My Corners: EGS

Age: 43
Graffiti Artist
Instagram: @oldhelsinki

On History
“Graffiti entered my life in a pretty traditional way. It started out just like any other hobby. Some pioneers of Finnish graffiti lived in my part of town in Katajanokka in the 1980s. They were a few years older than me, and we felt that they and everything they did was cool. Then, during one summer, graffiti started to pop up in the city. We traveled all around the city looking for new graffiti and taking photos. We got to know the city that way, especially all the underpasses and tunnels. There was no news or other media pieces about graffiti, so we had to find the works by ourselves. I practiced doing them on a paper and then started to paint around the turn of the 1980s and 1990s. The pioneers had already called it quits by then, so me and my generation carried the torch.”

On Art
“When I paint graffiti in the streets, I typically use only spray paints, and sometimes latex paints. But the works that I put on display in galleries and museums I mostly paint in black. I also make a lot of glass sculptures these days. These two things, graffiti and the art that’s indoors, they’re like two sides of a coin to me. The art that I call graffiti is something that I do outdoors, and that’s where it belongs. The visual language of graffiti wouldn’t translate well if it were taken indoors to a museum or a gallery.”

On Themes
“My art is based on three letters: E, G, and S. Lately, a lot of the art that I make for indoor spaces has been about maps, states, and borders, as well as identity and history. Who has the right to draw lines and what it means to do that. There’s a natural connection to graffiti in such questions as who has the right to make pictures, what they are about, and where are they on display.”

The Meaning of EGS
“I’m sorry to say that EGS has no hidden meaning or message. When I was coming up with an artist name I felt that those letters have a good typography. There’s no mystery behind it.”

On Meaning
“Graffiti is a big part of my life. It’s essential to my social life. For a long time, it’s also been a outlet for freedom and creativity that gives me room to breathe.”

On Permanent Works
“There’s gonna be one in Baana walkway during the summer. Vantaa prison has one, right on the border of Helsinki and Vantaa. I make many of my works on houses that are going to be demolished and other places and surfaces that are going to disappear. Permanence has no real meaning to me. I’ve gotten used to the fact that very little of what I do will be permanent.”

From Graffiti to Visual Arts or the Other Way Around?
“From graffiti to visual arts, certainly, since I’m a visual artist by vocation these days. I was already interested in drawing as a kid. Making a picture has always been close to my heart. But graffiti combined so many other things: adventure, excitement, art, and a social experience. I think I would be working in a visual field even without graffiti, but it certainly made it easier.”

Graffiti will Remain Rebellious
“Street art and graffiti are two different things. To me street art is something that’s always legal and has any and all possible permissions, and it’s often made on an order from someone. But graffiti is more spontaneous, no one asks you to do it. Street art is often meant to please the public, while graffiti is made for a smaller circle. Graffiti will always be rebellious and will never be too allowed. But street art could be. I can’t say what will happen in the future. In this moment street art manifests in the painted electricity distribution cabinets. But the only thing that makes them street art is the fact that they’re on the street. There’s no visual design or other kind of similarity to them. A lot of them could just as well be considered gallery art.”

On Graffiti and Street Art in Helsinki
“It feels like there is a lot of street art – or whatever you want to call it – on display at the moment. I would even say that it’s enough. Helsinki has always had a great and elegant graffiti culture, but I feel that the street art scene is still trying to find its form. It must be because of the zero tolerance policy of the fairly recent past, which makes street art culture still relatively young. Graffiti culture is a lot more advanced. For example, I think that mural paintings is still in a stage of development. Big public creations have only been a thing for a few years, and Helsinki is somewhat behind the times on that front. However, the atmosphere and attitude is really nice and it’s great to have the possibility to work in public space.”

The map shows you EGS’s Corners. Click on a place to read what EGS has to say about it.

TEXT: KAROLIINA SAARNIKKO
PHOTOS: MIIKKA PIRINEN