Tom Kerr’s Nebraska @ Absolution

I remember seeing Tom Kerr’s tattoo flash drawings illustrating lines from Bruce Springsteen’s iconic 1982 album Nebraska on Instagram around two years ago. As a long time fan of the musician, I was an immediate intrigued. The album, famously recorded in Springsteen’s bedroom on a four track recorder, stands as one of the New Jersey native’s most celebrated works, devoid of the stadium rock scale and instead focussed on Springsteen’s intimate Americana story telling. I reached out to Tom at the time and he told me of his plan to draw imagery for every song, I was excited to see what would come from the project. It may have taken some time, but finally the suite is ready for exhibition as a complete body of work. As you can imagine, I was excited to sit down with Tom and we sermonised about Springsteen, Nebraska and the process of making these works…

I have always found, depending on prevailing tastes, that it can sometimes be hard to admit that you are a Springsteen fan, you never know response you are going to get! For some people, it’s still the flannel shirt and Born in the USA, but there is, of course, this whole other side to Springsteen. How did you kind of come across his music?

My dad is a huge fan, so growing up, Springsteen classics were always playing, especially Born in the USA and Born to Run and stuff, but I think getting older and being a young adult, I just resented Springsteen and thought for so long it was just dad music. Then my really good friend Dan, who probably has the best taste in punk music I know, was like, have you listened to Nebraska? I was like, nah, I don’t really rate any of Springsteen’s music, it’s all dad rock or whatever. I think he said something like, forget everything you know about Springsteen before you listen to this album, it’s not a big band, there are no saxophone solos or type of shit. I was really into lo-fi music, recorded songs, and I got more and more into that and through that I went back to Springsteen’s wider catalogue and listened to Born to Run and that’s when I fell in love with all the classics. You get to an age when you realise the music your parents loved is good. As a kid, you push so hard to be like, I don’t want to like the music my parents liked, I’ve got better taste than they do. But then you grow up and realize that Elton John and Springsteen and Cat Stevens, and all those dudes are flawless musicians…

The idea of Springsteen being ‘dad rock’ was so strongly entrenched from his mega star status in the 80s, but I was always more into his early, kind of romantic street poet aesthetic, the storytelling, the Magic Rat and stuff like that, and then Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River and eventually Nebraska continue that storytelling vein in a darker tone. Born to Run is about escaping, but those later albums are about being trapped, or what happens when you don’t get out, and I think as you get older, there’s something about that idea…

With Nebraska, the songs are so well done, you listen to Johnny 99 or Highway Patrolman and they go for three minutes and you know everyone in the song, you know about their dreams, their aspirations. The song ends and you are like, how have you painted such a picture with like three chords and just like talking about these guys? He tells us how characters went to war, how the farm didn’t work, about having a brother who is a loose cannon and shit, I couldn’t tell someone that much information in just three minutes…

They are short, yet they are almost cinematic in scope and vision. The other interesting thing is Springsteen’s influence on the New Jersey punk scene, right? The Dropkick Murphys, The Gaslight Anthem, he’s had this interesting standing where the broader public have this perception, but the people in the know have a different understanding…  

I think it comes from digging a little deeper. Born in the USA was his commercial success, it was in the 80s and there was so much marketing when they made that album, they made him shave and go to the gym to look like a working-class farm boy or whatever. But in reality, if you look at photos from Greetings from Asbury Park, he’s wearing a beanie, he has long hair and is wearing bell bottoms and shit, and he’s the complete opposite of what most people think of Springsteen…

The ripped arms, the sleeveless flannel shirt, the headband, but then you go back to that earlier ‘Skeeter’ persona, the leather jacket and the oversized beanie, the scraggly beard, hanging around in Asbury Park, playing bars like The Stone Pony…

The E Street Shuffle kind of stuff…

Born in the USA is interesting though, it is really misunderstood, it is actually an album that’s way darker than everyone perceives, there is actually a kinship with Nebraska

Nebraska was all demos. I think they did The River and they toured it and then Bruce wanted to break off from the E Street Band and become a solo musician or he wanted to break off from the concept of what The E Street Band were doing, so he recorded these demos and when he took them to the label, they were like, this isn’t happening, so he went back in the studio and did Born in the USA. In the Born in the USA tours they do live versions of Johnny 99 and a few more of the demos that were in Nebraska actually ended up on Born in the USA, like Working on the Highway. I think they tried them all as full band songs and half of them just flopped…

Born in the USA was written to be much more sparse, right? Originally the songs were stripped down versions, the title song was more bluesy and, of course, No Surrender is the most punk song in his catalogue…

We learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned in school… So good!

