Highway by Still Heavens Only Force

Highway by Still Heavens Only Force

This piece, titled Highway, was painted by the Still Heavens Only Force (SHOF) crew in the summer of 1989, making it an astonishing 23 years old and the same age as Fascinate[a]. For a graffiti piece, that is old. For a graffiti piece in Stockholm, where the city government has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of street art, that is a Methuselan[b] age.

The whole piece, in all its glory. This shot is primarily intended for documentary purposes and is a 185 megapixel image that I assembled from five composite images. It is the first time I do a composite of composites, and this is the so far biggest image I've produced. Since the whole wall couldn't be seen from one spot, I moved between five different locations. The result is that some items (like the black column in the middle) are seen from both left and right, and nothing above the wall matches; as well as nothing surrounding the entrance to the youth club. I've not spent any time trying to get those bits to fit - I figure you're here for the piece and nothing else. The worst bit is the part behind the basketball basket. I stuck the camera in below the basket and then warped the resulting image into place, but at the top of the space where the basket used to be the image underwent considerable distortion. The sky is from a photo taken in Husby. The sky was horribly overexposed in the original, and I thought I would just cut it away - but that didn't work; the big empty area was too distracting. So I figured I might as well put some sky in there. It is a poor comp job, I know. But it's not the point of this image.

2012-07-14 15:47

Rågsveds Fritidsgård, Stockholm Random Walk, Street Art, Zoomable

This is the state of most of the paint. Hopefully the piece will last another 23 years, at least!

2012-07-14 16:17

Rågsveds Fritidsgård, Stockholm Random Walk, Street Art

The oldest known still existing graffiti piece is The Allen Boys by Lee Quiñones[c], painted in 1982, but partially destroyed in 2008[1] after having been on display for 26 years. With its 23 years, Highway is one of the world's oldest still existing graffiti pieces.

For those of you who can read Swedish, there is an excellent article about Highway in Fria Tidningen[e], written by Jacob Kimvall[f], who has also written SKADEGÖRELSE KLOTTER NEDSKRÄPNING FÖRBJUDEN! Graffitiborttagning som ikonoklasm[g], a scholarly work on graffiti removal in Stockholm.

The piece was produced with the permission of the building owners, the state-run real estate company Familjebostäder[h], who also paid for the paint. The piece covers one wall of Rågsved's youth club and the entrance has been worked into the piece's right half. The composition is fairly standard, with a wildstyle[i] text at the bottom (the Highway), and "Still Heavens Only Force" in straight lettering above. To the left the text is flanked by a Rambo[j]-like character with empty eyes and an outfit typical for late 80's action heroes, carrying an AK-5[k] assault rifle, pointed sideways toward the text. Above the Rambo-character is a portrait of a young man with blonde hair and tanned skin. Perhaps the Rambo-character is this younger man as a warrior? Above the text is a type Cx train[2] on line 19[l] (the subway line servicing Rågsved), with SHOF tags. Close to the front of the train is a list of names to whom the piece is dedicated. First up on the list is MC Tim[m], who, thirteen years old at the time the piece was made, was most known for the track Jag är def - one of the very first, if not the first, Swedish rap songs - and later for playing together with Freddie Wadling and Fläskkvartetten. The last name, Zip, is the name of a crew from western Stockholm, and is believed by Kimvall to refer to Zip 13, the most notorious member whose relentless tagging of green line[n][3] subway trains was the subject of debate in the newspapers during the winter of 1986-1987.

To the right is a silhouette of a person holding a spray can with a speech bubble saying SHOF on da highway 2 fame..., and further to the right the entrance to the youth club has been integrated into the painting, with a painted sign above the entrance that reads Gården!, or "the club!", as in "the youth club!". The rightmost part of the piece consists of Rågsveds Gården written in as-if-golden straight lettering. The two characters at the extreme right are in the style of Vaughn Bodē[o].

While still painting the piece, disaster struck in the form of a lovesick middle-aged man who used one of the rollers and the paint that had been left by the crew to paint I LOVE YOU CAROLINE, CALL ME[4] followed by a phone number, over the Highway wildstyle text. While the perpetrator was caught, it did little to help the fact that the damage to the piece was substantial, if not fatal. SHOF was initially about to give up on the piece entirely, paint the whole wall white and consider the work as a total write-off, but finally decided to mount a rescue attempt. The damaged parts were repaired, but in such a way that traces of the damage remains. Looking at the Highway text, you can see red "holes" in the piece. These are symbolic wounds where the inside of the piece is still exposed. The painting thus incorporates a bit of its own history.