And That Was… 2021

I think we all expected to be able to look back at 2021 and say, well at least it was better than 2020, but let’s be honest, it was pretty much a replay: more viruses, more lockdowns, more political shenanigans, and a heap of new entries into the encyclopaedia of frustrating human experiences. This year, when we reached out to our favourite artists, some familiar, others new friends, we wanted to keep the questions a little more open-ended than previous years, recognition of the challenging times and also giving more room for reflection. The responses echoed that intent, with a wide-ranging focus, lots of shout-outs and importantly, acknowledgements that even through all the stress and chaos of 2021, Ōtautahi’s urban creative community continues to grow, thrive and evolve… So, even if it is through gritted teeth, here’s to 2021, a year of resilience…

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Dcypher (@dcypher_dtrcbs)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

My kids have been super influential in my general outlook on things over the past year, but as far as painting is concerned I’m constantly influenced by everything I see. Obviously the pandemic has had a massive influence on people from all walks of life on an international scale and has given artists time to hone in on particular aspects of their process during lock down. I’ve been lucky enough to have spent some time in my studio over the past 12 months.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Internationally, I’m constantly finding new artists doing incredible work and taking their art in different directions. Bond has been doing amazing wall paintings with the integration of various outcomes in VR augmented reality, RFID devices and experimenting with crazy tools and paint contraptions, it definitely makes him one of the most interesting artists of 2021 in my opinion. Locally, Ghostcat’s work is top notch! He’s constantly stepping it up.

What would you say had been your personal highlight in 2021?

One of Dcypher’s paintings at South Sea Spray in early 2021

My personal highlight of 2021 was South Sea Spray by a long shot. It was the best festival I’ve ever had the honor to attend! There were highlights within the highlight; awesome line-up, the hospitality, the sights, and plenty of hyped locals!

Teethlikescrewdrivers (@teethlikescrewdrivers)

teethlikescrewdrivers takes stock of his Paste-Up Project installation in early October…

What has been the biggest influence on you in 2021?

The collective minds of SlapCity continue to be a huge influence on me personally. It has been amazing to see this random group of people hang out and support each other in so many ways. Our original intention was to push sticker and paste-ups as a legitimate artistic medium here in Aotearoa and abroad, and I feel we are doing just that. Collectively we have had members run their own independent art shows as well as feature in them. We have been part of organising and collaborating in paste-up and sticker shows across the globe. We have seen our work on public installations, featured on blogs and have been interviewed by The Press about what we do.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Interesting is an interesting word! I am a huge fan of subversive stuff, so @fokawolf will always reign supreme there. I have continued to be in love with @eter_91’s typography and have a special place in my heart for @mambotattooer’s line work. Cannot forget our Ghostcat. His Welcome to Christchurch – The Garden City sign is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. Stoked to see his book project get the funding it rightly deserves.

Ghostcat’s miniature Welcome to Christchurch sign was a favorite of teethlikescrewdrivers in 2021…

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Just being able to see my stuff up and about. Having the opportunity to take over one of Phantom Billstickers’ bollards on Manchester Street as part of #thepasteupproject was right up there. It was so great to upscale my work and think of it as a whole piece rather than just individual pencils. I was really stoked with how it came out. Being part of @helloiamtheshow‘s PB n Jam was amazing. I never thought that people would want to buy stuff with my pencil on it. Who knew?

teethlikescrewdrivers’ work at PB n Jam at The BOXed Quarter in August featured found objects adorned with his iconic pencils…

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Gigs. I wish I could have seen more gigs.

Vesil

What has been the biggest influence on you in 2021?

I’d say the obvious one would be Covid, being in and out of lockdowns. It definitely has given time to reassess what’s important and what I’m striving for as I’m sure it has with others. Friends have also influenced me over this year, watching them succeed and accomplish their goals has been a real incentive to get off my ass and do the same. Getting out of the city which is something I’ve tried to do a bit over the year. The exploring of different spots, catching up with old and new friends and coming back with a new insight than the one you left with, as well as at least one good story to go with it.

A fresh perspective, 2021

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Harry King would definitely be someone who springs to mind. I’m always really impressed by the sheer volume of work he consistently produces that’s always at a high standard. The same can be said for Tepid who too is pumping out a lot, across a variety of mediums. A couple of other honourable mentions go out to PK, Revos and Fiasko.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

My personal highlight would be, aside from the freezing cold and running out of beer, freight hopping up the country.

Travelling the country freight-hopping was a highlight for Vesil in 2021…

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Worry less and explore more.

