, Jeff also had some fun around the city stencilling his iconic “Minsky” (a portmanteau word combining “Mickey” and “Banksy”, as it was created on the occasion of Jeff Gillette’s participation in Banksy’s Dismaland).
A well-known and proficient studio artist based in LA, he actually confessed that he had done more stencils on the streets of Stavanger than in the rest of his life.
JOHN FEKNER (US)
John Fekner is a street artist who creates conceptual works consisting of words, symbols and messages aiming at bringing awareness. In the summer of 1980 he stencilled “Broken Promises” on a decaying building on Charlotte Street in the South Bronx to highlight the inadequate housing and poor services afflicting the neighbourhood. Thirty-four years later, he did the same stencil in Stavanger.
I flew to Stavanger directly from Bristol and it felt weird to find JPS’s stencils here, as if they were welcoming me. Not all the walls he stencilled were legal but, hey, that’s part of the fun. He brought his iconic characters that I used to spot around Bristol, such as his ex-girlfriend on the swing, Wednesday Addams, and the cute kids bargaining with money titled “Big Deal”.
NuArt 2016 > KENNARDPHILLIPPS (UK)
Kennardphillips is a political art duo composed of artists Peter Kennard and Cat Phillipps, who have been working together since 2002 when they began producing art in response to the invasion of Iraq. In Stavanger, they did a stunning piece on ‘the Aftenblad Wall’, a large-scale billboard devoted to public art initiatives and sponsored by the local newspaper. The piece is titled “Games of loans” and it’s a criticism of established political and economic systems.
LOGAN HICKS (US)
His stencils explore the dynamics of the urban environment. With his photorealistic style, he draws a parallel between the cold, harsh city and a warm, vibrant organism, and it is this symbiotic relationship with the city that fuels his work.
He attended Nuart 2009, when he created this stunning piece of a sketched street with a bright red trail of life and hope within it.
The Polish stencil artist was invited to Nuart 2013 to paint Stavanger airport’s control tower. Using the shades of blue, he painted huge semicircles that mirror each other vertically and, in the lower part of the tower, are decorated with intricate and highly detailed patterns recalling mechanical objects and urban landscapes.
MaisMenos is an intervention project by Portuguese street artist Miguel Januario based on his critical reflection on political, social and economic bureaucracies managing modern urban societies.
The site-specific work he realized in Stavanger refers to the referendum with which the Norwegian people declined European membership. Twice (in 1972 and 1994).
>>> Read about my week with MaisMenos in Rome
MARTIN WHATSON (N)
Martin is the most popular Norwegian street artist abroad. His stencilled, black-and-white characters are always juxtaposed with a playful mix of graffiti and tags, often in the form of garments and always in vibrant colours.
Following a long tradition of subvertisers, ad-takeovers and brandalists, he employs his unique brand of biting social commentary and astute witticism to walls, streets and billboards, utilising methods designed and employed by the advertising industry itself, aiming at showing that there are alternatives to corporate dominance of our public spaces. Funnily enough, this particular piece had its own evolution through a dialogue with another writer who twisted the original message even further into a new meaning.
NuArt 2016 > MTO (FR)
“So… is this what he is doing now?” a fellow street art blogger asked in puzzlement, as we were staring at a chair and a table both cut in half and glued to the façade of a traditional Norwegian house. It was our first day on Stavanger’s streets and obviously it was the dawn of MTO’s piece; the “Google Internal Server Error” message wasn’t painted yet and all we could see were interior scenes brought to the exterior. Which was already promising.
Actually, this is not the first time that the French street artist has explored the intersection between street art, public space and augmented reality. His recent work includes a series of large-scale murals that, when documented, create a “bug” or “hack” in Google Earth or Google Street View and are therefore designed to be completed only when captured by a Google car (the first one was painted in Gaeta and –to date- it is also the only one that has been photographed by Google: you can check it out here).
NICK WALKER (UK)
Again, here it felt quite weird to spot some street art by Nick Walker, the father of Bristol’s graffiti scene.
I haven’t found the Mona Lisa stencil, but I did discover one piece from the “Vandalism” series. And not just any piece: I stumbled upon the guy climbing down from a window while spray-painting the word “Vandalism” with a heart in the place of the V, which is the same stencil he used on the block next to the one where I was living in Bristol.
NIELS SHOE MEULMAN (NL)
Internationally known artist and designer from Amsterdam, he revolutionized the art of writing with his signature style called “Calligraffiti”, a movement he launched back in 2007 with a massive exhibition in Amsterdam, which can be described as abstract expressionism with a calligraphic origin.
