Martin Whatson is a leading light of the Norwegian street art scene, emerging as a force to be reckoned with since he was in his teens during the late nineties. His work is primarily stencil-based and merges abstract sensibilities with more recognizable graffiti styles.
Remaining true to his roots, Whatson’s art is often found in urban areas which are on the brink of destruction, and revels in the decay of his surroundings. He often uses his work to either emphasize or contrast the dilapidated buildings and landscapes which serve as his canvas. However, he has begun working in more gallery-friendly media in recent years, and a range of his paintings and prints can be found here at ArtLife.
Born in 1984, Martin Whatson became interested in street art while travelling to primary school each morning, becoming fixated on what he described as “the ever changing graffiti along the subway line”. After whiling away countless hours with his sketchbook, Whatson took his passion further by enrolling in an art and graphic design course at Oslo’s at Westerdals School of Communication. There, he found his niche working in stencils, and pursuing street art in his spare time — an especially dangerous passion in Norway at that time, with the country operating a zero tolerance policy on graffiti.
Whatson chose to work with stencils because, as he admitted to one interviewer, “I wasn’t good enough painting graffiti pieces.” Indeed, his earlier work took inspiration from more politically-minded street artists such as Banksy and DOLK, but his formal studies encouraged him to cushion his statements in the aesthetic influences from the likes of José Parlá and Cy Twombly.
However, he has since become adept at using freehand techniques, which he often overlays on top of his intricate stencils. This has become his signature style, where one form of graffiti effectively “vandalizes” itself, further emphasizing his fixation with urban decay and renewal.
When talking about his work to the press, Whatson demonstrates a sense of optimism and positivity, which is rare for the street art scene. He has expressed a hope that his work will “introduce the ‘street’ to people’s homes or a cheerful happy moment in [their] travel through a city.”