UMEÅ. A few years ago I drove around on narrow dirt roads in I 20-skogen, a quite large forest area north-west of the city centre. I was searching for a graffiti wall that was supposed to be there in the middle of the suburban wilderness. Well, I could not find it and gave up after a while. I believe that wall was sponsored by the municipality, perhaps in order to keep all the local graffiti-artists from spreading their art (or scribblings, depending on who you ask) on so called lesser appropriate places in the city.
The truth is that I have not seen that much spontaneous graffiti on the walls of Umeå lately. Some rough scribbling of course, but work of art? Not really. So, if you want to see some arty walls here you better choose a more official route. Mind you, that ain´t too bad a way to go.
Starting point: the university and its grand central hall, Lindellhallen. Named after the artist Lage Lindell (1920-1980) whose 95 meter long mural painting has gained wide-spread acclaim. Yeah, I know modernist Lindell hailed from Stockholm and has work hanging at the National Museum, but regardless, Utan titel (Without Title) from 1972 is an interesting piece of work.
It runs around the whole rotunda in the middle of the hall. The mural contains lots of playful figures, seemingly flying around in the cold northern breeze that is so common during spring in Umeå. Most are humanlike, while displaying different colours against the white concrete background. Lindell used acrylics and charcoal when completing the artwork.
In 2007-08 the Lindellhallen was made over, and large windows in opposite directions now lets much more light into the hall, where the artist´s creation stands tall between the university library and the lecture rooms.
A short stroll from the university campus you´ll find the travel centre/train station of Umeå Östra (East), built in 2010 . If Lindell´s figures are fluttering around aimlessly against the white background, Astrid Sylwan´s (born 1970 ) painting Ramble and Roam has no background at all. This work of art covers an entire wall (35 m x 3 m) inside the travel centre. Sylwan has used hand-painted stoneware tiles in order to create the different patterns of her work. Some parts look like skittles, others remind me of lamps in different shapes.
Astrid Sylwan was awarded for Ramble and Roam ,and her expression is often large, abstract and very colourful. When the art magazine Konstvärlden & Desajn asked her which colour is her favourite, she replied:
– Pink, I love pink. There is something trivial about pink, and something without history. For me, red is the same as blood, and blue is the sky. But pink has no history.
From one railway station to another. Under the tracks at Umeå Central runs a 170 m long tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians. The tunnel called Lev! (Live!) by the artist duo FA+, is a homage to the late Sara Lidman, legendary author from Västerbotten. The illuminated glass walls are filled with quotations in red and black from the writer´s books and diaries. More quotes on the ground are gilded.
There´s also a picture of Sara Lidman and a large inscription at the north end of the passageway, reminding every one to live (Lev!) while there is still time. The writer herself passed away in 2010.
The tunnel is the work of artist duo FA+, Ingrid Falk and Gustavo Augerre. They have done similar projects in Stockholm, Oslo and Buenos Aires.
In addition to the arty walls. a sound installation has been created where you can hear birds singing, or Sara Lidman´s voice reading out loud. Quite a contrast to the noisy streets above.