But it’s lost in that full band bombast…

Even the song Born in the USA, when you ask a person on the street if they know the lyrics, most people are going to say, I was born in the USA and I was sent down to kill the yellow man… It sounds really redneck, like I’m proud to be an American and shoot Commies and all that sort of shit, but then you listen to it and it’s like, I lost my job at the plant, I came back and no one thinks I’m a hero, all my mates are dead, they didn’t come back, it’s the same narrative as Forrest Gump

Born in the USA was co-opted by Ronald Reagan and the Conservatives as a rallying slogan and it has just never escaped that association. Although, since Springsteen came back with The Rising, and his role post as a sort of post-9/11 poet laureate figure, his politics have been made much clearer. His work has always fluctuated between big arena sounds and more intimate albums, like The Ghost of Tom Joad and Devils and Dust, but Nebraska definitely stands out…

Apparently, when they finally got into the record pressing stages of Born in the USA, he still had the tapes for Nebraska and every single time he got into a room with an engineer, he was like, we’ve got to put it out. I think they finally agreed to do a small run as a mini album, but it was recorded so poorly that every time they tried to cut it to a record, the lathe would bounce out of the record. They went through like five engineers or something to finally actually mix it properly because it was just like boombox recordings and the mics were too loud or there was not enough going on…

As a musician yourself, does the story behind the making of Nebraska, which Springsteen recorded on a four track in his bedroom, add to the allure of the album?

Yeah definitely. There’s so much information around and half of its fake, half of it is bullshit. The best story I’ve heard about it was that it was recorded on a Tascam four track, so to bounce it down to tape, you then record it on a boombox or a normal two track or stereo tape recorder. So, Springsteen bounced it down from a four track to a boombox and then he’d take that boom box out on a row boat and go fishing in an estuary. Apparently the boombox fell into the water and he waited for the tide to go out to get it back. The boombox was fucked but the tape was fine, so they washed out the tape and that’s why it’s got so much filth and grit to the music. It’s a great story, but I have no faith in it being real…

A real fishing tale…

Four tracks have a tape speed, so if you have a 40-minute tape, if you record on half speed, you get like 80 minutes. A lot of people think that Springsteen had the tape speed like just slower, but then whoever mixed it down for him, knocked it back to 12 o’clock, so if you try and play guitar to the songs, they are like a quarter step out of tune, and not in E or E flat, but like halfway between, which gives it this weird quality. I think people subconsciously resonate with it because it’s not an E chord or an E Flat chord like most bands would write music in, it’s something slightly different…

So, you play his songs?

Originally, I thought it would be cool to put on the show and have a different musician play each song from the album. I’ve got Johnny 99 and Reason to Believe down, but the rest of them are so hard to play. I don’t know if it’s because he recorded the guitars and then did vocals over the top, or it’s just his style, but there are some sentences I just can’t get through being able to strum it right, especially Reason to Believe and the bit about the preacher standing with the Bible and the congregation’s gone home, it bounces up and down differently to the way you strum a guitar. It’s probably just his style, but every time I get to that mark of the song, I fuck it up, it’s so hard…

So, the exhibition is based on your response to each song?

Kind of, I’ve basically just drawn the image each song painted in my head. When I drew them, I wasn’t tattooing yet, I was still building, but I would draw after work three nights a week and I eventually just ran out of ideas. I had listened to the album a couple times and it hadn’t really resonated yet, but I valued Dan’s taste in music so much that I was like, it has to be good if he recommended it. I ended up working on a job by myself and instead of using a work radio I just wore headphones and I listened to the album. I used to always skip Nebraska [the first song and title track] because Atlantic City is such a banger, but I finally listened to Nebraska with headphones and the lyrics were clearer and the song is just about a guy and his girl killing ten people and getting the chair. I just thought it would be pretty cool to draw a guy sitting on an electric chair with his girl sitting on his lap. I was drawing so much after work and I just needed more briefs, so I was like oh, I’ll try to Atlantic City next week and then after I’d done three songs, I was like, well I have to do the whole record now and then they just sat for ages…

It became a ritual…

Every week, yeah. Instead of listening to the album, I would just listen to the one song I had to do that week, all week, to really try and close my eyes and think what the snapshot would be.

