I am back in Finland, Vantaa, my hometown. After the busy Christmas weeks following my return from Chile I have, among other things, been organising my photos from Chile and quite successfully searching for examples of Finnish graffiti on the web (see e.g Katutaide, Kallio Blooms, Street Art in Helsinki). On Friday, at last, despite the cold and the snowfall, I took my camera and decided to go graffiti photo hunting somewhere close to my own neighborhood.
What ensued was a very different photowalk. In Valparaiso or Santiago all I had had to do was step outside, walk some ten to twenty meters and start taking pictures. But here it wasn’t that simple; the first pieces I saw without having to get out of the car were in Kaivoksela, many kilometers away from my home, on the hidden roadside end of a shallow garage building.
The next observation was a long, tag covered concrete wall erected around a fairly new housing area near the border between Vantaa and Helsinki. Due to the bad weather I decided to come back another day to photograph this wall.
I crossed the border to Malminkartano and turned towards the local train station, where I remembered having seen many fine works during earlier years. Interestingly, the railway underpass near the station was decorated with murals by a group of children from the local primary school. But where were the graffiti pieces hiding?
I noticed some sprayed letters on the shop building on the opposite side of the underpass, climbed up the railroad embankment towards the wall and followed the narrow path starting there. And, just as I had guessed, there were a couple of pieces on the wall well hidden between the shop house itself and the railroad embankment, but observable from the passing trains.
I turned back towards where I had originally planned to go: the local train station of Malminkartano inside a long, open ended railway tunnel which, as long as I could remember, had always been covered in graffiti. But now there were none, except for some odd ghosts of pieces (i.e. evidence of pieces that were painted over or washed away) here and there.
Disappointed, I wandered outside the station, taking pictures of whatever ghosts of paintings or traces of sprayed lines were still visible nearby.
Maybe a hundred meters away from the station there was a big, white abandoned house, probably an ex-industrial building, with tags and pieces running low down along its sides.
On the way back home – it was already getting dark – I made a discovery. There were many tags and pieces on and in the parking house next to the Isomyyri shopping center, especially inside the urine reeking stairwells and its open top level, places that I had never entered before although I have lived in this area most of my life. Is it these smelly, off-putting, best avoided, hidden away desolate places where I’ll have to go looking for graffiti in Finland?
My favourite piece – the very last one I spotted on top of the car park – was a lonely eye staring at me from the distance, painted on a shallow concrete fence pillar, probably with brush. It made my day – you may understand why.
At four the light was already nearly gone and it was time to return home to ponder what I had seen. Or rather, what I had not seen.