Ghostcat (@ghostcat_mb)

Image from Fiksate Gallery

What has been the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Christchurch. The city has had the biggest influence on me as I’ve seen it from a different perspective with regard to my journey this year. Learning about people’s connections to places that are no longer there, exploring places I’d never been. There’s so much to take in.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Jacob Yikes continues to blow my melon year in year out. His work is always so insanely good! The details and the way it takes you on a trip to another place.

Jacob Yikes’ Only here to pay some bills and maybe fill a cart with cat food

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

My highlight was without a doubt was Shadowtown, my first ever solo show at Fiksate earlier this year. That was one of my highlights of my entire life! Putting my work out there and getting the response I did was amazing, so much love!

Ghostcat at his show Shadowtown in early 2021 [Photo credit Charlie Rose Creative]
What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I wouldn’t have changed a thing as every action throughout 2021 has led me here. It’s had its challenges, but it all comes to together.

Jessie Rawcliffe (@jessie.er)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

The fact that you’ve sent these questions means it’s been an entire year since the last time. Once again, I initially struggled to remember anything definitive from the last 12 months, then it slowly came back. Your yearly questionnaire is strangely therapeutic as it’s a great reminder that I have in fact made and seen some shit…But to answer the question, being employed. The flexibility and time I thought I’d be giving up, that I assumed would be detrimental to my creativity, never came to fruition. Or at least it was completely counterbalanced by the reduced anxiety of finally having some financial stability. Realising that I don’t thrive being my own boss was a huge influence on my painting. Not needing to sell work to live has made me more selective about being in shows and I’ve been able to make whatever I want with less parameters. The irony being that when you make stuff for yourself without caring about how it will be received by others, people tend to respond positively, or at least the people whose opinions you actually care about do.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I’ve gotten a bit obsessed with @post_vandalism on Instagram. It’s a collection of works curated by Stefano Bardsley, thematically linked by their connection to graffiti, vandalism and their removal. I almost thought that the whole intersection between graff and fine art had been done to death, but I keep seeing stuff that holds my attention.

Ed Bats’ Italio OD, 2021 [Photo from Ed Bats’ Instagram]
Honorable mention to Ghostcat Mike Beer as well. His solo show was an amazing reflection of his obsession for detail, and the little collaborations within it made it extra special.

Jessie Rawcliffe’s collaboration with Ghostcat for Shadowtown in early 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Getting to paint a couple of walls this year was a huge step and something I’ve wanted to do for ages. I’m at that point where I’m pretty certain about what I’m capable of, but during both the Berlin Wall and NZ Opera pieces I had moments of ‘ah this looks like shit wtf am I doing’. Me, up a ladder, with a too small paint brush, rookie.

The Marriage of Figaro mural Jessie Rawcliffe painted in mid 2021 in collaboration with the NZ Opera

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I lost momentum in the middle of the year and took on miscellaneous freelance design projects (because if you stop moving you die right?) when I should have just kept painting.

Bloom n Grow Gal (@bloomngrowgal)

Bloom n Grow Gal painting in the BOXed Quarter to close out 2021

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

A huge influence on me this year would have to be the Green Lane community. I was so lucky that this was the first group of people I met when I came to Ōtautahi. Hanging out and drawing during the markets inspired me to start my pop-up art shows. Something I had enjoyed doing at university, I then had the opportunity and support to start it again here! I’ve made some truly amazing friends, found my creative drive and flare thanks to these guys. There will always be a big spot in my heart for Green Lane.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I have been so incredibly lucky to work and meet with extremely talented artists this year. To just pick one is hard! I have really loved what Harry King has been doing. I only met him and discovered his work this year at one of the Art Walls shows at The Welder. King did a series of four paintings for the show, one in particular really caught my eye. I honestly think my Grizzly’s bread intake increased over the period of time King’s work featured there. I had to get it, the painting of the cowgirl now hangs in my room, alongside a load of other epic pieces of work I have collected this year. King is also an amazing tattoo artist at Absolution in the Art Centre. I’ve loved seeing him develop this art of his work too.

One of Harry King’s works from Art Walls at The Welder, 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

These are the hardest questions ever, so mean! Haha… it’s so hard to just pick one. I think it’s going to have to be the three shows I put on this year, More the Show, PB n Jam the Show & Even More the Show (I know that’s technically three, I loved them all equally and can’t pick) All those emails, all the organising, all the art hanging into the early hours of the next day. Working and discovering all these incredible people in Ōtautahi. As well as having made some amazing friendships through the process I have an incredibly amazing art wall now at home full of pieces I have brought from the shows. It also really pushed me to discover something I was really passionate about.

