We were there. And we loved it. On and off the streets of Stavanger (Norway), here is what we saw during the 19th edition of the world’s leading street art festival.
Nuart Festival 2019 > Stunning Artworks by 11 Artists from Across the Globe
1UP Crew (DE/EU)
Founded in Berlin in 2003, the revered graffiti crew 1UP (One United Power) now boasts international members, both men and women, from all around Europe. Their success is due to the fact that -unlike the majority of graffiti writers, who write their own name- 1UP members have dropped their egos and go through insane efforts to write the name of the crew instead. Their actions are spectacular and have been documented; they pushed graffiti writing forward by making an action movie out of it, thanks to the collaboration with the skillful filmmaker Selina Miles -who attended Nuart Festival 2019 along with them. As part of the Nuart Plus program, Selina Miles showed some impressive footage featuring the infamous crew, from the video “Graffiti Olympics” to the documentary movie “Martha: a picture story”. This helped the Nuart public to see beyond the two murals that the crew painted in the streets of Stavanger (one at Stavanger Airport and one on an abandoned building in Dokkgata) and to better understand their unique approach.
A video featuring 1UP in action is also at the core of the indoor installation they set up as part of the Nuart exhibition “Brand New, You’re Are Retro”, which takes place inside the 18th century beer halls of Tou Scene. Above a train track, images of painting and thrills move quickly in front of visitors’ eyes, capturing their astounded gazes towards the end of a dark tunnel that has been completely covered with their tags.
English stencil artist Dotmasters visited Stavanger earlier this year to realize a long mural featuring his iconic ‘rude kids’ causing mischief. Impeccably crafted from photos of relatives and friends, these trasgressive, hyper-detailed ‘little angels’ who stick out their tongue or spray on walls are there to remind us of the importance of disobeying and misbehaving in order to be (creatively) free.
Beyond the pop appeal, Dotmasters’ work is a humorous, 100% British critique of contemporary society, as we can see in the pile of trash he stencilled on the walls of Nuart indoor exhibition.
Dotmasters’ style is continuously changing: since he painted one of his colorful ‘TOY’ murals for Nuart 2015 he has drastically changed his aesthetics. We look forward to seeing what he will do next!
Dr. D (UK)
With Norway’s oil capital as a good backdrop, London-based artist Dr. D realized two subvertisers (subverting – advertisement) speaking out against drilling and the oil industry. The installation he created inside ‘the tunnels’ for Nuart’s indoor exhibition opens a discussion on these same topics: it features three war-like, preparing-to-attack polar bears posing with visitors to raise awareness with selfies, against a background of protest signs denouncing how the oil industry is destroying our planet.
As part of Nuart Plus program, the short film “Subvertiser” (Vile Films) was presented to the Nuart public to provide additional context on the work of Dr. D, from his illegal parties in the 1990s to his -still illegal- activism in the streets nowadays. The movie covers almost two decades of adbusting, and shows how the artist has been dealing with political and social issues through sarcasm and wit.
Next to Dr. D’s installation, we find Edwin’s monochromatic mural “Business as Usual”. The artwork recalls the pieces that the English activist realized in the streets of Stavanger. These installations on statues and other landmarks of the city, along with a mural in Tou Scene’s backyard, aim to visually highlight the level of water by the year 2100 if we continue with “business as usual”. Stavanger, like many other coastal cities around the globe, risks being submerged by water as a consequence of our current, destructive behaviours.
For Nuart 2016, Hyuro painted a veil that symbolized “the action of occupying a space”. Three years later, the Argentinian artist seems to have found an answer to that (self)question on how to be a (conscious) public artist. For Nuart 2019 -in fact- she focused on an urgent political issue: the current refugee crisis.
“Breaking the line” is a visual representation of the imaginary walls that surround us – and tear us apart. Those imaginary lines between countries and people are limits that we can also find within ourselves.
She balanced this strong theme with a playful and lighthearted indoor piece: a sequence of frames of herself having a pee.
Jofre Oliveras (ES)
A slightly different look on the refugee crisis was taken by Spanish artist Jofre Oliveras, who critiques the way the media and the art world are addressing this crucial issue. “Beholders” stresses how both artists and the general public are passive observers of this critical situation.
As for the indoor exhibition, Jofre Oliveras produced a series of ‘classic’ paintings, which were later vandalized by 1UP Crew’s high-pressure fire extinguisher: an impressive performance that perfectly summarized this year’s festival theme -the contrast between old and new- but also spoke against the speculation of art dealers based on the artist’s name.
Jad El Khoury (LB)
Presented at this year’s Arte Laguna Prize by Nuart curator Martyn Reed, Jad El Khoury is the first recipient of a Nuart residency award. In the streets of Stavanger, the Lebanese artist recreated the street art installation “Burj el Hawa”, which he first made in Beirut in May 2018. It consisted of 400 pieces of drapes hung on empty black windows of an unfinished building, which served as a snipers’ tower during the Lebanese civil war and now symbolizes Beirut’s denial of its painful past. Placed without legal permission (and therefore quickly dismantled by the building’s owner), those drapes symbolized “the final stages of healing with a dance of happiness”. Through this installation, the artist not only showed his peers that they don’t need to emulate western street artists, but also showed that anyone can reclaim the street to share their powerful stories with the rest of the world.