What was that process? Did you find yourself gravitating towards types of imagery or certain phrases?

Yeah, certain phrases…

Was there a consistency across the phrasing that you were picking out of each song? It seems to me a pretty cohesive album…

I think probably being a New Zealander and listening to songs written by a Jersey boy recorded on tape or whatever, lots of things in my head kind of had that Sopranos or old American movie type stuff. For Mansion on the Hill, I just had this big American, gothic-like Addams Family mansion…

There is some really memorable imagery throughout the album, like in Atlantic City: “Well, they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night…”

So good. There’s a really good newspaper photo of the Chicken Man’s house, his front door is like Ground Zero, like there’s just weather boards everywhere. Originally, I thought the Chicken Man was a go-to fried chicken spot and they blew it up because it had been abandoned or fallen apart, like the Santa Monica pier where the Z Boys surfed, which had fallen into such disrepair the Fire Department never showed up. I was like oh, the Chicken Man must be a restaurant, and then I read about the crime families and stuff, and it’s actually a guy…

Were you doing research to inform the imagery as well, or were you wanting a more pure response to the lyrics?

I think with the tattoo style and so much being reference based, I was trying to find actual references to draw on and still trying to capture the imagery from the song. The drawing I did for Johnny 99, I found a shot from a hostage scene in a movie, but then I had to draw one of them as Johnny 99, and one of them is a gas station attendant, so I had to research clothing a gas station attendant would have worn in America in the 50s or whatever, and try and make it look a little bit old school. So that was fun, having the image in your head and trying to draw it and portray it as more than a feeling because at the end of the day, it isn’t actually an image, it’s just an overall vibe that you’ve got in your mind…

Did you revisit any over time?

They were drawn and that was it. I think too, because the idea was to do one a week, and because I’m always trying to find shortcuts, one of the songs I didn’t initially rate that much, like My Father’s House, I would have been quite happy to skip it and just do it at the end, but I just knew if I did all of them and left that one until the end, I would have just skipped it and never done it. As a result, having to listen to My Father’s House for a whole week, by the end, I was like, this is such a great song…

So, when you were originally drawing them, were you drawing them as tattoo flash?

Yeah, the expectation was just that people would get them tattooed. People responded to them really well, but no one actually got them tattooed. I drew them ages ago, so I thought I will see what happens, if I tattoo them or not. But then a couple of years ago I was like, I need to do a zine and an exhibition. The space at the shop [Absolution] was already booked out for like a year, but I saw that the 40th anniversary of the album was coming up in two years’ time so, I thought, two years is ages away but it would work. It flew by because of Covid, so I was like oh shit, two years already! Time to do the show…

It feels like a traditional tattoo style is a really good fit with the album. I know the most immediate association is the black and white album cover image, but if you were to turn Nebraska into an art style, I kind of think it would be black and white photography and traditional tattoo flash…

At the time, my main medium was a Sharpie pen and black colouring pencil. It still is now, but instead of using a Sharpie I use a point 6 Artliner, so it’s just a little bit smaller. But the thing I love about a Sharpie, especially for text, is that if you make the text too small, things like a lowercase E, get the bleed in the eye of the E and it becomes solid, it’s the same as if you were using a typewriter and the ink was too runny, all those things close up. In traditional tattooing, because the lines are so bold, if you do them too small the lines go close together, so all the designs have to be very contrasting to the skin that you don’t tattoo, so all the lines have to be far apart. So, for instance, if you are tattooing a hand, you don’t bother doing all four fingers because you know it will just blow out and become black, so you imply the form. On Nebraska because a lot of the songs are demos, a lot of the details are implied; the harmonica solos, and you know when he does those high pitch screams, I feel like a lot of those are his way of saying this is where the sax solo would go… Because it’s just a tape recording, there’s no thought put into it. I will play four bars, and I will whistle, or I’ll play harmonica, and in the studio we can decide whether it’s going to be sax or synth. That’s kind of the beauty, because its good enough. People will be led to believe it’s a conscious decision and it’s the same with tattooing with a really big needle, you are kind of governed by how much freedom you have, so the decision you make is that less is more, I guess. You can sort of imply something in same the way you would imply a sax solo by just humming, and people will go I love how you are humming that bit and you go, I didn’t know what else to do…

When you look at the works now and when you think about displaying them, does it make you more aware of the album’s narrative?