Even More the Show at Clubhouse Creative, one of three shows Bloom n Grow Gal opened in 2021…

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I would change being on my phone just as much as I have been this year…even the past two years. Ever since this global pandemic started I have realised my screen time has increased by an embarrassing amount. I noticed after doing this my mood would be low and my desire to create minimal. Although I feel like some of my work produced was slightly fuelled by the pandemic, I definitely want to go into 2022 with less screen time… Live Laugh Love and all that.

Ikarus (@highdoctornick)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

I don’t know if I’m heavily influenced by outside factors tbh. I try to just do what I do. My crew, DTR, inspire me n so do the super active graffiti guys

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Ghostcat has definitely been on his grind, seeing his energy towards pursuing art full time is infectious and it’s hard not to love the builds he does. Vesal FOK owned the streets in Christchurch this year, hands down nobody put in more work than him.

Vesal was one of Ikarus’ favourites for 2021

The big TMD show up north looked awesome too. Special mentions to Race n Hoaks from A2D crew, they aren’t Christchurch guys but the work I’ve seen of theirs is super cool n I’ve definitely been interested in seeing what those guys come up with week to week.

The TMD crew roll call from the TMD: An Aotearoa Graffiti Story at the Dowse Gallery in Lower Hutt

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

It’s hard to beat South Sea Spray, even though that was all the way at the start of the year. Everything about it was just too next level. Also organising the wall n line up for the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit n getting a nice line up of different generations of Christchurch graffiti guys together.

The DTR Crew collab at South Sea Spray in early 2021, featuring Yikes, Dcypher and Ikarus [photo supplied by Brian ‘Rowee’ Rowe]
What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

The mandate. Fuck that shit. I’m not against vaccines but I am against the way this whole shit is unravelling.

Jacob Yikes (@jacobyikes)

A Pool Full of Deep Ends, a new work from Jacob Yikes in 2021

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

I’m not really sure to be honest, the last 2 years have been pretty chaotic and I’ve yet to really reflect on all of it but yeah, I struggle to narrow it down as I think everything good and bad influences everything I do in terms of my art.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I think I would have to say that Ghostcat takes the prize for that one this year, he’s on another level with his miniature works, some really impressive stuff for sure.

Ghostcat’s Volcano and Lava Bar build from Shadowtown [Photo credit Charlie Rose Creative]
What would you say has been your personal highlight?

In terms of personal highlights relating to painting I would say that some of the projects that myself and my crew have been a part of this year have been a lot of fun and we have some pretty rad projects lined up for early 2022 And yeah another would be the fact that I’m nearing completion on a large body of work that I have been working on for the last few years and I’m pretty excited to exhibit those paintings middle of next year.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Haha, I’m not sure if I would change anything. That probably seems kind of weird and yeah obviously Covid is a pain, but yeah, I’m not one to get strung out on shit I can’t change

Jonny Waters (@jonnywatersart)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Finding someone I truly love and adore. Art wise – Probably shedding a few more layers of caring about what others think about what I make and abstraction.

DOOR/SCOPE was part of Jonny Water’s push into abstraction in 2021

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Vesil, OXY and the FOK crew & Fiasko

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Producing Ōtepoti Hip-Hop Hustle and organising another banger Graff Jam for Ombrellos in Dunedin.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Painted more with the TiC homies.

Jenna Ingram (@jen_heads)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

The people. The Christchurch crews – music, art, hospo, retail. We are very lucky here! Some are artists I’ve admired and looked up to since 2006/7 and now work with, some I am now great friends with, some who have inspired me and some who have helped me out a lot. Some are amazing Fiksate supporters that we are honored to know and call friends too. It’s all about the people for me.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Lots of great art this year. Ghostcat. Jessie Rawcliffe. SlapCity Crew. Misery. Jess Johnson. Dr. Suits. Chimp. Askew One. Jasmine Gonzalez. Pener. The Dreamgirls (Xoë Hall, Gina Keil, Miriama Grace-Smith). Studio Soph. Laurie Steer. The DTR Riverside mural is pretty outstanding!

Birds of a Feather, one of the works from Chimp’s show Social Woes at Fiksate in October 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight? 

Ghostcat‘s ‘Shadow Town’ exhibition, Askew One & Jasmine Gonzalez‘s ‘Continuum’ exhibition, Askew One‘s mural that Nath organised. Chimp‘s ‘Social Woes’ exhibition. Ghostcat’s miniature Fiksate Gallery. Dr. Suits and Porta completing an amazing mural for Graffiato in Taupo. Getting a kitten. 

