Flare Festival may have come and gone, but it’s legacy lives on – an array of amazing new murals and a bolt of energy in the local urban art scene putting graffiti and street art back in the limelight. The flurry of activity that saw a pop-up gallery, guided tours, panel talks, mural painting, graffiti jams and live painting sessions was a lot to take in – luckily we had our man, Centuri Chan, on hand to capture some of the magic…
Centuri Chan is an Otautahi-based creative, photographer, tour guide, designer and LEGO builder…
We were lucky enough to visit Jacob Yikes in advance of his new show, Even in Darkness, opening at Fiksate Gallery on April 1st, 2022. We talked about the inspiration and genesis of the show; a body of work begun in the first nationwide lockdown of 2020. Rather than an interview, we were inspired to write about the show and the questions that arise from a deeply personal yet incredibly complex and psychological series of paintings…
The paintings of Even in Darkness are not easy to grasp. They are mysterious, evocative, and unsettling. They are filled with complexities. They are chaotic and dizzying while eerily still and quiet. They feel deeply personal and somehow universal and ultimately, not of this world. They are confident and assured, and yet they give little away, meaning must be teased out. There are familiar, recognisable elements, but the wider scenarios, and the juxtaposition of the disparate parts, proves beguiling and elusive. They reach for something unknown; they require surrender.
Yet this dilemma is not solely faced by the audience. The artist has navigated a darkened path through the genesis of these paintings, at times guided by an unseen hand, understanding only the need for the paintings to emerge. Even in Darkness represents the artist’s journey, not answers.
Even in Darkness is a direct result of Yikes’ experimentation with the spiritual and medicinal potential of psychedelics. Researching the use of plant-based medicines, Yikes explored strong doses of mushrooms as a way to unlock experiences and in particular to question his own understanding of ego, consciousness and reality. In a darkened bedroom, Yikes underwent a life-changing experience, communing with other-worldly forms. The intense experimentation allowed Yikes to break himself down and piece everything back together; a new, clean version of himself reborn in the aftermath.
Powered by an energy beyond himself, painting became the process for Yikes to attempt to explore and decipher these essentially indescribable experiences. Painted through intuition and feeling rather than deep, focused thought, the paintings have guided Yikes, speaking to him and telling him when to work and when to step away, the artist willingly surrendering control.
Each painting in Even in Darkness has undergone the same process, beginning with the painstaking preparation of a pristine, smooth surface, layers of sanded gesso and paint creating a tabula rasa from which the image to spring forth. The blank slate a microcosm of the artist’s internal journey. With the artist working on multiple pieces simultaneously, each painting began to take shape, elements constantly built upon each other. There is a greater sense of spontaneity and fluidity in these works, an instability that suggests that these images are actively seeking form, attempting to piece themselves together, stewing, pulsing, growing and changing. This quality is evident in the lack of defined line work, the impulsive qualities of the materials and their application left to breathe and form, like smoke.
While less interested in representation, there are still recognizable elements across the paintings. In A Temple Full of Chemicals, a rooster serves to evoke ego, while in Death Came to Dinner, a black raven signifies death, both speaking to Yikes’ own experience of ego death. Grotesque faces and hands and beams of celestial light reaching across and through the scenes highlight the ethereal presence felt by the artist throughout his experience. Yet, other elements merely hint at something familiar; architectural and organic forms (notably mushrooms, the conduit that unlocked the artist’s access to these strange realms) amidst strange terrains provide a tether between the known and the unknowable. Similarly, the horizontal strips that occur across the works serve as a grounding device between this world and the domains beyond.
These paintings are challenging. They represent a challenge willingly taken on by an artist constantly pushing himself, both creatively and experientially. While they capture something beyond explanation, these paintings are also inviting. So, step into them, gaze deeply and explore, because even in darkness, there is light to be known.
Even in Darkness runs from April 1st, 2022 to April 30th, 2022 at Fiksate Gallery, 54 Hawdon Street, Sydenham
In preparation for his upcoming exhibition Even in Darkness (opening at Fiksate on April 1st, 2022), I was lucky enough to sit down with Jacob Yikes and chew the fat over not just the new work he was getting ready to present, but a range of topics. Music was inevitably on the table, and it has long been known how central music is to Yikes’ creative practice (from song titles used for shows and works, to his choice of accompanying soundtracks for exhibitions), serving as a constant companion to his work.
