Graffiti artist brightens up Finnish prison

Artist EGS in a Finnish prison yard in front of a mural by him. Image copyright Helsingin Sanomat
Image caption Artist EGS created three pieces - the largest being in the recreation yard

A graffiti artist has been commissioned to brighten up the inside of a Finnish prison for the first time.

Vantaa prison, on the outskirts of Helsinki, gave its walls over to the street artist EGS to adorn both internal spaces and the prison yard with brightly coloured abstract works, the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper reports. The cost of the work is being met by the Finnish State Art Commission.

EGS, who doesn't show his face on camera, says he wanted his work to have universal appeal, as half of the inmates have a foreign background. "I wanted to do abstract paintings which don't have anything recognisable, and where anyone can find some symbolic meaning," he tells the paper, adding that he took inspiration from the sea and islands.

The artist says he got "a few thumbs-up and hurrays" on arrival in the yard, but notes with amusement that it could have been more about him showing up with a crane.

Prison director Tuomo Junkkari says the artwork "kick-starts various thoughts and feelings" among inmates after months of staring at grey walls. Vantaa was selected after another prison had turned down the graffiti offer. "I said give it to us straight away," he tells public broadcaster Yle, adding that with 2km (1.24 miles) of concrete at the facility, "lack of space is not an issue".

One inmate tells Yle that the new look is "refreshing", although another isn't sure how the general public will react: "I'm still a little concerned that people in the civilian world will think, 'Oh, they're painting the prison walls - they'll probably have a bouncy castle next'."

Image copyright EGS/State Art Deposit Collection/Pekka Hannila
Image caption EGS says the prison is one of the most unusual places that he has painted
Image copyright EGS/State Art Deposit Collection/Pekka Hannila
Image caption The prison's entrance now features one of the artist's works

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