Urban collage artist Cape of Storms became the third contributor to the Paste-Up Project in early June, her bright installation completed in glorious sunshine. The concept, drawing on the artist’s experiences acclimating to life in Aotearoa through the lens of humorously juxtaposed vintage magazine and advertising imagery, provided a reflection of the advertising often found in our urban environment, almost tricking the passing audience into a sense of normality. Upon closer inspection though, the bollard was filled more playful and acerbic content, including a brick wall section packed with a wide range of images. The result was a bold production with electric colours gleaming in the sun, simultaneously covert and unmissable.
But, then the weather changed and the installation was faced with a slew of challenges. As torrential rain hit Christchurch, the paste-ups started to peel and soon, it seemed as though people had pulled the pieces off, leaving the bollard naked in places. Luckily, part of Cape of Storm’s concept was the incorporation of friends’ work to be added over time, and this unfortunate series of events provided the opportunity to refresh the bollard on a large scale.
Cape of Storm’s installation has not only provided a bold burst of colour, but a fascinating narrative that ties into the nature of both paste-up art and the process of making art in the urban environment…
Kia ora! Would you like to introduce yourself?
I am Cape of Storms, a Christchurch-based collage artist, I collect obscure retro images and phrases and put them together in a fun and quirky way.
What was your initial reaction to the Paste-Up Project proposal?
I was very excited by the concept, and also daunted in equal measure at the sheer size and scale of the bollard surface area. I typically work no larger than A3-sized pieces and often very detailed and refined. It takes hours to hunt out and combine different images together into one cohesive new image. I hand-cut and glue everything with just a pair of scissors or a small craft knife, arrange and overlap, and then carefully glue everything together. Some of my pieces are comprised of 30 or more smaller images and words! So, the challenge of this project was filling in all that open space. In the end my approach was to try to go big, but also fill the space with as much as possible to keep it interesting and provide a piece of art that had several dimensions to it.
With two artists having already contributed to the project, were you primarily interested in doing something different?
Yes, I was keen to do something unique to my style and stay true to that – I think my art style is so significantly different to both Teeth Like Screwdrivers and Bloom n Grow Gal‘s that it wasn’t too hard to be different!
What is the central theme of your installation and how does it relate to your existing work?
The installation is a progression or continuation of a new style I have been working on for about a year now, which I am really enjoying.
I have titled the series covering the bollard Foreign Objects. Being a foreigner living in New Zealand, I am continually getting to grips with my identity and trying to relate to my surroundings, often times feeling like a fish out of water. As a lover of nostalgia, I found myself combining these two themes.
Throughout this series I intentionally tried to create a silly, nonsense, imaginary world that could reawaken nostalgic memories in the viewer. Over a period of months I sourced hundreds of different found images – from old cook books, special interest magazines, newspapers, catalogues and children’s books from bygone eras. Things I remember seeing in my mother and grandmother’s house during my childhood growing up through the 90s. To many younger people, these images might seem totally foreign or out of place in modern times, as they are simply just not in common use any more. So through this use of retro “foreign” objects and arranging them together in weird, silly and fun ways, they all come together and are recognisable and familiar as a whole, something that the viewer can relate to. I tried to select a range of bright candy colours for the background which would stand out on the grey inner-city street-scape around the bollard. The candy-coloured palette also reinforced the nostalgic theme. For me, this ended up being very effective at inviting the viewer in from a distance, to come up closer and look at the bollard in more detail, particularly in the heart of winter!
The brick wall section running along the bottom third of the bollard and the very top section running like a ribbon all around is a collection of my existing collage art that I have been pasting up on the streets of Christchurch over the past two years. It was nice to include these on the bollard as well, alongside the more considered poster series that I created especially for this project.
You decided to remove the spacers on the bollard, making it one consistent 360 degree surface – which makes the experience more continuous, was that the thinking?
I didn’t like the “frames” or physical boundaries the spacing strips created, I wanted each individual poster to look like another part of the imaginary world I was creating. I also wanted to encourage the viewer to walk right around the bollard and see the image as one continuous surface.
You have included some big prints but also some collaborative spaces, what was the intention of the brick wall?
The brick wall section was intended to be a space where the wider Slap City collective group of artists would jump in and slap up various individual pieces, just as we do on our regular paste-up missions around the city.
Unfortunately due to the intense winter weather over the last month and the group not being able to meet up so frequently, we weren’t able to get in and fill that area before about 80% of the bollard surface was damaged in the torrential rain.
But the damage to the bollard has now cleared even more space, so if we are able, we will try and cover the empty spaces up again in between now and when Mark Catley inherits the bollard – I’m very excited to see what he’s got planned!!!
Printing the large posters became quite a process, working with the team from Phantom, has that changed your thinking around your work more widely? And what other challenges did the whole process throw up?
I knew I wanted to print everything with Phantom – they are the experts and their prints are of amazing quality and designed to be more durable and last out in the elements (sadly the record-breaking wet weather we’ve experienced over the last month took its toll!). The trickiest part was maintaining resolution when scaling up from original A4 or A3 size to A0 size. I was really worried that the images would look pixelated and poor quality. In the end I put all my scanned images through a free online tool called The Rasterbator which I hadn’t previously used much before, but is very popular among paste-up artists, especially Teeth Like Screwdrivers, who encouraged me to get into using it. Luckily this helped tremendously in keeping the images sharp and looking half-decent. I then asked the assistance of the very talented Tom Horton, the printer at Phantom, and he worked his magic, did some test-prints and the posters came out so much better than I could have ever imagined!
The next trickiest part was the installation itself, which I found very challenging having never done anything of that size or nature before. My design relied upon the posters going up very neatly and level, and the curved surface was seriously difficult to work with, and certainly will not be under-estimated in the future. I was so lucky to have the help of my partner who is a painter, as well as Vez and JZA who were able to help me paste up high (as I embarrassingly have bad vertigo when up on ladders!). This project has again made me appreciate what a special, supportive group of people we have in the Slapcity collective, coming together to do awesome stuff, promoting our many and varied street art mediums and just generally have a cool time together.
What does the Paste-Up Project represent for you as an artist who works in the paper medium? Has it given you ideas for where you might be able to take your work next?
I was totally blown away by the opportunity to prepare a legitimate art installation all in paper-based form. We have a lot of murals and graffiti/paint/spray-based pieces all around the city, so it was really encouraging to receive a project like this especially for paper-based art. For me personally, seeing the sheer scale of the prints, and printing on very high-quality paper has added a whole other dimension to where I think my art could go in the future, and I can see new possibilities for future projects with scaling up and going big. Finding a way to cost-effectively create large prints and in a format that is durable enough to withstand the winter elements and last a little longer out in the streets is a serious challenge for paper-based artists.
Is there anyone you want to thank?
Watch This Space for the support and patience, also for the help cleaning off and preparing the bollard surface ahead of the installation! Phantom Billstickers – Tom, Jake and the team. The Christchurch City Council’s Enliven Places fund for funding and the opportunity. Teeth Like Screwdrivers for the advice, tips and tricks. Vez and JZA for the help pasting up on the day and going high up on ladders when I wasn’t brave enough! Bongo and Neil Swiggs for the donation of some seriously good old books and magazines that I used in a few of the collages. The Slapcity crew for the support & a source of creative inspiration.
And my partner Fernando for allowing the complete take over of my time and helping with the installation!
Stay tuned for our next artist announcement for The Paste-Up Project!
Follow Cape of Storms on Instagram for more collage-y paste-y goodness!