Henrik Uldalen's granite masterpiece!

As production finishes with our second artist for Summer 2021 here’s a recap of the last few days on site with the incredibly cool Henrik Uldalen.


Arriving to Aberdeen via train from London, Henrik was quick to get out and stretch his legs, eager to explore the city and the numerous culinary delights on offer. After a quick pit stop we set off to explore some of the existing artworks and painted doors dotted around the city centre. Along with Nuart Aberdeen has an extensive door trail created by North East artists which criss cross many of the Nuart locations down Langstane Place and around the Green. It’s always good to see the city with fresh eyes and to take a minute to look up as Aberdeen has a wealth of impressive architecture.


It’s always exciting to meet artists who’ve painted in Stavanger for Nuart Festival as they have a good point of reference for what to expect from Nuart Aberdeen with tight production schedules and the usual pressures of working in the public sphere. Our first day of production had to be put on hold due to high winds and forecast rain, the usual warm welcome we expect during our usual production slot in April. The next day provided warm temperatures and glimmers of sunlight at the Spring Gardens student accommodation where Henrik would begin working on his new mural.


Although traditionally a studio painter with roots in the Oslo graffiti scene, Henrik spoke with confidence about the 3 storey canvas in front of him and his sketch alluded to connections with the cities gleaming granite stone which makes up the majority of buildings in the city centre. The Gerrard Street church sat looming above us in the sunken courtyard, the perfect meeting point for Henrik’s vision of a face turning into crystallised granite before morphing into gleaming diamonds. Our ears perked up when he mentioned that he’d never painted something like this before so would be working out the techniques as he went!

It’s interesting to see how each artist approaches the upscaling of their work for a mural with some using grid systems while others rely on their own ability to get it right. Henrik loaded up his roller and began sketching out the lower portion of the piece and started filling in the face with shades of grey. Paint trays became palettes and fine hair brushes were swapped for 4″ decorators brushes. Slowly the smoke like face began to emerge from nothing, a spectral portrait conjured from the darkness. Offset by the sounds of Marvin Gaye & Al Green and the coming and going of local photographers who twigged where Henrik was painting.


It became clear after only a few hours that the piece was going to be special and seeing the skill with which Henrik paints. It’s one of the fine points of this years productions, having the time to really see the creation of each mural but also to connect with the work. KMG spoke about the HYURO mural and how with each piece an artist leaves a little bit of their soul behind, a beautiful sentiment and especially poignant when looking at HYUROs work across Aberdeen & Stavanger.


Over the course of 5 days Henrik’s piece slowly materialised as he felt his way around the wall, beige slowly turning to black, honing in on the subject in the middle while the production crew and passers by looked on. Everyone who came by was impressed by the piece in progress and when people asked ‘what is it about’ Henrik was quick to flip the question on the viewer seeking their interpretations. A few locals made a daily stop to chat and take in the progress with Henrik chatting away and working out his next moves. Our favourite was a jogger who slowed down to turn around and take a full look at the wall before declaring ‘IT’S BRILLIANT’ and jogging off.  It’s a hard balancing act between engaging with viewers while the work is being created, especially in such a public space but also keeping in the zone and keeping your flow but Henrik seemed to manage this with ease.


Over dinner we had many chats about the challenges of painting such large scale works and the work grind which many big artists find themselves on, painting city to city often only seeing an airport and a wall, never really getting a true sense of their destination. Of course Henrik was met with a bottle of Aberlour 12 and a packet of rowies (imagine a squashed croisant filled full of salt & butter) so he become well acquainted with Scotland and the Aberdeen ways. The discovery of Haggis balls left him eager for more! But with work to do the team cracked on, eager to see the piece completed. With each brush stroke the work seemed to find a new depth, almost coming to life before our eyes as new forms emerged from the shadows. To see an artist create something from nothing is a special experience and one that’s often hidden away behind closed doors. We speak about street art as being a gift with the artists gifting a work to the city and this includes the process of its creation on our streets.


With the final brush strokes all that was left is for Henrik to sign the piece and take a step back, taking it all in. We packed up the site and set off for a mini adventure in search of fish & chips, castles and cold beer much to the delight of Henrik and his partner.  Back in Aberdeen a brutalist high rise looks down from a distance while a sparkling church looms close by and a modern apartment block has transformed into a piece of art, serving perhaps as a reminder that there’s no light without darkness and even then there’s beauty to be found if your willing to look for it. And if indeed Henrik has left a little piece of himself in Aberdeen, hopefully it was replaced with the love and support we’ve had over the past week by friends and well wishers during what has been a special time for everyone involved!


Thanks to the Nuart Aberdeen team and Aberdeen Inspired, Henrik for his addition to the city and to everyone who stopped by to show their support. All photos by Clarke Joss Photography.

2021 — Design by Studio Bergini — Code by Tortuga Labs