JUSSI TWOSEVENWild nature
Between nature and culture
Jussi TwoSeven´s (b. 1983) background lies in the graffiti art of the 1990s. He has received no formal training, that is, if you choose to overlook the fact that he attended the Espoo School of Art from age 5 until his teens. At art school, aged 12 to 13, he pursued comic drawing but developed a fascination for graffiti after hearing the older boys sharing stories of their nocturnal creative forays. From there on, TwoSeven became a protagonist in the well-known street art narrative that defines our recent history and urban environment. Fairly soon, however, he came to see mainstream graffiti painting as a process based on copying and sampling. Just as other art forms find themselves in crisis from time to time, or are even declared dead, Jussi TwoSeven began to view graffiti as a form of expression that was, at best, highly problematic. He downed his tools for a number of years until he discovered stencil art and began again in the mid-noughties.
By this time, the established art world had already embraced street art and the street art world had also learned to broaden its own history. Indeed, it is rather fitting that, in this exhibition, it is animals that take centre stage, as the earliest known stencils, at the Chauvet Cave in France, which date back to 30,000 BCE, also feature bears.
For TwoSeven, his comeback was no longer about street cred or the excitement of ducking into the undergrowth for cover. The legality or otherwise of street art, a topic subject to at times fierce debate, was no longer relevant to him. Instead, he was by now focused on creating images and discovering his own unique style. The public realm matters to him only insofar as it allows his art to be seen as many people as possible.
TwoSeven did discover his own style, in the form of a highly complicated and time-intensive technique. Not content with a stencil and spray paint, he sketches his images using a camera; according to him, nothing beats biking through a city at night, armed with a camera. For TwoSeven, his images are much more than just vector graphics and he successfully creates an intriguing sense of tension by combining photographic precision with a painterly finish that includes splashes and drips.
TwoSeven´s animal images come with an added twist. The squarely frontal views are mirror images made up of one half of a face but the painted touches add a distinctive look to each subject. Are these portrait selfies, I wonder?
What I do know is that as the TwoSeven logo comes roaring out of a bear´s mouth, it carries with it 30,000 year´s worth of tension between nature and culture. Urban animism, perhaps?