I think what hammered that home was the introduction I wrote for the zine. I wrote it as a dedication to everyone who is described in the album; everyone who ever felt like going on a killing spree with their girlfriend, or wanted to live in the big mansion on the hill, or fell out with their parents and that sort of shit. The last song is Reason to Believe, so it comes around to a dedication to all these people who went through all this shit and somehow, even though you are at the end of your rope, there’s something to believe in that is bigger than we all are, and then the album just ends. So, there is that conscious story-telling that is so good, you can’t believe that the sequencing hasn’t had a heap of thought put into it, we’ll close it out with this song about faith, and he doesn’t even mention that it’s in God, he just mentions that there is something that makes you get out of bed each day…

That reason can be so many things; the person you wake up next to, the vision of that house you grew up in, everything that precedes that song can be one of those reasons to believe…

Like in Open All Night, I drew a nice car, but he talks about having this car up on blocks, working on it. It’s probably a shitter, but he loves it and that’s probably his reason to believe, this rad car…

Cars are such an important image in Springsteen’s songs…

Nebraska is about the first ever spree killer, the first person to kill in a car crossing state lines. In his autobiography, Springsteen talks about how his Nana or someone told him in an electrical storm you can’t get electrocuted in a car because of the rubber tyres, so in the book, he’s like, when I was a little kid whenever there was a lightning storm I would run out of the house right into the car, and then I proceeded to write songs about automobiles for the next 40 years of my life. His whole career comes back to this story of cars being like a saviour…

So, what do people need to know about the show?

It opens at Absolution on Friday the 30th of September, which is also the 40th anniversary of Nebraska, technically it would be Saturday, Friday in America, but yeah, it starts at 6pm. I’m thinking I might give away a prize for the best Springsteen outfit, but I’m going to try and encourage people to think outside the box and not dress like Born in the USA Springsteen, which I think is the whole point, educating people that there is a Springsteen behind the Boss. Like Dan said, forget everything you know about Springsteen, this is the record. If you don’t like Springsteen yet, hopefully this one is the one…

I’m not sure how I’m going to lay it out yet. It’s rare to not see a tattoo artist use an iPad now, even I use an iPad, but back in the day, you used to do everything on tracing paper first, then you would do a nice one on paper. I’ve still got the tracing paper drawings from these works, so I’m thinking, because Nebraska was a demo album, I might hang all the final artworks and then around the corner I might hang all the tracing paper works and the lino cuts and all that sort of stuff. I was thinking I might use a string line to line everything up but I might leave it up, highlighting that Nebraska was a working idea that wasn’t supposed to be finalised and left like that…

What’s the one line from Nebraska that you think best sums it up?

I probably change my mind every day when I listen to it, but right now it’s probably in Reason to Believe:

Take a baby to the river, Kyle William they called him

Wash the baby in the water, take away little Kyle’s sin

In a whitewash shotgun shack an old man passes away

Take his body to the graveyard and over him they pray

It all happens in the same breath of air, someone’s in, someone’s out. We are all just doing it. Reason to Believe is probably my favourite song on the album, as much as I love Atlantic City, but Reason to Believe is so good, there’s the line about the girl waiting for Johnny to come back, there’s the wedding, the preacher standing with the bible but the bride didn’t show and the congregation’s gone home. It’s a tough one, actually maybe it’s the opening line:

Seen a man standin’ over a dead dog lyin’ by a highway in a ditch

He’s lookin’ down kinda puzzled, pokin’ that dog with a stick

Got his car doors flung open he’s standin’ out on Highway thirty-one

Like if he stood there long enough that dog’d get up and run

It’s a vivid image, right?

It’s such a wicked lyric, like did he see that or just make it up? I like the idea of someone just standing there being like, c’mon, get up man, this can’t be it… It might come back to the death of the American dream, poking it with a stick is not going to get it going again, you just have to get back in your car and keep driving.

But it’s the reason to believe, it might not get up and run, but you can hold onto something, hope is always there…

Or you could be the dog, hoping someone might poke you and not just keep speeding past…

Tom Kerr’s Nebraska opens at Absolution Tattoo and Body Piercing, 6pm, Friday 30th September, 2022.

Follow Tom on Instagram

Auspicious Victory – Hostile Body @ XCHC

I became aware of Hostile Body, an exhibition of digital art produced under the identity of Auspicious Victory, through somewhat cryptic social media buzz. I had recently been grappling with the rising profile of digital art through the lens of crypto currency, skeptical of the way digital art was being represented as PFPs and 8-Bit illustrations. But Hostile Body was presenting a much more considered, conceptual and interesting approach, layered in intense visuals and tied to reality in haunting way, it suggested the best of digital practice. With the exhibition opening approaching, I was fortunate enough to talk to Auspicious Victory and find out more about the concept…

How would you describe Auspicious Victory – is it an identity, an alias, is it something more conceptual? How has Auspicious Victory evolved over time?

