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First of all: I found out that a Finnish graffiti artist Tero Karvinen had been chosen to be the official provincial artist of Pirkanmaa province for two years starting September last year (01.09.2011 – 1.08.2013), and located in city of Tampere. Where was I while this unbelievable move was happening? Hibernating? You should believe it when I say that not long ago something like this – i.e. someone getting a monthly salary to make graffiti – would have been really sensational if not utterly impossible in Finland. And yet, this provincial artist is not only going to carry on making his own pieces but he also promises to initiate young people into the art of graffiti. (See: Tero Karvinen pääsee tekemään graffiteja 2500 euron kuukausipalkalla = Tero Karvinen gets to make graffiti for 2500 € per month)

“Save the graffiti”, says the title of an article in Aviisi magazine (16.3.2012) featuring Tero Karvinen, the provincial artist of Pirkanmaa. (Click the image to link to the original in Katutaide’s flickr)

No doubt people like Paavo Arhinmäki, the youngest candidate in the latest presidential election, with his openly positive attitude towards street art – and, as I now read, with some experience in it, too – have had some impact on this turn (see: Turku’s legal Graffiti Wall opens in Kupittaa). Also the work and research made by some art teachers like Veera Jalava and Piritta Malinen must have done its part to smoothen the path for acceptance and even appreciation of graffiti as a legitimate form of creative expression.

Quite recently Malinen defended her thesis about the interaction and meeting points between visual art education and graffiti culture, where she also reviews and characterizes the Finnish graffiti culture. (See the English abstract on pages 8-10 of Malinen’s thesis) Jalava, presently doing her doctoral studies in Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, won the 2012 Nordic Centre of Heritage Learning (NCK) award for her work as an art educator doing graffiti projects with old people, with whom she even founded a crew, named K65 to indicate the average age of its members. (See Jakoba Sraml from NCK interviewing Veera Jalava)

Then Pori city and Pori Art Museum – apparently mutually seeking to rise into the forefront of the Finnish contemporary art scene and becoming Finland’s street art mecca – commissioned a huge public wall painting from the street artist Mariusz Waraz, aka M-City, who reputedly has the habit of painting an XL mural once a week! I have not taken any photos of the mural in Pori myself (yet) nor even seen it in reality (yet), but was permitted to borrow some small pictures from Katutaide’s flickr site and link them to the larger originals there. (See also New M-City mural in Finland)

“The Polish got on with it”, says the title of an article in Satakunnan Kansa magazine (8.5.2012) featuring Mariusz Waraz in Pori. (Click the image to link to the original in Katutaide’s flickr)

Albeit the artist was Polish – a fact that caused some online discourse about the Finnish museum curators and the art world not appreciating their own (see Jaakko Lyytinen: Culture wars) – the act itself hopefully contributes in paving the way to another new and welcome feature in the Finnish street art scene: giant legal murals.

Meanwhile, there is another new street art craze building momentum in Finland, namely yarn bombing (see e.g. streetcolor: Yarnbombing). From what I have seen and heard, it is basically about sewing, cross stitching, knitting or crocheting more or less complicated designs and shapes intended to be attached or ‘dressed’ on objects such as statues, trees, poles, benches and fences in the city, and even big objects like cars, buses and whole houses can be wrapped this way (see pinterest).

A detail of a cross stitched yarn bombing with a message sewn on a tree. Reykjavik, August 2012. (Photo PD)

While the final fast stage of the process, sewing the knitted piece on the intended object, must sometimes resemble spray bombing in terms of speed and adrenaline, I find most of the characteristics of this street art form very different from the ‘ordinary’ spray painted wall graffiti in terms of methods, makers and meanings. The stages where the actual creation of the work happens can take a long while and can hardly be compared to sketching. And while graffiti is often referred to as art of defiant young males and still doomed as vandalism by many of their co-citizens, most yarn bombers seem to be women of different ages using methods of expression that are traditionally considered feminine crafts, and their intricate ‘throwups’ of thread, fluff and weave can be ‘cleaned’ off easily and cheaply without leaving a trace of damage.

I actually saw examples of yarn bombing with my own eyes this summer, but it was in Reykjavik during a visit to Iceland. What a great excuse to return to the Finnish versions of this exciting, soft (and feminine?) kind of anarchy in another article, another day…

A yarn-bombed tree in a park in the centre of Reykjavik, Iceland, August 2012. (Photo PD)

A piece from the Knit’n’Tag event (25.8.-27.9.2012) in Ruttopuisto park, centre of Helsinki, Finland. Photo © Minna Haveri.

A piece from the Knit’n’Tag event (25.8.-27.9.2012) in Ruttopuisto park, centre of Helsinki, Finland. Photo © Minna Haveri.

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