When I asked him to put together a playlist for Tune! he jumped at the chance and sent me a list of a dozen songs within a day. Then he sent me a new list the following day. It was clear how much of a role music plays in his process and life. The music is, much like his art, evocative and transcendental, smooth and yet dark. From Miles Davis to Mara TK and a choice cut of independent hip hop and jazzy down beats, this is a truly killer playlist that needs no lengthy introduction…
Mara TK –Highly Medicated
Blockhead – Give Them Their Flowers
Khruangbin X Knxwledge – Dearest Alfred (My Joy)
Blu – amnesia
Skyzoo – Free Jewelry
Med, Blu, Madlib, feat. Anderson Paak – The Strip
Ivan Ave –Phone Won’t Charge
eLZhi, feat. Royce da 5’9 – Motown 25
Oh No- Elegant Smoke
@peace –Fine Night
The Doppelgängaz –Boston Beard
Miles Davis – Blue in Green
Even in Darkness, a selection of paintings by Jacob Yikes will run from April 1 to April 30 at Fiksate Gallery, 54 Hawdon Street, Sydenham
Next up on Tune!, our ever-expanding playlist of the music that inspires our creative friends, is Dr Suits. If Dr Suits is painting in his studio space at Fiksate, chances are there is a classic Reggae, Ska, Dub or Rocksteady vinyl playing. With an impressive collection of vintage and re-released vinyl (trips to Ride On Super Sound are a common occurrence), the music is a strong influence on his creative process, setting the mood for for his work and manifesting in various ways. For Tune! Dr Suits takes us on a trip through these vital and influential genres…
Music is a fairly important part of my creative process. I use music to help me get in a calm and consistent frame of mind. To do this, I like to play vinyl, predominantly Dub, Rocksteady, Ska and Reggae. The older the better. What I like about this music is its experimental and honest imperfections you can hear in the music. The artists are more about exploring a concept rather than trying to perfect a composition. Plus I generally love any old Jamaican music!
Playing vinyl means I’m engaged in the act of listening, its much more tactile. I like the physicality of flicking through the crate and experiencing the artwork, opening the cover, admiring the details on the insides and the sleeves. Each record will have 4-6 tracks on one side, this means every 20-30 mins of listening, in no time, I’m back there exploring the music again. So, although I like the tunes, I also love the vintage graphics, photography and bizarre outfits of early avant-garde experimentalists of Jamaica.
It’s hard to pick 5 albums, so I’m going to aim to cover the genres listed above…
Jackie Mittoo – The Keyboard King
The Skatalites – African Roots
Lee Scratch Perry – Cloak and Dagger
Studio one – Rocksteady Got Soul
Trojan Records – Rudeboy Rumble
Tune! is an ever-growing playlist of music that inspires our artist friends!
Friday the 4th of March was a busy night, with two events marking the opening of significant urban art events in Ōtautahi, signalling an exploding energy in the local scene. First up was the opening event for the Flare Street Art Festival, held at the pop-up exhibition space on High Street, which is host for all the information you will need about the festival and a collection of work by Flare artists and a number of local stars. Across town at TyanHAUS, Slap City’s International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival was also celebrating it’s opening night, with the interior exhibition of work from across the globe completely taking over the space. We were lucky enough to make it along to both events, with a palpable sense of excitement permeating both spaces…
With both events taking place in the red traffic light setting, it was great to see the organisers ensuring people were masked up (except for a quick photo here and there!) and that group sizes were kept appropriate!
Flare Street Art Festival opening event @ Flare Central, Friday, 4th March, 2022
Beginning with a opening address by Mayor Liane Dalziel, the Flare Festival launched on Friday (although artists had been at work on their walls since Wednesday the 2nd) at the Flare Central pop-up. The exhibited works ranged from Flare headline artists to a roster of local talent such as Chile One, Nick Lowry, Jacob Yikes, Ghostcat, Jen Heads and more. A relaxed vibe highlighted the feeling that such festivals bring, with new friendships and old connections re-established. Check out flare.nz for the festival’s full programme
Slap City presents The International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival @ TyanHAUS, Friday, 4th March, 2022
The Slap City collective have been an unmissable presence in the local scene over the last two years, their widespread community ensuring Ōtautahi has a thriving and diverse array of art in the streets. The International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival harnesses that diversity and community into an impressive exhibition and programme. Completely taking over the TyanHAUS space, the challenge proved to be where to start! Diving into the cacophonous selection of paste-ups, examing the sticker bombs or considering the Hello We Are exhibition, there was no shortage of attention grabbing activity! Follow the event on Facebook for more of the festival’s programme…