A part of oslo

Tegson x Les Deux

In celebration of our collaboration with Tegson for our new Oslo store, we spoke to the street artist, to get his take on art, graffiti, and community.

“It’s a huge parallel society with a lot of rules, hierarchy, and things to be aware of,” says Terje Grimen, more commonly known by his artist's name, Tegson. “But it’s also a network of families.” 

Graffiti has undoubtedly become embedded in the fabric of our society, coming to define the way we perceive communities and people. 

Often featured in lists of the best street art cities in the world, Oslo is a particularly relevant example of this.  

A graffiti capital of the north, residents and visitors alike split Oslo into two parts, with the Akersalva river providing a dividing line between the more and less affluent parts of the Norwegian capital. 

One thing that remains constant, however, is the graffiti that’s visible on both sides of the river. It serves as a unifying symbol of Oslo as one, united people.  

And it was this that led us to collaborate with Norwegian street artist Tegson to celebrate the opening of Les Deux’s first international brand store in the city.  

We wanted to decorate the boarding outside the new store with more than just our own text and images, and we found inspiration in the eclectic street art scene in Oslo.  

It reflects our belief that the incorporation of pieces of the city into who we are builds a stronger whole than we could ever create by ourselves, and more fully integrates the new store into Oslo. 

Oslo in Aerosol

Titled Oslo in Aerosol, Tegson’s artwork depicts the river Akersalva with contrasting geometric and natural shapes, representing the city’s eclectic metropolitan and wild environments.  

Echoing the themes surrounding street art in Oslo, Tegson views the river as a focal point of the city. “It’s a place that both divides and unites the different areas of Oslo, in many different ways. It’s not only where urban and natural environments meet, but also from a societal perspective it becomes neutral ground where everyone is equal.” 

This perspective is illustrated in matching colors on each side of the river.  

The colors depict the disparate communities of Oslo”, Tegson says.  

“The fact that they correspond demonstrates that whatever community you belong to in Oslo, ultimately, we are one people united.”

Origins of an Artist

Tegson first began creating street art during his youth in the city of Bergen. “When I was a teenager, I used to hang out in some of the more troubled neighborhoods in the city with my friends. One day, this older guy approached us and taught us, and we ended up forming a crew underneath his.” 

This concept of crew is key to the graffiti community and forms the basis of how artists interact with one another. While Tegson still paints alone, he regularly collaborates and travels with other artists, and counts himself as a member of three different graffiti crews.  

“With my closest friends it’s been 15 years since we started painting together, and we’re a really close group. They’re like my second family”.

It’s easy to understand how this “us-against-the-world" mentality arises when faced with adversity. The Norwegian is clearly influenced by his early days on the streets of Bergen.  

In the beginning it was all about this gang mentality of brotherhood and painting, and it was about bringing your crew up and getting respect for your work. This was core to the graffiti scene in the 2000s in Scandinavia. It was a little bit rough.” 

After his initial foray into the world of street art, Tegson became hooked, viewing graffiti as a way of more authentically expressing himself. “It’s like an addiction in some ways.” he says.  

He’s come a long way since he first began beautifying walls. He now travels around the world living solely off his art and creating a trail of color from Shanghai to Queens.  

A Community in Color

“Every city, every country, has its own climate, style, and signature. You learn a lot about how to paint, and how to do it differently. If you’re just in the same place all the time, then you very quickly get stuck in a bubble. But if you get pushed into new environments and with new people, then you really start to evolve. For me, that’s where I learn the most.”

As if to illustrate this, Tegson is even able to identify certain cities based solely on images of graffitied walls in some cases.  

A good example is when I moved up here to Tromsø, nobody was using roller paint under their pieces. I was really amazed by that for a very long time...I just thought, why?” 

“In the art, you can read and see styles, how much money people have, how they’re painting, what the weather conditions are like, and how everything is formed.” 

For Tegson, graffiti has become an international brotherhood of creative people.  

For Tegson, graffiti has become an international brotherhood of creative people.  

It’s a lot about respect and loyalty, and I really like and trust a lot of the painters that I meet. It builds up quite a strong identity, especially when you’ve been painting for many years. It means everything to me.” 

A firm believer in the power of graffiti as a restorative and productive tool for young people, he now runs a project at his local youth center in Tromsø in order to help young people express themselves through art.  

This is something he feels passionately about given his own origins. 

“I’m so happy that guy sent us in that direction. It pushed us away from a lot of other negative activities,” he says.  

The Future

Seeking additional ways to express himself through his art, Tegson has recently began experimenting with embroidery, learning techniques from the Sami people in Norway. 

Embroidery is one reason why I was so interested in collaborating with Les Deux. That contrast between the softness of textiles and the hardness of cityscapes is something that I find fascinating.” 

The limited-edition T-shirt featuring Oslo in Aerosol serves as an extension of this, combining art created for tougher surfaces with cotton.  

What’s the ultimate goal with his art? The Norwegian is typically genuine in his reply. 

“I want to wake up every day smiling, and as long as I have the freedom to not think too much about money in my life, and do what I want to do, then I’m happy.”