Stavanger has become a real cornucopia of culture of late. Not only does it have it’s share of galleries, musicals, theatre and live music, but it is rapidly becoming an international city known for its street art. Like any other moderately sized city it has it’s fair share of tagging and graffiti, but it’s also got a veritable collection of engaging stencil art covering the walls of the city.
One of the main reasons for this is NuArt. NuArt is an annual alternative art festival which is bolted on to the increasingly popular NuMusic festival which hits the city every year.
NuArt spotlights stencil and street art, pulling in international renowned stencil artists, inviting them to paint the walls black, blue and multicolour with their stencils, designs and major work of graffiti art. The hub of all this activity is the very cool Tou Senter down by Storhaug, walking distance from the centre of the city.
Once an old run-down brewery/factory, it’s still a er… run-down brewery/factory but has been claimed by the artists, making it the place to go for new and exciting exhibitions, cosy concerts, dodgy performance art and their famous Sunday brunches (known as “the English Breakfast club”).
Needless to say, NuArt is fantastic and its roots have spread out to city walls. Below is a selection of some of the best offerings from this year.
What a lovely view: This highlights one of the reasons I love stencil art – it’s humour. Ok I’m gonna get polysyllabic here but it’s the paradoxical nature that appeals.
But then again there’s the other aspect which makes street art so attractive. The social commentary. This image above is a perfect example of the role of art to make you think. These are two great pieces which you can’t ignore.
The setting of the exhibition also played a big part. I mentioned earlier it was held in an old factory. Even though a lot of these pieces featured on the outside walls, the best pieces were buried inside. Basically they were featured in parallel corridors within a dank, unused part of the factory, most of which was in darkness. So to get from one exhibit to another you walked through shadows, heading towards the next dim set of lights, which considering the kind of world street art normally inhabits was an enigmatic touch.
Here we have a colourful exhibit from DotMasters from the UK. Imagine this, you’ve just walked along a dusty dark corridor away from the light of the last exhibition and rounding the corner only to be confronted to this assault of reds, and oranges and light! The pieces in this picture are all pixelated, something you can’t appreciate until you stand up close.
And so we come back to frivolity. Saucy pope here was one of the first pieces you see when you enter these little dark catacombs. No social comment here just taking the piss out of the pope, or was it Marilyn Munroe. Actually that’s another thing i like about stencil art – anyone can do it, it’s so accessible. These days all you need is a link to the internet and some kind of imaging program like photoshop. What makes the best stencil art so good though is it’s visual impact. Sure you can tell someone you saw a picture of the pope in Marilyn Monroe’s dress but nothing does it better than actually seeing it. Right?
This one’s a pearler and the photo captures some of the elements, I’ll try and describe it. You enter this corridor and you so at the end this picture of a man with a trident and dressed in some kind steampunk-inspired regalia. But what is only hinted in this picture are that there are at least a dozen cutout sheep flanking him (if you look closely you can see the shadow of one of them).
To end I’ll post this last picture of two time-honoured heroes down on their luck – batman and robin, pasted on a wall as rusty and delapidated as they are wornout and tired. Overall it was a great exhibition and certainly one of the reasons why Stavanger is a little gem when it comes to unorthodox but approachable art. The pictures featured here are only a selection and a future post will show even more.