Gender neutral and identity fluid (they/them), Auspicious Victory can be anyone or no-one. Auspicious Victory comes from Amarapura “The house of the immortals” and preaches simulation theory as fact. Part designer, marketer, performance artist, techno prophet, visual artist, and activist all in one. Auspicious Victory’s true identity is irrelevant as they will tell you. Auspicious Victory will eventually be “guided” by a collective of individuals who wish to support their cause, this format is a DAO, a De-centralised Autonomous Organisation, breaking new ground, with the crypto world coming together with the art world to create the first de-centralised artist.

Hostile Body is described as a “multi-sensory” exhibition of various digital mediums, how long has Auspicious Victory been exploring digital art and what approaches are most interesting to them?

Auspicious Victory in this simulation was given their first PC in 1983. They learned to code in BASIC, their first program was an animation and they have created digital art ever since. In the exhibition, there is a piece of artwork created in 1999 that has never been seen before. 

Auspicious Victory responds to stimuli of all kinds and likes to collaborate with other artists. Working this way brings new perspectives and builds community along the way. The approach they are currently taking is to de-centralise as much as possible.

Deep State IX 2 E, 2021, stretched canvas, 1200mm x 1700mm

The rising profile of digital art has been tied to the cryptocurrency movement, but that unfairly obscures the longer histories of digital creativity, what does Auspicious Victory see as the biggest benefits of digital art making?

Yes, crypto is responsible for a lot of things but digital art is not one of them. Digital art was made before Auspicious Victory even entered this simulation. Digital art is anything shown on a digital screen. It’s that simple. Whatever screen you are looking at, a media professional or artist created it. There is so much media to choose from at present that we don’t even notice art when we see it.

Wow, the benefits… there are so many, where do you start? The benefits for oneself are instant gratification but this can also become a distraction. Digital art is easily shared and can be much more affordable than traditional fine art. Also you can weave deep messages and interactive experiences into digital art. You can express yourself in ways previously unimaginable. It’s corny but true, with digital art the only limit is your imagination. Digital tools are much more accessible, soon to be a commodity/service and allow anyone using a digital device with a screen to make art. 

Hostile Body presents the experiences and extremes of chronic and mental illness, has it been conceived as a very personal story or a more universal exploration? What threads have come out most clearly and how have they been explored through the digital mediums deployed? 

Auspicious Victory’s experience in this simulation is not exclusively unique. The themes are universal. Auspicious Victory encountered trauma on their journey, from this they sensed emotional and mental injuries, the data could be called pain.

In many of the pieces, the floating objects represent an aspect of an extreme emotional state, both low and high. These floating objects are held in stasis effectively freezing the emotion in time to observe and interpret.

The mood is largely determined by the colour palette; sometimes warm, bright and vivid colours suggest the high of a hypo-manic episode and conversely the darker more turbulent palettes allude to darker states.

The abundance of colour and texture in these works are a facsimile for mental over-stimulation. 

The landscape quietly or violently makes its presence felt in the background, reminding the viewer and the artist that storms are always brewing. But as all things, these too shall pass.

Deep State VIII U, 2021, stretched canvas, 1200mm x 1500mm

The exhibition is to be staged at the XCHC, how much of a challenge was ensuring the venue could successfully host the range of art? How vital was it that the venue was right?

No challenge at all. Auspicious Victory is not alone, there is a team of believers investing their time into similar projects and crossing paths with those talented people has been serendipitous and has led to creative and practical solutions. Auspicious Victory is grateful and acknowledges those who have gracefully stepped into the fray.

The venue is essential as most galleries wouldn’t do what Auspicious Victory want’s to do. XCHC is the perfect venue for this show. It’s a flexible white box. It’s intimate. It’s authentic and connected to a vibrant creative community. And its not afraid to try something new.

