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Jan Håfström’s father shares many similarities with Mr. Walker, the alias of the Phantom. “It’s more his hat and coat that happen to have a strong resemblance to my dad, the way I remember him. [...] Running represents an important part of him and perhaps of me as well. Then there are other aspects of him - especially when he is standing in the dark and looking through the window. That picture may be the most important to me - exclusion and loneliness,” says Håfström. (Jan Håfström quoted in Nisse Lindberg's interview "Fantombilder, alias Mr Walker", Bild & Bubba, 13 September 2016.)
Ever since the 1960s, Jan Håfström has been a prominent and brightly shining star in Swedish arts and culture. In 2001, he surprised the Swedish art world with the exhibition “Walker,” which exploded onto the scene at Färgfabriken in Stockholm. Mr. Walker and his fictional, eventful world emerge out of the abstract, quiet and minimalist. The paintings celebrate aspects of childhood adventure and pictures depicting the disguised Mr. Walker, a.k.a. the Phantom. This time, in the form of carved out, enlarged details. Like backdrops that for once take on the role of protagonist, the stories and adventures come back in fragments to form a new story, about what once was and how it all turned out.
But Walker also moves in the same world as in A. Böcklin’s “Isle of the Dead” from the 1880s and Joseph Conrad's “Heart of Darkness” from 1902. In the darkness of romanticism, death is fought off and the creativity of life emerges victorious. In the story of Walker, Håfström unites the abstract canvases and the moods of the objects with the stories that strongly influenced his life. The journey of childhood reemerges in a stripped and renewed form.
For the residents of Stockholm, Håfström’s “Mr. Walker” is a famous motif, as a seven-meter high statue of the Phantom alias is placed in Järnvägsparken.