Dr Suits and Porta add some detail to Dr Suits’ mural at Graffiato (Image via Graffiato Taupo Street Art)

What one thing would you have changed from 2021? 

Can’t change the past man! So nothing! What’s done is done. Learn from it and move on.

Jacob Root/Distranged Design (@distrangeddesign)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021? 

I think the way the world currently is has given me a greater influence to become the best version of myself, not only in art but in all areas of my life. But yeah, I think it’s pushed my work more because I want to constantly be creating and it puts me in my own wee world.

A Thorn in the Roses was released as a fundraiser for Movember by Distranged Design

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

In my opinion I’ve loved seeing the work Daniel Arsham has been creating, it’s all just so different and the collaborations he’s been a part of have been insane!

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

I think the collaborations I’ve done, and those I have also organized that are in the pipeline are my proudest moments, it makes this career even more fun when you can work with others and bounce off ideas with like-minded creatives.

United, a Distranged Design collaboration with Hannah Jensen (@hannahjensenart) from 2021

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I’d love to have been able to travel, but that wasn’t possible! I’ve got something cool planned next year which I can’t wait for though!

Meep (@kophie_loaf)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Probably living through heaps of major world events at once, haha! Also seeing how much online and social media has played a part during these times and making people nuts.

Meeps work confronted the issues facing us all through 2021

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I follow so many different areas of art, fashion, graffiti, fine art, illustration etc., so I can’t really pin-point anything. But I will say that I am so proud of my friend McChesney (@mkaartist) for finally getting a tattoo apprenticeship, she has wanted it for the longest time, and I am sooo happy for her, she’s going to be so famous one day.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Probably the anti-racism Stand Up Event I organised alongside The Conscious Club and getting to be a part of the Hip Hop Summit was a great way to end the year. I have also had a lot of opportunities this year that I am very grateful for.

Meep takes stock of her character for the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit graffiti event

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I have had a lot of ups and downs the past 2 years, losing two of my family members and dealing with heaps of other life stuff while simultaneously living through huge world events. It’s been the hardest couple years of my life, so it can only go up from here hopefully! Haha!

Harry King (@atribecalledhaz)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Liv O’Callaghan (@livocallaghan) – she’s taken me under her wing and is showing me the ropes of the tattoo ship.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I’d have to say Josh Bradshaw’s barbed wire roses for the last Art Walls of the year.

Josh Bradshaw’s tiny roses made from recovered barbed wire were some of Harry King’s favourite pieces from 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Starting my tattoo apprenticeship.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

More Memphis Meltdowns!

Josh Bradshaw (@joshbradshaw_art_)

Photo credit: Mitch Barnard

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Biggest influence on me in 2021 has been my new job that I started working at in April. They have all sorts of woodworking machinery, laser cutters, sand blasting and metal engraving machines as well as a spray booth. It’s basically a McDonald’s playground for anyone that likes to make stuff. Being able to use all the gear for my own artwork unlocks a whole other realm of works that weren’t possible for me before.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Not me that’s for damn sure. Probs some random person overseas that has been shadow banned by the Zuck man on Instagram for no reason so that no one even sees their work anymore anyway.  But Levi Hawken and Dr Suits are steady favourites of mine locally speaking.

One of Levi Hawken’s concrete casts. Hawken is a favourite of Josh Bradshaw.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

A personal highlight was finally making my little barbed wire rose series (I picked a dozen but not for you) that I thought of ages ago but couldn’t get around to making it for most of the year. Felt good to not have that idea in my brain anymore. Also bought myself a sick old book press which is cool.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I dunno, maybe something about not making NFT’s trendy/ a hype beast, wait in line for an ugly cartoon of a monkey that matches your limited edition dunks so you can get into a club in Hollywood type of deal this year. It’s just not it.

Sofiya Romanenko (@chchasti)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

The Instagram’s tight grip on me has been as strong as ever this year, but in a far more productive way than before. I love to hate it and hate to love it, the broken window into the world of great talent from all of the corners of the world the tendrils of the internet can reach, which inspires me to degrade my artistic abilities on the daily, whilst simultaneously lighting enough fire under my ass to produce my own work.