 Hostile Body opens 9th September 2022 at The XCHC, 376 Wilsons Road. Details and limited tickets are available here: https://events.humanitix.com/hostile-body-exhibition?accesscode=IBELIEVE

For more information about Hostile Body, visit the exhibition website: www.hostilebody.art

Benjamin Work and Brendan Kitto – MOTUTAPU @ Te Uru – Waitakere Contemporary Gallery

MOTUTAPU, a collaborative project by Tāmaki Makaurau artists Benjamin Work and Brendan Kitto, is the conclusion of a four-year exploration of the shared histories of Motutapu, or sacred islands, throughout Moana Oceania, including Tongatapu, Rarotonga and at the entrance to the Waitematā Harbour in Tāmaki. These sanctuary spaces, gateways for voyagers departing from and arriving at the mainlands, were where the lifting of tapu and making things noa (free from the restrictions of tapu) occurred, connecting navigators with their ancestors and kainga. For the artists, who travelled to three of the Motutapu locations and engaged with key knowledge holders, the journey became deeply personal, connecting to their own genealogy, centering on reconnection and reconciliation, joining communities across Moana Oceania through time and space.

The exhibition, built around the juxtaposition of Work’s evocative paintings (including the hanging Piha Passage and free-standing Mata Pā screens) and Kitto’s photographs of Motutapu ki Tāmaki Makaurau, Motutapu ki Tongatapu and Motutapu ki Raraotonga, is currently on show at Te Uru – Waitakere Contemporary Gallery (11 June – 11 September 2022), and includes the launch of an accompanying publication MOTUTAPU.

All photos by Sam Hartnett.

Josh Bradshaw – Things I Thought You’d Say or Don’t @ Absolution

Josh Bradshaw has undergone a significant creative transformation over the last few years, leaving behind a recognisable and popular aesthetic in favour of a style that feels both more honest and meaningful – gone is the pop and in is a punk-infused, re-worked and confrontational body of work. This approach, drawn on the experience of the urban environment, manifests in techniques from collage and printmaking to three-dimensional constructions and spaces in between, reflecting a creative freedom and palpable physicality. His latest show, Things I Thought You’d Say or Don’t, at Absolution, is the first chance for him to present a cohesive collection under this new direction. We took the opportunity to catch up with the artist and find out more…
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How did this show come about? It has been a while since your last solo show and your work has undergone some significant changes, what has been the internal process to make work that is perhaps a better reflection of you?

I got lucky with Absolution having their planned exhibition for June/July fall through last minute so with short notice I put my hand up to fill that slot. It’s been three years since my last show I’m pretty sure. Funnily enough, the last one was at Absolution too, so having my first show under my real name, making work in a completely different style, it feels right to have it in that space. I think most of the internal processes in the early stages of the research, developing concepts, mapping out ideas and weaving the work together to create a full show haven’t changed for me at all, it’s when I start physically making the work that the differences start to show up. I don’t have to do any mental gymnastics or justify to myself any compromises of my original ideas or warp any of the work to fit a particular style that I used to feel trapped by. Now it’s a much more free flowing and natural process. I’m not limiting myself and the work can go wherever it wants and needs to, I’m just along for the ride.

What was the genesis this specific body of work?

This body of work, which is still ongoing, came about because of the perfect storm of how much time I’ve spent living and walking around the city over the last however many years, how my brain works when I’m falling down the rabbit hole of over thinking about how much of a backstory and future a padlock or brick or window of a construction site that I’ve just walked past could possibly have. The curiosities, attitudes, mysteries and visual elements that come from all of my interests that I’ve had my whole life, like skateboarding, punk music and compulsively having to make stuff, added in the mix is how you get to this latest body of work.

You are adopting a range of techniques, is that about seeking something, or just a reflection of creative freedom?

Both for sure, I really enjoy the act of the reveal of printmaking and repeatedly trashing and scanning things and all of the not knowing what’s going to show up when printed or not. The element of surprise often determines what techniques need to be applied or removed on the next layer. With this loose approach comes that sense of freedom which in turn encourages even more experimentation. It’s a fun, self-feeding cycle. The themes that run through the show itself are based off a wide range of scenarios and materials from the city, which lends itself well to using a bunch of different techniques also.

Josh Bradshaw, Collage #3, mixed media collage, 2022

Tell me about the title for the show, it is evocative, but when you think about it, it doesn’t quite make sense, or at least, it doesn’t read quite right…

I made a lot of this work in reference to not only how we view things ideologically but also physically. Down to that moment of hesitation where stop and go back for that little look through the fence or broken window. The title of the show is an example of that little double take you have to do to see what’s going on. Things I Thought You’d Say Or Don’t is the awkward, only partially seen, peer through the fence version of “The things I thought that the city was saying/showing to me or maybe what it wasn’t actually saying”.

