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Martin Whatson works on his art on the old concrete from the grain silo. All photos: Erling Slyngstad-Hægeland

Turning pieces of the silo into works of art

New Perspectives | Nye perspektiver 27.09.2022

Over 1,300 children have created art that will be exhibited at the Christiansholm Fortress under the auspices of the Blue Cross Kristiansand. At the same time an auction will take place featuring a part of the silo which has been decorated by artists Martin Whatson and Hama Woods.

In October you can acquire your own exclusive piece of a particular grain silo. This structure, which was erected on the island of Odderøya in 1935, will soon be converted into the Kunstsilo. Of the 1,300 child artists who will exhibit their work at the Fortress on the 15th and 16th of October, 150 of them have decorated pieces of the original silo. In addition, Martin Whatson and Hama Woods have created art on a larger piece of concrete which is 3.8 metres wide and 2 metres tall. This work will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

The health development organisation Blue Cross Kristiansand will host the exhibition.

“There are many layers of history in these works. The pieces of concrete that the children are decorating were made in 1935 and they are unique, because the concrete from the Silokaia quay area is now gone. What remains is what’s a part of Kunstsilo. It will be very exciting to see how it all turns out when the children’s creative abilities interact with the materials,” says Eldbjørg Dahl, Commercial Director at Kunstsilo.

Playfulness

Whatson and Woods stand in front of the latter’s leopard motif which here is still a work in
progress.

Street artists Martin Whatson and Hama Woods have decorated their own side of the concrete wall that Kunstsilo has donated to the project, and which will be auctioned off. The exhibition’s title is Soria Moria – If I was a King or a Queen. The motif of Whatson’s work takes its origin in this.

“The red deer stag is a majestic animal, and I think that as a motif it fits in quite well in this exhibition. And the element of the silo is a part of an interesting story here in Kristiansand. That’s why I wanted to keep some of the background, as it is where everything from the paint and the rebar to the weather and the wind has left its mark on the concrete. By keeping this, and having some space around the subject, we’ll have a little bit of the story that this is a part of,” Whatson explains.  

This popular artist is also interested in the use of colour and being playful in his work.

“When children draw, they use a lot of colours. I like that aesthetic and I think it’s important to retain the playfulness that you had when you were a kid,” says Whatson. As a street artist he is known for being innovative and productive, and he has also gained an international audience. Earlier this month he opened his first solo exhibition in Tokyo.

Perhaps some of the 1,300 participating children are also talented, budding artists, but that’s not the most important aspect of this project. Whatson says he is a keen supporter of the Blue Cross’ work with young people and in particular the initiatives that encourage children to be creative.

Martin Whatson.

“When kids are in kindergarten, they just draw the way they feel like, but at a certain point we start trying to draw ‘correctly’ so that it looks ‘good’. It’s kind of a shame because that puts limitations on what we do. This project is one in which children are given free rein to be creative and express themselves, and that’s really positive,” he says.

Particularly vulnerable

Ronnie Jacobsen at the Blue Cross says that through this project the organization wants to create something positive during the demanding times we live in.

“The background for this project is that many families with young children are in a particularly vulnerable situation when viewed in the light of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, expensive electricity bills and high food prices. Many children have struggled when adjusting to going to school, and many of them have challenges related to anxiety and restlessness. We wanted to do something positive for children between the ages of 6 of 12 and this project involves creating positive experiences and a sense of mastery and meaning in their lives,” says Jacobsen. He says that yearly the Blue Cross reaches 70,000 people in the Kristiansand region through activities and other work.

“A key part of our work has to do with creating arenas and activities to prevent exclusion among children. We have five different sets of projects that primarily work with this,” he says.

Eldbjørg Dahl states that Kunstsilo would like to contribute to the work that’s being done.

“The Blue Cross is a very important organisation for many people in the Kristiansand region. They do significant work for people of all ages and we want to be involved in promoting this. We have worked with them for many years, although actively contributing to a specific project is something new for us. This is very exciting and rewarding in every way,” she says.

The project is a part of Kunstsilo’s comprehensive initiative aimed at children and young people as well as the museum’s ambition to engage in interdisciplinary work with other stakeholders.

“We’re collaborating here with the Kilden Performing Arts Centre, Knuden (Kristiansand Cultural School), the Steiner School in Kristiansand and the Blue Cross. Knuden has received 100 pieces of the original grain silo, which are being turned into 100 works of art, while the Steiner School has gotten about 50 of them with which their students will express themselves. This is the kind of collaboration that’s going to play a central part in Kunstsilo’s work going forward,” states Dahl.

Many inquiries

In total, works from over 1,300 children have been registered for the sales exhibition on the 15th and 16th of October at the Christiansholm Fortress. The auctioning of Whatson’s and Woods’ art will go on until 5:00 pm on the 16th. All proceeds will go entirely to the Blue Cross’ work with children and young people.

“We have already received many inquiries and offers, so there’s a lot of interest. It’ll be really exciting to where these exclusive pieces of art are going to end up,” says Jacobsen.

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