Another thing, the influence of which this year cannot be understated, is skateboarding. Delving into the thick of it and finding how closely it is intertwined with everything I loved for years made it feel like I found the missing link between my long line of interests and helped me gain a whole new perspective on them, contributing greatly to my work.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I feel that with me being very new to the art scene I’m just barely scratching the surface of what this country has to offer, especially given a bit of stagnancy brought upon us all due to the pandemic, but among the many local artists I’ve been following this year my two favourites are: Miiekes, whose wild trash art lies near and dear to my rotten heart – I’ve been a fan of pretty much every piece she put out in 2021; and Cammy (@__cammy_h__), whose photography evokes just the right level of discomfort in its lonesome stillness – something I very much enjoy to channel through my own art as well.

Image from @__cammy_h__

Among foreign names I can mention Jerry Hsu, Trevor Hernandez, Kludge, Jason Gringler, and pretty much everyone in the post_vandalism Instagram account.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

It’s pretty tough to pin-point a particular highlight in a year that has become my life’s highlight in itself. I’ve gone through a lot of exciting and important changes in 2021, which finally made me feel like I’m exactly where I need to be, but I guess the common thread among all of these changes is finding the path to “myself”. Or rather, whatever I want this mysterious self to be.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

The only change I would’ve made is started taking antidepressants sooner – could’ve saved myself a lot of miserable days.

 

Lost Boy (@lostboy_chch)

Image from @lostboy_chch

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

In one word the biggest influence on me in 2021 has been: Life. My normal everyday life that occurs between wake and sleep. The people I meet, things I do, words I speak. Sometimes ideas enter into my mind and swim. I try to fish them, but can only catch so much in a day.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I have found throughout 2021 the works by the following humans have caused interest to pique in my mushy ape brain: JR, Banksy, beeple, Ron Hauge.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Personal highlight of this year… Becoming a regular member of SlapCity. Having a space to come together and splurge onto paper, stickers, and anything else, this is good. Creativity is shared by osmosis in them.

The Slap City crew on a mission. Image from @slapcity_chch

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Throughout 2021 I should have had more fruit.

Phew. The questions have been answered. Made my brain whirl for a while, now its stopped. I can finally rest.

Mark Catley (@mark_catley)

Bloom n Grow Gal and Mark Catley’s Three-Eyed Freaky Girl

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Covid and my little one, Alba. I had a lot of ideas and WIP’s this year, but with the whole Covid cloud over everything I’ve really just felt drained. So I’ve just tried to hang out with my 2 year old Alba and enjoy life.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I really love Askew One’s Innovate mural. It’s the most different thing I’ve seen around the streets this year. But everyone’s work is just getting better and better. All the new 3D / 2D art works are super cool and even my mum likes them, lol. I’m also amazed by the talent of Jessie Rawcliffe.

Askews Innovate mural at ARA

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

I had a lot of fun working with Rollickin Gelato at the start of the year…and it’s cool to see giant action figures up on the walls inside a shop.

Mark Catleys Wampa at Rollickin Gelato, one of several paste-up additions he made to the beloved gelato store

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

That Covid was gone for good… and that I could get my head around NFT’s and start selling them for bitcoin.

Bols (@bolsamatic)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

There have been a few key influences this year, even if I take the obvious pandemic-sized elephant out of the room. Getting older and taking on certain responsibilities as a father and a partner has been a big thing. There have also been so many people who have been influential, spending time with talented artists and rad folks has been undeniably impactful…

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Seeing Askew One paint his mural at ARA and working with Benjamin Work when he painted the floor work at the Canterbury Museum were highlights in terms of process and conceptualisation. Locally, Ghostcat has had an amazing year, the guy is always buzzing with ideas and to top it off he is just one of the best humans alive!

Ghostcat and Bols Soggy City Ciggies from mid 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Working on the Paste-Up Project and seeing the first installation by teethlikescrewdrivers was awesome, working on Benjamin‘s project was a highlight as well, observing someone I have admired for a long time in a celebrated location was pretty neat. The TMD show at the Dowse was phenomenal (writing a review of the show for Art New Zealand was fantastic as well). In terms of my own art, it is fresh, but I really liked the piece I painted at the Boxed Quarter right at the end of the year.

The floor-to-wall mural has become a striking element inside the Museum, while also adding a range of fascinating discourses.
Benjamin Works Motutapu II inside the Canterbury Museum

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I would have liked it to have felt longer, which sounds strange in hindsight, but the reality is that so much of the year was lost that it almost seems like we deserve some extra time…

Thanks to all the artists who contributed to this recap – as a city with so much talent, 2022 is sure to be exciting! Let us know what you loved from 2021 and what you are looking forward to in 2022 in the comments!

Author: Reuben Woods

Reuben is an art historian, writer and curator. His PhD thesis explored graffiti and street art within post-earthquake Christchurch. He also serves as creative director and lead tour guide for Watch This Space.

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