Danish artist Thomas Dambo creates giant trolls out of trash

Copenhagen-based Thomas Dambo likes to build larger-than-life playful giants out of waste or recycled materials such as wood, inspiring people to think of trash as a resource.

by Georgina Maddox Published on : Jul 29, 2020

Zach The Shaman holds out his magic hands to create a 'party vibe force field'. Zach is the fourth creation by artist Thomas Dambo at his exhibition at the Halloween music festival Suwannee Hulaween at the Suwannee Music Park. Unfortunately, Zach was at this location only during the festival, and for the rest of the time, he searches the globe for other ‘awesome parties’. 

Next, meet Green George, another friendly giant who was built with trashed wood from Christiania’s (now known as Oslo in Norway) garbage disposal. The mural behind the giant was done in collaboration with Rasmus Balstrøm and it was inaugurated by the local population of the town, with a hippie sitting and strumming on a guitar, a lady in a rainbow skirt (also made of recycled material), and a gathering of happy folks from different age groups and occupations.

Green George was built with trashed wood from Christiania’s (Oslo’s) garbage disposal. The mural was done in collaboration with Rasmus Balstrøm | Green George by Thomas Dambo| STIRworld
Green George was built with trashed wood from Christiania’s (Oslo’s) garbage disposal. The mural was done in collaboration with Rasmus Balstrøm Image Credit: Thomas Dambo

Little Tilde is another recycled sculpture located in the area of Vallensbæk Mose, a beautiful area filled with wild nature and animal life in Denmark. She watches through the trees at the other side of a small lake, from where you can catch a glimpse of her from a distance. Little Tilde is made solely from local scrap wood scavenged by Thomas Dambo and his team. To build the sculpture, the team took help from a group of volunteers including senior craftsmen and an 86-year-old person, and a couple of locals including someone called Tilde, from where the sculpture gets her name.

The prevailing emotion behind Dambo’s works is community celebration and reclaim trash by creating magical beings out of it. Typically, Dambo’s giants are 15 feet to 21 feet tall and made mostly out of scrap wood. Dambo is currently on the road with his wife, and partner driving to his new creation of another giant. In fact, COVID-19 outbreak has not stopped his work; Dambo has rather taken it to safer, out of town locations and has been busy all summer as he created four giants across Europe, sometimes working out of his studio, where he made the seven-foot heads of the giants.   

Joen and the Giant Beetle, Wynwood Walls, Miami | Joen and the Giant Beetle by Thomas Dambo| STIRworld
Joen and the Giant Beetle, Wynwood Walls, Miami Image Credit: Thomas Dambo

Born in Odense, Denmark, in 1979, Dambo lives and works in Copenhagen, and is known for creating large artworks out of trash and waste material sourced from different projects across the world. Dambo and his team makes everything from furniture and scenography to big and small art installations and sculptures – all from recycled materials.  

“My Forgotten Giants are part of the larger project that consists of six large sculptures made in the outskirts of Copenhagen. Common for all sculptures is that they are made solely from local scrap wood and recycled materials, and made in beautiful hidden locations. This way it invites the viewers to go on a treasure hunt, not only to see the sculptures, but also to discover hidden gems in nature,” says Dambo, who is planning another treasure hunt for kids and locals to discover his new creations. He says, the outdoor trolls help remind him of his childhood tales and remind people that even trash has value. 

As a little bonus, Dambo made 28 birdhouses inside his sculptures, for the birds and maybe a squirrel to seek shelter when winter hits Vallensbæk Mose.  

Thomas Dambo in his giant Birdhouse, Copenhagen, 2011 | Thomas Dambo | STIRworld
Thomas Dambo in his giant Birdhouse, Copenhagen, 2011 Image Credit: Thomas Dambo

Besides the trolls, Dambo’s previous projects include the Happy Wall series that began way back as a school project when he was studying at the Danish Design School in Kolding, when he made an indoor pixel installation. The installation consisted of 289 wooden blocks on spinners in various colours so that they could be flipped to make different patterns. A couple of years later he made a larger version of this creation on the wall of Dare2Mansion, a co-working space next to his workshop. In 2014, Thomas Dambo was offered to make an installation on a huge wall at a construction site in Kgs Nytorv in Copenhagen.

It Sounded Like A Mountain Fell, Wulong, China, 2019 | Thomas Dambo | STIRworld
It Sounded Like A Mountain Fell, Wulong, China, 2019 Image Credit: Thomas Dambo

The idea, as Dambo makes it clear, is to make his art interactive, community driven and most importantly reconsider sustainability and the environment.


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About Author

Georgina Maddox

Georgina Maddox

Maddox is an independent critic-curator with 18 years of experience in the field of Indian art and culture. She blurs the lines of documentation, theory and praxis by involving herself in visual art projects. Besides writing on immersive art for STIRworld, she is a regular contributor for The Hindu, MASH Mag and Architectural Digest.


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