COPENHAGEN URBAN STREETS (part 3)


In this post I'll complete the analysis of scale in the urban street art with a focus on what most would consider 'traditional' graffiti created with spray paint on large surfaces often found on the sides of train cars, in alleys, transportation ways such as under or on sides of bridges, etc. Many of these places are selected I imagine for their privacy to perform the radical act. So for me it was a surprise to stumble upon a street artist in the middle of the day on an open street creating his newest masterpiece. I had documented a bit of the graffiti while on a train to the Louisiana Art museum outside of town and had found a few places where tagging was more than just a tag but a larger illustration. However, I have never seen a graffiti artist in action so I stopped to talk and watch.

Before I share the story of meeting the Oslo native graffiti artist on a day trip into Copenhagen to create his largest mural to date (I don't know if that's an acceptable term in the graffiti world, but it describes this large painting more than just a tag), I will provide some context to the specific time and place in my accidental adventure discovery. Within the city of Copenhagen is a free town established in 1971 called Christiana. The residents of this place took over an abandoned military facility and created their own free society within. There are large signs throughout admonishing the use of photography although I saw several tourists blatantly clicking away with their phones or larger cameras I had to resist the temptation. Inside the walled town murals and graffiti abound as one might expect from an artist and intentional community. After exploring the various streets within this walled area I walked out of an exit and turned down a street to look at the exterior of the place in search of anything I could document photographically from the outside. That's when I stumbled on the beginning stages of this work. There was an observer so I asked how long he had been there and observing. Apparently, he was the artist's best friend who travels with him and documents the work.

One of the most important things I learned from this exchange was the use of the free wall. Typically this graffiti artist has the use of limited free wall space in his home country to the point in which the artists will line up and start painting over what had been painted immediately prior. Curious about the process, I discovered that e had been there a few hours prior to my arrival and had another hour or so to complete the work. I love the idea of the layers and layers of paint underneath no longer visible but evidence of previous creations. The temporality of this type of creative pursuit is also quite fascinating as the work in some cases could be immediately covered up or be altered over time without the artist knowledge or permission as the sub-culture community has a common understanding of the impermanence of their work, or potential impermanence. They thought that this piece would last about 4 days, but I was unable to track it daily or over that time due to my own departure. The other aspect of this is the color choice. Traveling from another country, the artist purchased supplies that day and selected colors that spray easier for the large amount of surface he intended to paint. This was apparently the first time he used the silver and coppery color which absolutely shimmered. I stuck around for a bit chatting, but did not want to interrupt his work because they were departing the country via a boat back to Oslo hours later. I did walk back a few hours later to document the final image and of course there was a truck parked in front (for a concert inside the free town) which foiled my plan to get a great landscape shot. I really enjoyed watched the craft and skill of #herzog (Halvor Harsem on Facebook) as he used proximity and control over the spray nozzle to get various shading and intensity of line.


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