NuArt 2016 > NIMI (NO)
Titled “Sofia and the mountain”, this mural depicts Nimi’s daughter carrying the Pulpit Rock on her back. This is the popular Rogaland landmark: a deep crack in the rock that the artist prevents from opening by painting a huge lock around it.
OUTINGS PROJECT (FR)
Through this process of “democratization of art”, classical art characters appear as if liberated from their institutional home, questioning the authority of the museums.
The outings project was initiated by Julien de Casabianca, who pasted-up portraits of characters plucked from classical paintings to merge the perceptions of canonical and street art and to punctuate neglected spaces with beauty.
Painted in 2011, Phelgm’s work in Stavanger is partially erased but, as he is one of my favourite artists ever, I’m still including it in this post. Cartoonist and illustrator, Phelgm takes his characters from his comics. His unique style is based on a narrative and plays with a sort of matrioska principle in which each figure reveals its own inner mechanism, narrative and allegorical world, which results in a series of intricate paintings within the painting.
Local street artist Pøbel (a tag coming from the Norwegian word for “vandal”) is best known for his series of stencilled superheroes, such as Superman and Batman, in decrepit old age. This piece was realized in 2010 together with Østrem (who painted the bubble letters), and it has a clear reference to climate change.
Well-known for his large-scale animals placed in an urban context, the Belgian street artist Roa likes to play with the contrast between wild nature and the city. His spray-painted monochromatic realism has spread onto the walls of numerous cities, including Stavanger –where he has been invited twice. The first time, in 2010, he painted a 35-meter-long complex piece depicting sleeping squirrels and hanging swans.
Back in 2013, he addressed himself to the Norwegian hunting tradition and painted the head of a whale, whose bright red blood contrasts with Roa’s iconic black-and-white palette. I especially like the way he rendered the whale’s wrinkled skin.
NuArt 2016 > ROBERT MONTGOMERY (UK)
This London-based street poet was one of my favourite artists from Nuart latest edition. I appreciated his political activism, which is evident in his work but also in the passionate way he spoke during Nuart’s legendary fight club, when he kept stressing the importance of politics in art.
He is an acclaimed conceptual artist who brings a poetic voice to the discourse of text art. Poetic text form is at the core of his billboard pieces, posters and murals, as well as at the basis of the beautiful lighting piece he made for the indoors exhibition.
NuArt 2016 > SPY (ES)
From a certain point of my week in Stavanger on, just looking at him could make me laugh. The guy is as ironic and humorous as his thought-provoking works, through which he carries on his considerations on modern society and its contradictions. He attended a previous edition of Nuart, back in 2014, when he painted a massive red-lettered “ERROR” on two sides of a brutal block-long building in decay down by the waterside, an ironic judgment on the eyesores of unfortunate urban decay.
Last year, he painted a huge, neglected warehouse by the industrial port, whose structure and water got an active role in the artwork itself, as the artist’s message is readable in its reflection in the water. Here, Sp wrote the word “ALIVE”, as to give a new life to the building –which was abandoned during the recent crisis, and it is part of a soon-to-be-demolished area of the city.
This Norwegian street artist is well known for his figures striding along the walls of buildings, casting long shadows that give depth and three-dimensionality to his subjects.
Through stencils (which are in turn from Strok’s own photos), Anders Gjennestad (that’s the real name of the guy) creates an alternative universe where gravity seemingly doesn’t exist and time is frozen, a surreal poetry designed to upset our lazy gaze, accustomed to the empty and predictable.
The style of this Cagliari-based street artist is simple yet poetic, detailed yet minimalistic. The mural is old (it was painted in 2011) and it’s quite impossible to spot all the details, such as the constantly repeated iconic geometric shapes. Despite that, the wall is still impressive.
This street artist from Toulouse demonstrates that basic, primitive graffiti can be just as strong as complicated 3D lettering, wild styles or characters. He focuses on letters (a bubble letter “throw-up” in this case, shaped as a hand grenade), high impact shapes and strong colours. Resonating the power of traditional graffiti lettering, this piece throbs the expression of a true graffiti writer.
After bombing trains for several years, Alexandre Farto began creating large-scale relief works with a hammer drill, experimenting with the style that has since made him famous. This piece, which was realized in 2013, depicts the upper part of an old lady’s face.
Find out the exact locations on the Official Nuart App!
PEEK THROUGH || You can see these murals (and some making-ofd) in my video “1 week in Stavanger… in 1 minute”
You can hover over these (or any image) to quickly pin it!
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