Black and white is predominant, is that intentional symbolically or a result of the techniques?

The lack of colour is a bit of the result of some of the techniques, like flattening out a collage with a black and white scan but I use it mostly to intentionally remove any of the context of the elements I use from the city. I feel that it encourages people to see something in a new light. Once you remove something from its intended purpose you can run wild creating a new life for that thing.

Do you make these works with the idea of exhibiting? I feel like they have a sense of fitting in various spaces/sites, like they don’t need white walls to exist, they have the practicality of punk in a way…

With the work being based on how we view our city and things from it, I think it would be just as interesting to see the work on a gallery wall as it would be to have it put up on a street wall or construction fence. There’s something satisfying about the idea of all the references and elements being taken and given new context and then being put back up in the city. I did however feel that it was about time to have a show again and as long as I got to present the work as a collection I was going to be happy. The black walls of Absolution is just the added bonus, I’m stoked they had the space open up for me.

Lastly, when and where do people need to be for the show?

The people need to be at Absolution on Friday the 3rd of June at 6-8pm to see the opening of the show. If you can’t make that date, the show is up for a few weeks and if you can’t make that either then feel free to just open your eyes the next time you are walking through the city, the exhibition has been on for the last 10 plus years…

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Things I Thought You’d Say Or Don’t opens 6pm, Friday, June 3rd at Absolution in The Arts Centre

For more of Josh’s work follow him on Instagram

Showtime!

Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland proved the place to be on April 8th, with two exhibition openings drawing crowds. We happened to be around and managed to catch both The Main Line, a collaboration between Ōtautahi artist Ghostcat and 27 Aotearoa graffiti artists that served as a love letter to the iconic Spacerunner train carriage, and Shiny Things, a collaboration between Hannah Maurice and Tanja McMillan (known to many as Misery) that created a beguiling world inside The Mercury Plaza gallery space on Cross Street (just behind the famed Karangahape Road). While very different shows, one grounded in history, the other mythology, both were well worth the attention…

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The Main Line – Ghostcat x Aotearoa Graffiti Artists, Limn Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, 8th April, 2022

Inside Ponsonby Road’s Limn Gallery, a two metre long replica of a Spacerunner, one of New Zealand’s, and New Zealand graffiti’s most iconic train carriages, takes centre stage. Carefully laid out on top and along the walls either side are even smaller versions of the carriages, rusted and covered in tiny recreations of the graffiti that would fly by when the Spacerunners were still in circulation around Aotearoa. The tiny carriages were built by Ghostcat in his typically detailed style, before artists spanning the country and generations, contributed designs, from Opto, Vents, Lurq, Morpork and Phat 1 to Wayst, Togo, Meep, Vesil and Siar267…

Shiny Things – Hannah Maurice and Tanja McMillan, The Mercury Plaza, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, 8th April, 2022

The Mercury Plaza, home to a collective of creatives, where visitors can find food, art, clothing and, if they fancy it, get a tattoo. On April 8th, The Mercury Plaza welcomed guests to the opening of Shiny Things, a collaborative world building by Hannah Maurice and Tanja McMillan (Misery); an exploration of the sacred female and the conscious/unconscious that employs a range of approaches to engage the senses. From McMillan’s paintings to installations that seemingly serve as shrines, an air of ceremony palpable. Opening night was busy, with a moving karakia adding to the resonance of the works that reveled in dance, ritual, myth and dreams…

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Do you have a show coming up and want to let us know? Email hello@watchthisspace.org.nz and fill us in with the details!

Showtime! Jacob Yikes – Even in Darkness, Fiksate Gallery, April 1st, 2022

Jacob Yikes latest body of work, Even in Darkness, was unveiled at Fiksate Gallery on Friday, April 1st. The first solo show for the artist since 2018’s Bad Company (held at Fiksate’s former Gloucester Street premises), a reflection of the long road these paintings followed to realisation. A stunning collection of gestural, detailed, evocative and deeply resonant works, the crowd were enthralled by the incredibly honest, yet mysterious paintings. Drawn from the personal exploration of psychedelics to expand his consciousness and break his sense of ego, the paintings are an otherworldy experience…

All photos courtesy of Fiksate Gallery.

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Even in Darkness runs until April 30th at Fiksate Gallery, 54 Hawdon Street, Sydenham

Showtime!

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!

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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…

 

 

 

Showtime!

