"Mushroom Girl" by Dolk in Norway, Street Art Utopia
Our artist of the week: Dolk Lundgren
If you are poring over the works of the leading Norwegian graffiti artist Dolk Lundgren - otherwise simply known as Dolk - and thinking to yourself, "This stuff might as well just be Banksy...", we can understand. After all, it's what so many other people have thought ever since Dolk burst onto the urban art scene in the early 2000s.
So, does that mean we can instantly dismiss all talk of Dolk as an original and interesting artist in his own right and just start talking about something else? Not in the slightest - even if the Banksy subject cannot be easily ignored. After all, it was even speculated in Dolk's early years as a street artist, that his name was a mere pseudonym adopted for the Bristol legend's less politically charged creations.
The similarity of the two artists' visual styles is certainly impossible to deny, but they have also mirrored each other in a professional sense, with Dolk graduating from the status of mere outsider graffiti artist to the darling of more 'official' artistic settings.
A brief history of Dolk
But let's start again from the beginning. Born in Bergen, Norway in 1979, Dolk studied Graphic Design in his home city and continued his education in Melbourne. In 2003, he turned to stencil art, inspired by - yes, you've guessed it - Banksy, with several of the works that he applied around Bergen back then still visible today.
In common with his principal inspiration, Dolk was not content to simply spend time decorating his home turf, his stencil art subsequently appearing in cities across the globe including Berlin, London, Copenhagen, Oslo, Barcelona, Prague, Melbourne, Lisbon and Stockholm.
Dolk has also gone on to showcase his work in gallery and festival contexts around the world, in locations ranging from Bergen, Stavanger, Oslo and Lofoten in his native land, to London, Bristol, Barcelona, New York, Berlin and Grottaglie, Italy. At an exhibition at the OSL Contemporary Gallery in Oslo in 2011, he sold all nine canvases on display for £12,500 each - just one sign of his burgeoning success achieved within a few short years.
Not just a Norwegian Banksy
In certain instances, Dolk could be accused of playing up the associations between himself and Banksy, when he created his own version of the latter artist's 2005 work, Puppy Love, with no modifications to the name or colours. The differences were the subjects where Banksy’s focus was on two combat vehicles having doggy-style sex and Dolk’s version was “a picture of a dog shagging a robot like you see everywhere else, but this one's got a pink background." - POW. Otherwise, though, Dolk has built a reputation as a graffiti artist with his own sharp, witty perspective on subjects of interest to the public.
Especially memorable images include one of Charles, Prince of Wales wearing a paper Burger King hat. Meanwhile, with the work Che, the artist depicted a cigar-smoking Che Guevara proudly pointing to a T-shirt that he was wearing bearing the iconic Alberto Korda photograph of himself. Much comment was made about how subsequent print sales of the 2007 work effectively turned one of world history's most prominent Communist figures into a capitalistic symbol.
But that is just one example of the many ways in which Dolk has subverted popular culture images. Another example is the piece Spray, a reinterpretation of the famous Vietnam War image of general Nguyen Ngoc Loan summarily executing the Vietcong prisoner of war Nguyen Van Lem by shooting him in the head. Dolk's version sees the revolver in the instantly recognisable Eddie Adams photograph replaced with a spray bottle, while the victim's head was swapped for a flower.
Still creating and making an impact
If there's at least one other characteristic that Dolk most certainly shares with Banksy, it's a knack for getting his name in the news for canny publicity purposes.
How many other street artists would have ended up painting murals in the exercise yard of an advanced correctional facility like Halden Prison in Norway - including of an inmate with a stereotypical striped prison uniform attached to a ball and chain - as well as of a runner on the verge of crossing a finishing line consisting of 'police do not cross' tape?
That particular feat was covered by British newspaper, the Daily Mail, which described the facility as "the world's poshest prison... plus £1m Banksy-style art".
Another high-profile project in 2010 saw Dolk and fellow Norwegian artist Pøbel accept payment from the government to display their artworks in the Oslo and Trondheim railway stations. The following year, Dolk joined several of his countrymen in decorating the walls of the Norwegian School of Economics as part of a project on the subject of capitalism.
Far from a mere slavish Banksy imitator, Dolk has been unafraid to wear his influences with pride, while expressing himself in his own distinct way with images that are at least as memorable as those of his Bristol counterpart. Here at Addicted Art Gallery, all that we can really say is ... long live both of these truly great, funny and thought-provoking street artists!
Now, who’s up for some Burger King?
"Burger King" by Dolk