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The writing's on the wall

How did oil-rich Stavanger become Europe’s least likely street art capital?

Text by Astrid Olsson / Photos Ian Cox

If you’re flying into Stavanger this month, you’ll see your first piece of street art before you even leave the airport. Polish artist Mariusz Waraz, aka M-City, recently finished covering the control tower with one of his signature factory-machinery stencils.

NUART founder Martyn Reed struck the deal with the airport. “I was shocked how open they were to it,” he says. “I went to the meeting expecting a committee of guys in suits, but it was this young, creative, dynamic team. I told them the content of the mural would be completely up to the artist and they agreed. When we asked whether we could photograph it with a helicopter, they offered us two. It was a fantastic collaboration.”

M-City, 34, has been a street artist for 18 years; for the last 10 years he has focused on industrial buildings. “I’m from Gdańsk and I was inspired by those old, shitty factories,” he says. “I love the machines, the engines, the old chimneys, the abandoned spaces… To me, it’s beautiful.”

To create the Stavanger airport mural, he spent about six days in his studio creating an image on his computer and cutting stencils in 51 parts, which he then took to Norway in rolls. “My bags weighed about 50kg and I was worried I wouldn’t get on the plane,” says the artist, who lectures in graphic art at Gdańsk’s Academy of Fine Arts when he’s not creating giant murals.

Producing the work took another six days with an assistant. With the tower under scaffolding, he taped the paper stencils to the wall and worked down the 28m-high tower. “The people at the airport were really intrigued,” he says. “It’s not something you expect to find there.”

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