Helsinki locals are quietly excited about the possibility of a new work by the elusive Banksy having been uncovered in their city, which would represent the first reported by the artist since the appearance of his’Les Miserables’ protest piece at the French Embassy in London back in January of this year.
The graffiti (below), which depicts a standing brown bear, was found under a railway bridge and although it was first noticed in late August by a local resident, it is still visible today.
Although not a de facto symbol of the country, bears are a very popular animal in Finland. For ancient Finnish people they were considered a sacred and ‘totem’ animal, and it is estimated that there are around 1200-1500 left in the wild, mostly within Eastern Finland’s densely forested zone.
The location (see below) of the bear is approximately 4 miles north of the city centre, next to Pohjois-Haaga station. And although the site lies around 600 metres from Helsinki underground record label Hold On Records HQ, its lack of proximity to the centre raises strong doubts about the possibility of it being the authentic article.
Interestingly, this year’s Flow Festival – which takes place over a weekend in August in the former industrial area of Suvilahti – was headlined by a certain Bristol trip-hop group Massive Attack (alongside Young Fathers) on August 12th, adding more credence to the rumours that Banksy is actually the band’s Robert Del Naja, or at least a collective headed by him.
The local who came across the work, who gave her name as M.P. said, “I don’t know much about graffiti, but I have never seen any graffiti of that quality or style in Finland before. Finnish graffiti artists have a very different style. I saw the work for the first time at the end of August. I took a picture of it because it is so unusual to see this kind of graffiti here in Helsinki.”
If – by a large stretch of the imagination – it was confirmed as a genuine Banksy piece, it wouldn’t be the first time the artist has used a bear in his work. The artist could be claimed to have something of a penchant for the furry, mountain dwelling animal, by analysing his previous works, of which there are four.
Firstly, his ‘Mild Mild West’ mural, created in Bristol in 1999, depicts a teddy bear throwing a Molotov cocktail at three riot police.
Cut to 2002 and Banksy produced a controversial work for Greenpeace, entitled ‘Jungle Book Execution’ illustrating the execution of various jungle book characters – including Baloo the bear – to highlight the issue of deforestation. The image appeared on billboards and leaflets for the NGO throughout February and March of that year.
Again in his native Bristol in 2003, Banksy turned to the image of a bear to create ‘Pooh Bear’, a stencil depicting EH Shepard’s Winnie The Pooh with his foot caught in a trap next to a tipped over jar of money.
A canvas print of the stencil was bought by a New Zealand tourist for £35 from a stall in Central Park during Banksy’s “Better Out Than In’ month long New York public project in 2013, and was subsequently sold for £56,250.
Also, a poem attributed to the artist entitled ‘The Bear and The Bee’ was uncovered on a council bin in Notting Hill, London, in 2005.
Perhaps with this new work we are able to advance another reason behind the suggestion that Banksy is indeed Robert Del Naja but, until such a theory is confirmed by the man himself, we have to bear with him remaining anonymous.