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Can you introduce yourself in a few lines?
I come from Helsinki, Finland. Originally from little town called Riihimäki. My age is 39 years, but I like to think like 6 year old kid. If you know comics, I would say that my attitude with life is mixed up from The Phantom and Calvin & Hobbes. I also have one child, fooling with him and other kids at workshops keeps my mind childish enough. And by the way, the kids are the best thing in the world exists. Also I’m member at “Team Haloo” as graffiti artist; we encourage youngsters to try different art forms to bring their skills out.
At what point did you see your first graffiti?
When I was about 11 or 12 years old, at Vantaa. I used to visit at my uncle’s home there, when there was vacation from primary school. My uncle was working at daytime, so then I was exploring at the neighbourhood. Near by train station I found an old factory, which was covered wit graffiti. Juicy colors, funky characters, fresh letters. It really was love at first sight. After that I used to walk long trips near railroads and shoot pieces alone, few times in every year.
Can you explain your history between your first piece and now?
Well that’s a quite long story… I started painting about 1988, after few years sketching. Of course it started with tagging and throw ups. But before that, I had already drawn much, mostly all kinds of characters. I love comics as well and there was many years, that I visited at local library almost every day and borrowed bunch of comic books. Lucky Luke, Tintin, Franquin’s masterpieces (like “Spirou et Fantasio”), Pink Panther, The Phantom, etc. After I founded graffiti, I borrowed Subway Art and Spraycan Art again and again, and almost every rap-cassettes that I found. The library was my hip-hop school, before the Internet.
My first active years were 1988-1993. I wasn’t at any crew. Of course I knew other writers but maybe I’m kind of “Lonely Wolf”, so mostly I painted by myself. Interesting thing is that I was dating with two different police’s daughters on that period. Both of them I took to paint too. Then I went to army and started working as a cook. I met my wife 1994 and painting was tail away. But I never quitted completely. Even we got married, I still painted little, once a year maybe, but nothing big. And of course I still used to walk at spots and shooted photos of other writers pieces.
We got our son June 2000. Then I had partner with my photo journeys; my little boy. Boys always like exploring abandoned houses; it’s not about age. At 2005 I started to paint again, now to canvas with acryl colors. I tried to get into big Finnish art show, but didn’t accept. So I arranged my own show of my works. Soon after that I heard that at Porvoo, 50 km from Helsinki is legal wall. Then I activated again with spray cans and trained my style with great hungry. Nowadays I really like to paint funny stuff and tell messages to people with my pieces. I won’t stop until I’m dead. Literally.
Can you describe the graffiti art in your country?
Hip-hop came to Finland 1983. Along with legendary movies like Beat Street, Wild Style, etc … Soon after that, started pioneers like Blitz and Spinner paint graffiti to Helsinki. That time it was “accepted” and new cool thing. When they got better, they got “fans”, who wanted to paint as well. In few years there came lots of new painters, like myself too. And of course to other cities as well, like my Riihimäki.
But then started “Stop Töhryille”-project. Zero tolerance for graffiti. At the beginning 1998 city buffed every piece away, even legal ones. It wet to total madness, there was security company called FPS (Finnish Protection Service) and they literally were beating youngsters to hospital if get caught. They were so brutal and violent that it was like a war. Beautiful masterpieces disappeared and those ones, who wasn’t at jail or hospital did just quick and simple throw up’s and tags. Of course there was masterpieces as well at abandoned houses etc, but city was started to buff them as well. Project was alive until 2008, ten sad years.
First legal wall in Helsinki was opened finally 2009. It was huge success immediately. Same year I got asked to Riihimäki to consult city to make legal graffiti wall there. It was success as well, I met few new friends and we started association called “Funk On ry” . We decided to come up with our real names and faces as well, so “the art is the thing and the art is not a crime”. Little later we got more members from our old writer friends and consulted few cities more about legal walls. Timing was perfect. We did it by volunteer workers until the end of 2013. We were having graffiti-workshops for children at community centers and showcases at hip hop festivals around Finland. Now there is more new groups coming up and we old farts are still in game, but many of us have family already, so it’s better to go with family values for a while. We still make things under UZN 5:1 and not so often than we use to. As well I go as solo artist where ever is possible and what fits with my family.
Now Finnish graffiti is better than ever, I think. There is many legal walls, many can stores, scene is blooming, pieces are magnificent. There is no panic of cops (unless you want to paint illegal spots) and many schools are teaching children to make graffiti with professionals.
What do you think about graffiti?
Naturally I love it! Look at answer nr.3. Characters, colors, letters, blinks, arrows; all big and beautiful. Of course I hope that we could have few more walls to Finland, and not plywood anymore, concrete would be nice. But material doesn’t actually matter. I have painted to glass, wood, brick, sand, snow, ice, rock etc. so just give us just licence to paint different obstacles and materials, and then it will even more funny and beautiful.
Many times people are asking, “What do you think about illegal graffiti?” Well, graffiti was born illegal. It deserves to be that way too. Even there was million miles of legal wall; always there are people who will write their names wherever they want. I really understand that and respect it. So it stays alive and kicking.
But nowadays, when we have opportunity to paint on legal walls as well, it’s even better thing. So anybody can try it and you don’t have to be a criminal if you like to paint big pieces. It’s kind of human right, I think.
And of course I like all kinds of wall art; stencils, street art, stickers, graffiti, what ever. But as a middle-aged father, I must say that my hope for other writers is: more art, less vandalism.
- Website: http://www.teamhaloo.fi
- Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/99551399@N05/
- Blog: http://hendenvaara.blogspot.fi