Egs (1974, Helsinki) is remarkable not simply because he has painted all over the world; over five continents and more than forty countries from Bucharest to Buenos Aires and Shanghai to Santiago. He has also painted with everyone from all over the world; from Ket to Lodek, Rainman to Risk, Petro to Pike and Honet to Hes.

A self-proclaimed graffiti anthropologist, Egs has been pivotal in the historical documentation and dissemination of the graffiti practice itself: an artist-archivist spurred by an intense desire to explore both the formal and folkloric truths of graffiti, to uncover its deeply social
and material foundations.

While Egs’ output is becoming increasingly abstract, his ongoing illicit work has resulted from a long and intense study of the graffiti form, in which he has juxtaposed the different eras that he loves through his collagist style.

He started out in the mid 1980s as part of the first wave of graffiti in Finland; by 1988 he had travelled to Stockholm and Paris to discover and document their burgeoning scenes. Although he lived in one of the most geographically distant parts of Europe, Egs was fascinated by the regional connections graffiti generated and travel became integral to his life. His inquisitive interest in these different aspects of regional graffitti led him to form close links in France, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and England by the early 1990s.

The bonds he formed through this collaborative global work are therefore as much a part of his personal practice as the homages he makes to graffiti folklore, as he puts it, through every ‘wave, star, drip or block’ he paints. Travelling the globe to both paint and investigate, to build relationships and share knowledge with other diverse practitioners, he has developed an almost unmatched insight into the vast graffiti culture worldwide. His work shows an acute understanding of the endlessly manipulable possibilities of the alphabet, as well as the various movements, styles and traditions of graffiti itself.

Egs’s World Map triptych, a pen-and-ink rendering undertaken in his classic “inkblot” style, is deeply influenced by the calligraphic essence of graffiti. Twisting and reshaping the topography until it proclaims his own name (albeit abstracted almost beyond recognition), the maps exemplify Egs’s inimitable chirographic style of graffiti, his ability to twist and reshape the letterform into infinite arrangements and shapes. With silver and black also being his favorite colours to write graffiti with – not only to help his letters stand out, but due to the fact they “cannot be fixed or camouflaged with other colours” – Egs use of the deep black Indian Ink in his fine art work further connects these two modes of practice, forcing the viewer to see the equivalent purity and complexity of his graffiti images. Moreover, through using the tool of a syringe to paint, he intimates both toward the outcast role of graffiti as well as the backstage environments where this art is often created; in the dark alleys, the slums and wastelands littered with these objects. The maps Egs has produced here are not only an abstracted versions of the world map however; they also play with the idea of europeans conquering “new” continents and dividing them with pen and ruler, each ruler creating countries that never existed before, each king creating new conflicts with every stroke of their pen. They reference the power of ink to effect our environments, the ability of paint to radically change the way we understand space.

Dr. Rafael Schacter
Department of Anthropology , University College London, author of The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti (Yale University Press) and Order and Ornament (Ashgate).