This is the year that was – An exhibition of 2021 A.D. by PIM @ The Art Hole, Tuesday, 22nd February, 2022

The current Covid situation made the opening of This is the year that was by local artist PIM (aka Lost Boy) a small affair, so I only got down to the Art Hole a few days after the opening, but walking into the empty gallery space (a space which has a definite, unassuming charm) it became apparent that taking time and feeling immersed, experiences not always possible at openings, was the best way to explore this charming show.

The concept of the show was the artist’s completion of a drawing every day of 2021 (small postcard sized digital prints, also compiled into an impressive, limited edition hard-cover book), reflecting the interior and exterior world the artist has occupied throughout a tumultuous year. Presented in a large grid, the small works, with vibrant colours (an element often conspicuous from the artist’s chalk street drawings or stickers), unfurled a range of narratives, some playing out over a week or more, others re-occurring throughout the 365 images with call-backs. The protagonist, a proxy for the artist, experiences a full gamut of terror, befuddlement, sadness, joy and banality, often realised through an absurdist sense of humour. After several inspections, I found myself piecing narratives together, partly from my own associations, partly from the clues on display, but ultimately I became very aware that we aren’t so different you and I, we aren’t so different after all.

Do you have a show coming up? Let us know,. we would love to cover it in Showtime! Email hello@watchthisspace.org.nz with the details!

Showtime!

InHAUS: Exhibition @ Tyan Haus, Friday 28th January, 2022

I was intrigued when I heard Sydenham’s Tyan Haus (a collaborative DAO experiment, but let’s leave that explanation for another day, it’s a little bit complicated…) were presenting Aotearoa’s first ever NFT exhibition. NFT’s have been an unavoidable emergence in various fields depending on your interest; either as an artist offered a new platform to sell your work, as a crypto investor, or a digi-phile always looking for new digital trends. Not without complexities, there is still a lot to sift through (we hope to dive into that in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!), but as an event, InHAUS was energised and packed with an enthusiastic crowd (t-shirts with various crypto currency logos were more ubiquitous than your normal art show attire of black-on-black). While I am not sure if this is the future of the art world, or even if physical exhibitions are the best format for NFT art, I cannot deny that there is big-time buzz and InHAUS most definitely captured that excitement…

It was a large and enthusiastic crowd at Tyan Haus on Friday night, who rapturously received the evenings speeches as a celebration of the potential of NFTs…

While many pieces were displayed as traditional printed works, such as the contribution from Christchurch graffiti legend Ikarus…

 

There were also digital works displayed on large screens…

 

 

Including one of Askew Ones Digilogue studies…

And Dean Johns 8-bit study Coffee and a Girl

Our mate Ghostcat was intrigued… miniature NFTs anyone?

Do you have a show coming up? Let us know,. we would love to cover it in Showtime! Email hello@watchthisspace.org.nz with the details!

 

Showtime! Art Walls @ The Welder, Sunday 28th November, 2021

Our first edition of Showtime! featured a host of shows that all opened on the same night – likely a rare occurrence. Another rare occurrence is the Sunday night opening, but with the necessities enforced by the never-ending Covid pandemic, new is kind of the norm. Art Walls is an ongoing and revolving installation concept based at The Welder, rather than an exhibition with a specific opening, the concept, developed by Kyla K, is more organic throughout its run. However, everything has to have a beginning (or at least the beginning of the 3rd iteration) and Sunday afternoon (crowd restrictions meant the timing had to match Welder restaurants being closed) saw the launch of the latest batch of artists to shine, with LKM, Josh Bradshaw, Paige Jackman, Ryan Robertson, Louann Sidon, Ikarus (DTR Crew), Lydia Thomas and Mike Williams (who also served as the opening event DJ!) all featured. We were there and enjoyed catching up with some of the artists and a pohutukawa and strawberry session mead from Buzz Club (who knew?), and here is the proof…

LKM (Lara Kate Marshall) and Jesse Rubenstein in front of LKM’s work

Lydia Thomas and her bloom pieces (with real flowers adding a new twist!)

Josh Bradshaw’s tiny barbed wire roses were picked, but not for you…

 

Ikarus’ grimy miniature graffiti scenes…

Ryan Robertson’s Stew Art, mixed media on canvas

Louann Sidon’s beguiling watercolour and metallic powder works

And, to top it off there were goodest bois as well…

 

If you have a show coming up, let us know! Email hello@watchthisspace.org.nz with the details…