“I’ve always been attracted to extreme places. That’s why I came to Iceland and why I really wanted to paint in Greenland,” said Guido van Helten from Australia.
After proposing and refining the concept, van Helten and Icelander Stefán Óli Baldursson were granted two large-scale walls to paint on and some in-kind support by the Greenlandic Ministry of Housing. The two artists plus a Icelandic/Greenlandic documentary producer bought their own flight tickets, and sourced the tools and paint from Iceland.
The two street artworks are dramatically different. The lady with the polar bear on Block 10 is created directly from Baldursson’s head. In contrast, van Helten meticulously studied a photo of a hunter from Tasiilaq taken in 1906 by W. Thalbitzer. The hunter, thought to be called Kâtuat or Pooŋojorteq is painted on Block 5.
“It’s a privilege to work on the blocks, especially as it symbolised another time and migration. It’s fitting that a guy from Tasiilaq (which is now part of Kommune Sermersooq), is on the wall,” said van Helten.
“I’ve always been attracted to extreme places. That’s why I came to Iceland and why I really wanted to paint in Greenland”
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“This town has not been touched by large-scale street art before,” explained van Helten. “I know that people have questioned why the city is spending money on art, instead of painting over the grafitti. I love that in the process of painting the blocks, it beautifies it and brings attention to a building in desperate need of artistic value. Suddenly, instead of tearing a building down the council is more likely to fix the block up to make it nice. This creates more value, and I’ve seen it happen over and over again in different places.”
Stine Selmer Andersen from Sermersooq Business Council said: “Colourful Nuuk is the heart of the Greenlandic nation and the city embraces contrasts in nature, culture, history and people. These paintings underline diversity of the city’s atmosphere by portraying something historical and traditional in a modern way.”
The next time you visit Iceland, see if you can spot the artists’ other works in the Reykjavik and Akureyri. You can also find van Helten’s work in the city of Brisbane, Australia.