Flare Festival- A Photo Essay by Centuri Chan

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…

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Centuri Chan is an Otautahi-based creative, photographer, tour guide, designer and LEGO builder…

Jacob Yikes – Even in Darkness @ Fiksate Gallery

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.

A Temple Full of Chemicals, mixed media on hardboard, 2022

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.

Drag ‘Em Between Worlds, mixed media on hardboard, 2022

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.

Even in Darkness, mixed media on hardboard, 2022

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

Tune! with Jacob Yikes

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…

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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

Tune! – with Dr Suits

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…

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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!

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…

 

 

 

And That Was… February 2022

February 2022 might prove to be the calm before the storm, with several exciting events set for March. But there were still some great things that happened in those 28 days, even with the weather proving particularly temperamental! The weather has ensured a disjointed sense of summer, and coupled with the ongoing disruptions of Covid (not to mention the protests occurring across the country), it would be fair to say that February was not firing on all cylinders. With a swathe of events cancelled, the visual arts proved somewhat more durable, with projects still forging ahead, albeit under different conditions. With a palpable energy that Ōtautahi is about to reclaim it’s place as Aotearoa’s leading urban art destination, it was good to see momentum building…

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The DTR Crew’s Ernest Rutherford mural

A precursor to the Flare Festival, this impressive mural along the west-facing wall of the Team Hutchinson Ford building on St Asaph Street, was designed by Jacob Yikes and produced alongside crew-mates Dcypher and Ikarus. The image shows the iconic physicist and the old university building (now the Arts Centre) while a crackling energy is depicted in atoms and currents to bring a dynamic quality.

PIM’s This was the year that was… @ The Art Hole

PIM (aka Lost Boy) produced a charming wee show at The Art Hole on St Asaph Street at the end of February. Built around a drawing for every day of 2021, the bright digital drawings (postcard sized) were filled with humour, earnestness, bewilderment, pathos and everything in between, allowing the viewer to construct and reconstruct stories as they scan the large block of images. Definitely a favourite show of 2022!

Bloom takes over The Paste-Up Project

Bloom n Grow Gal became the second artist to take over the Watch This Space X Phantom Billstickers Paste-Up Project bollard on Manchester Street, working in between downpours to create a fresh blossoming of flowers. Drawing on a range of her familiar images, the work has also allowed for change over its life span, with new aspects added already. Following in the footsteps of teethlikescrewdrivers, Bloom’s addition continues the momentum of The Paste-Up Project

Xoë Hall @ Te Puna O Waiwhetū

Wellington artist Xoë Hall has taken over the Te Puna O Waiwhetū Christchurch Art Gallery’s famous bunker with Kuīni of the Worlds, a bright, bold and wild mural that celebrates atua wāhine through references to figures such as Hine-tītama, Hine-nui-te-pō, and Mahuika.

Holly Zandbergen on Walker Street
We were on our way to Walker Street’s Ally & Sid cafe a week ago when we were pleasantly surprised to see a new mural work in progress. when we called back past, artist Holly Zandbergen was there, brush-in-hand and happy to chat about her work, a beautiful painterly abstract work that was both energetic and restrained, a breath of fresh air for a mural scene that often favours pristine illusions…
What did we miss? What would you add to our list? Let us know in the comments!

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!

The Flare Street Art Festival, March 2-12, 2022

Christchurch’s street art reputation is, in many ways, built on the legacy of festival events. The likes of From the Ground Up, Rise, Spectrum and Street Prints Ōtautahi established the city as a destination for artists to find opportunities and for a new audience to experience amazing examples of urban art in a setting that was forced to re-imagine it’s creative profile and identity. It has now been five years since the last significant festival was staged in Ōtautahi, but with the emergence of the Flare Street Art Festival, Christchurch is braced to once more flex it’s status as Aotearoa’s leading urban art city. We sat down with Selina Faimalo, project manager for Flare, to discuss the challenges of developing a street art festival in 2022, what Flare promises, and who we should be excited about…

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The Flare Street Art Festival is just days away, how are you feeling? Are the nerves jangling or is it just excitement? 

I’m really excited to see it all, well nearly all, coming together! Obviously, I’m still a bit nervous because things can change between now and then, as we know, but we’re pretty fool-proof under the red traffic light setting. We’ve adapted.

What are some of the significant changes you have had to make? 

