Jaagup Mägi JMK: Skateboards, Art, and the Delicate Balance of Polarity

Words and photos by Nicolas Bouvy

Jaagup Mägi K. (1990) aka JMK, is a rare gem that any skateboard community would dream of having. He's a bold and creative rider deeply influenced by old-school moves, and every session with him turns into a thrilling, chaotic adventure. His unorthodox style sets him apart in our community, and he's the kind of friend most Tallinn skaters abides by. Jaagup is known as one of the wildest night owls in town, an unstoppable and incredibly social soul. But that’s not all, he has another arrow in his bow, an unlimited imagination that he expresses through art.

Jaagup, bs crail at Loigu ramp.

Back in the day, Estonia witnessed the emergence of Soviet Rula-manufactured slalom decks from Võru in the mid-1980s, captivating many generations of Estonians with this enjoyable little toy. Jaagup, like many others, fell under its spell in the early 2000s. During his adolescence, he felt the urge to rebel against the establishment, but he wanted to do so in a dangerous, stylish and entertaining manner.
As he mentioned, skateboarding was rapidly gaining popularity in the freshly liberated country during that era, thanks in part to the Tony Hawk video game, the Jackass TV show, and ironically, the not-so-punk rock song "Sk8er Boi" by Avril Lavigne. It represented something cool and daring for the young man.

Slappy time at Krulli.

Anytime he would visit the Tallinn local skate shop, he would be breath-taken by the art on the apparel and skateboard decks, as some kind of coat of arms for his own generation. Not the usual art, he would see in the galleries or exhibitions, not the usual marketing designs from the well spread and fashionable clothes in the market at the time. Something that really matched his needs for revolt.

From that point on, he began envisioning his own artwork to adorn his decks. He also started producing stylish subtitles for his skate videos. He participated in a school workshop to create skate holders and skate logos, earning a special prize as a student in a UNICEF art contest. He regarded a skate logo as a symbol, akin to a tribal tattoo or a coat of arms. The jury found skate logos somewhat overused in art, but he didn't abandon his creative instinct.

At work on the Skate Sphere”, in Krulli Park.

You can right now see until 24th of September the results of his brain melting creation as JMK`s first personal exhibition "Polarity"/,Polaarsus" at Telliskivi loomelinnak, former IDA raadio container. Around a dozen decks are displayed. The artist, in his intention to re-use old skateboards, wants to give the wood another life after the 1st use, sees a way of giving another ride to the wood too tired for a skater to do tricks (sometimes even broken) but still has plenty of potential as a cruiser boards or/and wall art hanger. As he uses deck as canvas, within the back of the head the idea of recycling, he’s shaping the deck specially to match the theme he’d go for. While others, including major brands, have ventured into similar territory, it's worth noting that this practice is far from commonplace.

So even with his crazy shape ideas, Jaagup attempts that the skateboard remains rideable. After finalizing a few of his pieces, he would go for a well-balanced title of "Polarity". Clearly, the recurrent aspect of skateboarding and his art gravitates thanks to polarity. Much like a skateboard deck with two ends, our current world is exceptionally polarized and is in dire need of rebalancing. JMK uses his creations to remind us that there is no escaping this inherent polarity. A specimen of his, to point out is the “Life Candle”, a 2 sided burning candle flames, with a positive warm light and a negative cold blue light in each end. This piece symbolizes the delicate balance between work and play, a theme he underscores, all held together by the calm balanced forest green wax.


The exhibition display more of those antagonism, like an old Estonian Rula shaped deck, covered with mirror, it evokes a sense of nostalgia in the minds of Estonian skaters, specially those in their 40s as they gaze upon themselves and the art piece. Red and blue pills, iconic Bart Simpson, giant two-sided mushroom, plenty mind-trick the man has up his sleeves for your own brain to melt. Jaagup has an array of mind-bending creations that will engage your imagination. The artist is also preparing to take the exhibition to Helsinki, Finland, later this autumn.


The man and his art, at Telliskivi.

"Polarity"/,Polaarsus" at Telliskivi loomelinnak

Another monumental creation from JMK can be spotted in the Capital. He just completed in the first weekend of September, a giant "SK8SPHERE"” inside the unavoidable Krulli Kvartal Skatepark. After months of preparation, he finalized this incredibly ambitious art piece, composed of 90 old skateboard decks.

Final touch on the "SK8SPHERE".

The idea for this project arose during a conversation last winter with Jaan, a friend who plays a pivotal role in the Tallinn skateboard community. Their goal was to craft a work of art while repurposing all the broken, old skate decks left behind by park users. As last winter the Football world cup was stealing all the human brain activity, Jaagup conceived the idea of shaping the artwork like a giant sphere resembling a football.

Pivotal moment at Krulli.

As he already had a model made of paper in the past, this was the opportunity to bring it to life on a grand scale. As Jaagup handle the monkey wrench as good as a painter handle his brush, he had not problem facing this more than monstrous sized sculpture. Only, a lot of time designing, selecting right decks, screwing, connecting them etc… doing the most with the little material, again with the recycling moto in mind.

"SK8SPHERE", Krulli.

"SK8SPHERE", Krulli.

Now, this monumental piece hangs proudly on the ceiling of the park for the pleasure of the users. Krulli Kvartal Skatepark has become a firmly established underground DIY cultural hub in Tallinn, don’t miss the chance to go see the beast with your own eyes during your next session!

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