On Saturday, Dutch artist Stefan Thelen—known by his anti-superhero identity Super A—began painting a mural depicting a barn swallow crashing out of a bell jar. It rises several stories high on Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway, on the tunnel ventilation building facing Dewey Square, along Purchase Street between Congress Street and Summer Street.
Thelen is a realist—and a fabulist. A number of his murals have featured songbirds or pigeons and hovering marbles—like his 2017 mural of a bird perched on a pair of open hands for the Dutch embassy in Kiev.
At times, he’s bluntly political. He made a gallery painting of a Molotov cocktail bottle with a luxury yacht inside and on Instragram tagged it #rocktheboat. A 2017 mural in Gent, Belgium, depicted galloping horses and floating planets/marbles that he described as “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” His May 2018 mural in Berlin depicted a statue of Lady Justice, with the figure’s surface turned into a ribbon, and birds fluttering about her and perched on her scales. “No Justice, Just Us,” he wrote on Instagram.
Of late, Thelen’s gallery paintings have depicted cartoon characters turned into ribbons and their real life counterparts revealed inside—Hello Kitty with a real furry white cat pawing itself out or Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse infested with real rodents. He’s also painted a rainbow hued “Piñata Grenade,” a hand turned into slingshot, and portraits of President George Washington and Queen Elizabeth II with their tongues turned into money.
In his Boston mural, titled “Resonance,” the Greenway says Thelen “questions the social, political, and emotional systems that confine our freedom. He illustrates the urgent necessity of breaking free from those confines, like the barn swallows pictured, in order to truly live. A looking glass, the glass cloche allows us to examine the invisible societal and structural borders trapping us. In his title, Super A conceptualizes the way these cracks and fissures grow; elucidating how systems can shatter with even the smallest fissure through the raucous vibrations of our unified resistance. The pursuit of freedom is fiercely instinctive; it orders the natural world, moving us from chaos and conflict toward unity and equity.”
Thelen says he aims to finish the painting by May 6.
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