We originally planned to have a large celebration of street art culture, hip-hop and urban art at the end of the festival. We were going to close down High Street and have a big market and festival with live music, dancing, skateboarding, food trucks, urban stallholders and a pop-up gallery, all sorts of things. That part of the festival had to be cancelled, so instead we’re doing micro events over the ten days; we’re going to have street art tours with Watch This Space, which we were always going to have, they can still go ahead. There will be tours on each weekend of the festival. We’ve still got a pop-up gallery and kind of hang out space, that will be open during the days. Fiksate and Offline Collective are collaborating and going to do some street art projections in some vacant spaces in the SALT District. We have the panel discussion with the artists, that is also with Watch This Space, with some of the headlining artists at 12 Bar, which will be an awesome way to interact with the artists and get to know a bit more about them. It’s going to be live-streamed as well, which is really cool as we can’t host as many people as we wanted to…

It still is a really good program. I think it is important for street art and mural festivals to provide chances to engage with different elements…

Absolutely.

The festival or market day would have been amazing, but I guess there’s a silver lining in that you can now perfect it for next year and grow the festival as a recurring event… 

Totally, it might be a bit of a blessing in disguise. I’ve spent about eight months on the process of organizing this festival, so I think it gave us a lot more time to re-evaluate things and put that energy into different things. Obviously, it’s unfortunate that we had to cancel those elements, because we have musicians and vendors were relying on that income from the event. Cancelling those individuals and businesses was really sad, because you have already committed and turned down other bookings… It’s been tough for all in the events industry.

Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson is one of the headline artists for the Flare Street Art Festival

Bringing together the wider urban art community is really important. As you said, there are the headline artists, but that’s not the whole picture, you’ve got other artists too, like the Fiksate team, the artists with work in the pop-up gallery and some smaller live painting events as well. There is a much wider array of people than the names on the posters… 

It was important to involve as many Christchurch artists as possible, to make it inclusive and diverse, including, the “OGs” as well as the younger generations, as well as making sure there are female artists represented, who are not always as predominant in the street art scene.

Can you give us a little bit of background on ARCC, who are the organization behind Flare

ARCC is a group of business leaders and place-makers, who just want to make a bunch of cool stuff happen in the city and revitalise what’s happening here. George Shaw from OiYOU! is a part of ARCC and is obviously a big advocate for street art and he recognised that a lot of the murals from the Rise and Spectrum festivals are not there anymore, as the city is being rebuilt the visual aspect of street art is not there as much, it’s being built in front of or covered, so he just wanted to bring that back, putting it on new buildings and filling these blank walls with street art again and retaking that status as a street art capital, we were obviously in the Lonely Planet as one of the street art capitals of New Zealand and the world…

A lot of that recognition came from the festival events, because you’re seeing a lot of work appear in a short time, there is a rush in activity that captures the attention. So, Flare becomes an important way of re-claiming that title. How did you come to be the project manager for Flare

I’m actually a trustee of the SALT District, so I already knew about ARCC because a lot of the team are on the SALT District board as well and they had mentioned it. I was going along to the street art meetings and they were talking about it and I’d already been in touch with George anyway because I’d mentioned to him ages ago that I really wanted to do some type of hip-hop street art event and I wanted to know how you would make that happen. He said let’s keep in touch, maybe there will be something that we can do. I also run the Conscious Club with Kophie (Su’a Hulsbosch), we do social and environmental events in Christchurch, we’ve been doing it for the last two years, in which we weaved creativity into the majority of our events. We have held exhibitions together and shared creative working space with her for a while now. I’m not part of the street art community, but I’m a massive fan of street art culture and hip-hop in particular. I really wanted to do a hip-hop event, I talked with Red from the Hip Hop Summit about all the different things that we could do. George’s plan was to run Flare, but he had another exciting project come up. The timing wasn’t great for him to project manage Flare, so he asked if I would be interested in project managing it with his help and guidance, along with the rest of the team at ARCC helping out as well. As business leaders they have great connections to building owners to help make this happen. One of the biggest challenges of a festival like this is getting a building owner to agree to getting their wall painted without knowing what it will be, so without those connections and networks I don’t think it would be possible!

Local legend Ikarus of the DTR Crew is another Flare headliner for 2022

There’s a fine art to that side and you probably had to learn on the fly a little bit! You want wall spaces that are visible and attractive, but you also want to ensure that that building owners are supportive of artistic credibility and freedom. You have to find that balance of great walls with the right people, right? 