The “Tower of Wind” is just one of the four main themes characterizing Jad El Khourdy’s body of work, which Nuart Plus’ public better understood during the talk led by Sami Wakim. Next to his early doodled characters (“potato nose”) and the following project on “connection motifs”, the artist highlighted Beirut’s war traces. These scarlet marks, which he brought back up for Nuart’s indoor exhibition, are not just city scars of missiles and bullets, but also the scars that are still visible in Beirut’s contemporary society.
Julio Anaya Cabanding (ES)
Spanish artist Julio Anaya Cabanding brings classical oil paintings out from their traditional ‘museum’ settings. When in Norway, he reproduced classic artworks by national, 19th-century painter Lars Hertervig and displayed them in unexpected places.
Perfectly fitting this year’s festival theme, Julio’s interventions show how a classical painting could become ‘brand new’ simply by being ‘displaced’ into an unusual setting, such as the urban environment. His favorite spots are inhospitable and decadent places; in Stavanger, he hit a hidden staircase that goes across the city center and a forgotten, fully tagged corner in Tou Scene’s courtyard.
Nuno Viegas (PT)
Another artist whose body of work perfectly represents Nuart 2019’s theme “Brand New, You’re Retro” is the Portuguese Nuno Viegas. His imagery, which is derived from his graffiti roots, is a ‘street art’ interpretation of iconic graffiti symbols like the shirt mask, the glove, or the spray can.
Showing impressive 3D photorealisic painting skills, Nuno’s ‘clean’ representation of graffiti subculture is definitely “brand new”.
Traditionally, Nuart festival kicks off with a take-over of the Aftenblad billboard on the crossroad between Avaldsnesgata and Stoperigata. This year, it happened by means of French poster artist OX, who has been hijacking billboards since the 1980s. He is therefore considered one of the pioneers of European street art.
Later on, OX realized both a mural and a room at Nuart exhibition, where his typical paper cut outs were scattered around the floor as if they had escaped from the walls above. These artworks express his more impulsive art, which nears abstraction through the use of subtraction. Like his studio work, they develop around the basis of aesthetic shock.
Paul Harfleet (UK)
Paul Harfleet started “The Pansy Project” in 2005. Back then he was living in Manchester and was a victim of constant homophobic aggressions, which eventually fueled his art project. Returning to his ‘painful places’, Paul planted a pansy as a symbol of gentle and easily ignored personalities. Since then, through his pansies, he has been mapping homophobic attacks that have happened all around the world. Considering the flower’s seasonality, Paul had to paint -rather than plant- his pansies in Stavanger, thus creating small -yet imperishable- memorials of resistance for those who have been targeted.
Nuart Plus: artist talks, panel debates, exclusive film premieres and more
Besides the above-mentioned “Martha: A Picture Story” (reviewed) and “Subvertiser”, a third screening took place during Nuart Festival 2019: “Imaginary City” (MZM Project), a poetic, visual portrait of Stavanger and its Nuart festival.
Kristina Borhes: When we started this project, we asked ourselves what is it in this city that makes it so special, because for us Stavanger is really special. And it’s not because it is covered in graffiti and street art, because there are lots of cities like that -even too many! But in other cities that we visited, it doesn’t work like it works here. And so we tried to discover why, to explore it and research it through this film
As for the excellent program of talks, Nuart Plus, this year’s theme was: Memory and the City: “How can we work with the city’s memories to enliven and enrich our experience of the city?” On this note, Erik Hannerz invited the public to think outside the box by emulating children’s playful creativity; Malcolm Jacobson showed how middle aged graffiti writers recall memories of their youth; and Stephen Pritchard held a provocative presentation on the relationship between street art, gentrification, and nostalgia narrative.
Stephen Pritchard: The street art movement has evolved from its roots in class and race conflict and anti-gentrification activism to become a perfect tool in gentrifiers’ artwashing arenals
Moreover, a series of case studies highlighted a different approach to street art festivals. Over the weekend we heard from “Stencibility”, a festival in Tartu (Estonia) that developed a framework for encouraging unsanctioned creativity; from “Paint the Change”, started in UK by Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari to discuss social justice issues; and “Splash and Burn”, which aims to raise awareness of unsustainable palm oil production in Indonesia.
Platforms for discussions, intermediaries to raise awareness on social, environmental, and political causes or promoters of independent art and creative freedom, this (brand) new generation of street art festivals shows that the artform still has a lot to say.
Building on its past, which has somehow been consolidated -albeit unconventionally- thanks to publications, exhibitions, festivals and that vast, ever-changing archive that is the public space, street art is still evolving. It doesn’t need to hold onto its subversive, illegal past because it has run out of things to say; rather, it is fuelled by it as it progresses across unexplored fields –keeping with its best tradition.