Yeah, we’re telling artists they will have creative freedom, but obviously it can’t be anything offensive or inappropriate, and when we say inappropriate, like when we spoke to John Hutchinson of Team Hutchinson Ford, about painting his wall, he said as long as you don’t paint a Holden! It was little things like that, I just wouldn’t think about. In general I would say building owners can be a little bit conservative, and like to play it safe, might not want certain things on their walls, so it’s a balancing act of letting some know and showing them designs and then we will be surprising some!

I’m a big believer that part of the job of street artists is to bring the audience along, rather than being dictated to creatively to fit a popular trend that supposedly speaks for everybody. The reality is that we are incredibly diverse as a population, made up of individual voices, so why not let murals be a voice of an individual and in doing so, present a little bit of a challenge to the public audience to come with the artist rather than the artist having to go to the audience? What other skills that you maybe didn’t expect to draw on were needed to bring Flare to life? 

I guess navigating the street art scene is something I didn’t know a lot about. I’m quickly learning it is tricky! Obviously, graffiti comes from the streets, which means there an element of rebel and conflict. Having people involved in the festival like DTR crew and Kophie, has helped with those situations. The panels along the Smash Palace pathway will be painted with local graffiti artists, and I don’t think that was my call as to which artists would be involved in that, so I asked Dcypher and Ikarus to facilitate that part of it, so they have led that part because they can navigate the relationships within the graffiti community. Even curating the headlining artists, that was tricky. George actually curated that aspect, but I was part of the conversation, and I don’t think I would have thought about who you should choose in case their work gets tagged over because they’re not respected in the street art community. That is a huge thing that I’ve learnt a lot about recently, if you put the wrong person on a wall, then it’s likely going to get continuously tagged over because they don’t have that respect or that mana in the community…

Kophie Su’a Hulsbosch is the third Christchurch-based headliner for Flare 2022

In terms of the final headlining artist roster, from Christchurch we have Kophie, Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson and Ikarus, and from out of town are Elliot Francis Stewart from Auckland, Kell Sunshine from Gisbourne, Swiftmantis from Palmerston North and Koryu, who is kind of itinerant, kind of travelling around NZ, right? 

Yeah, well, he’s based in Geraldine…

That street art mecca!

Yeah! He is based in Geraldine, but he travels a lot, he is originally from Japan.

Gisbourne’s Kell Sunshine is one of the visiting artists headlining Flare 2022

So out of that list, who are you excited to see? 

Out of all seven? I mean, I’m going to say Kophie, big respect to the wahine! Being a woman in general is hard and being a woman street artist is even harder and I think she has really stepped up. she has been doing it for over ten years now and I think this is her time to leave a mark in her own city. She’s done commissioned murals but this time she gets to paint what she wants to paint and she’s so talented.

I’m a big fan of Kophie too, she is super talented and its great to see her given this platform. Anyone else? 

I would say Koryu, I think his mural will be very cool! I’ve seen his design as well, so that’s why I’m really excited to see what he’s doing. I’ve been watching him this summer, watching every mural that he’s painted and it’s incredible.

He’s relatively new to it as well, right? But he’s developed a style that is both very distinctively his, and I think also speaks to his heritage, but also something that you can understand why the public gravitate towards the detail. It’s graphic and pictorial, you can easily see a crowd going, wow! He also just seems like a lovely guy! There is some amazing footage from South Sea Spray where he won the ‘People’s Choice’ award and he did a break dance because he’s a b-boy as well… 

I know, he’s so amazing! That’s one thing I’m really sad about, as part of the festival we were going to have hip-hop and break dancing, and it would have been really cool to have a headline artist paint and dance!

Japanese artist, Koryu, now residing in Aotearoa, is another headline artist

Maybe he could still do that at the panel discussion! 

I think so, just break it out!

So, the Flare Street Art Festival begins on the 2nd of March, when the headline artists start painting, but how can people find out more? How can people get involved in the various events? 

They can head onto Facebook for the Flare Street Art Festival or the website which is flare.nz. The full program is on the website and if you want to book tickets to any event, you can do that online. I recommend having a look online because that will be have the right information, it is the digital age, we can update things!

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The Flare Street Art Festival is located across the SALT District with a range of activities – follow Flare on social media or visit their website for more information and booking options. Flare runs from the 2nd March until the 12th March, 2022.

Slap City presents The International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival, March 2022

Slap City has become a central part of Ōtautahi Christchurch’s urban art scene, and now they are bringing even more international flavour to the city with the first International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival in early March, 2022! The 8 day festival will feature a massive exhibition of stickers, paste-ups and associated works at Sydenham’s TyanHAUS, as well as public installations and workshops. With an array of artists from across the globe, it will be a brilliant cacophonous celebration of paper-based street art in all it’s glory! To get the lowdown we spoke to Slap City stalwarts and festival organisers and participants Vez, teeth like screwdrivers and Cape of Storms

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How did the idea for the International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival come about?

Vez: I had this idea since I moved here, I wanted to put more paste-ups around Christchurch, to bring in more international artists and turn it into an event. I had that dream when I first got here two years ago…

teeth like screwdrivers: I’ve actually got a page on my website that’s about doing the same thing. Originally, I wanted to cover one of the giant cans and make it a festival. But one night we were at Fiksate and we were having a few drinks…

V: And doing karaoke…

tls: Someone said something to us, I won’t say what they said, but someone said something to both of us and we were like, well, that seals it! It was an instant decision, right there, let’s do this…

You two hadn’t talked about it together, even though you both had the same idea?

tls: No, but we had both seen other shows around the world and put our own work into other shows around the world, and we knew Christchurch could deal with a show like this.

A paste-up festival is a great fit, firstly because of the amazing community around the Slap City scene, but also it is a perfect form to involve an even wider community, paste-up and sticker culture seems to be about networks and collaborations…

tls: Completely, especially if you put it under the heading of street art, if you look at other types of street art, they are based around not doing that, like graffiti is based around not collaborating.

Cape of Storms: Yeah, it’s more anonymous…

tls: And it is also about going over someone else, being higher or being louder…

It also requires a literal presence; you have to physically be in the place where you’re writing…

tls: Years and years ago, we used Flickr and maybe occasionally we would get contacts through that, but with Instagram the ability to connect with people anywhere in the world and instantly trade with them is part of why I like it, because it’s a positive thing all the time. There’s no negativity.

V: What I also like about paper-based art is it’s really inclusive. With graffiti, not everybody has got the skill to do it, including myself, but with paper-based art you can just collage or you can take things out of magazines or you can draw, or you can work digitally, there are loads of different ways you can produce work, so everybody can contribute if they want to…

CoS: I feel like with paper-based art, its more towards the art side, rather than the tagging thing, so people who don’t feel comfortable with that element of street art, it’s still something where you can have integrity about where you place your art. It’s transient. It’s not going to be there forever. It’s going to dissolve with rain and water or a little bit of elbow grease, but it still has the same effect…

tls: We’ve all kind of come to an agreement, whether consciously or subconsciously, that we’re not sticking it on people’s houses or businesses, you know? Personally speaking, I’m an older dude, I’ve got three kids of my own and if they see my art on the street, I don’t want them to go, why have you stuck your art on that?

A Cape of Storms paste-up in central Christchurch

But at the same time, you don’t want them to not know that you are doing it, right?

tls: Exactly. They always see my pencils and they always comment on them, but they’re not seeing them on people’s houses, they’re seeing them on derelict buildings, or council electrical boxes, because they are boring and they need paint or stickers or something! I’m probably speaking for you guys, but we kind of had a subconscious agreement that we’re not destroying shit, we’re adding to it.

CoS: It is financially accessible as well, it’s not as expensive as buying loads of spray cans.

tls: It might be low impact physically, but not in the messages…

Not visually or conceptually…

tls: I will argue that any one of us who is putting up 1000 pictures of whatever it is we are putting up is going to have an equal impact to anyone tagging…

There’s also the really interesting longer lineage; revolutionary posters, political posters, advertising, sloganeering…

tls: Yeah, I found a picture other day, it was in Paris, an advertising hoarding and it looks like what we’re doing, but it’s a hundred and something years old! It looks exactly the same as what we do…

The Victorian Street in the Canterbury Museum has a fence that is covered in pasted posters…

tls: Because wheat paste was cheap and easy, posters got your message across for free essentially!

CoS: Graffiti writing is beautiful in its own way, but this is maybe a little bit more accessible to people that aren’t so into graffiti necessarily. It’s got a sense of humour, like Vez’s spoons are there to bring joy to people, to make them think, this is so out of place, let’s not be so serious about life! Christchurch can be quite a dull and flat and miserable place…

tls: No! I can’t believe you said that!

CoS: But it’s the people and the sense of humour and the unexpected juxtaposition, that’s why we do it, we can put something funny out there…

Two of Vez’s iconic spoon paste-ups

It’s a lovely juxtaposition, from the seriousness of signs and the coercion of advertising…

tls: And tilt slabs! That is why it doesn’t feel so quite so awkward. We’re not fighting that, we are just putting stickers and paste-ups up on streets covered in stickers and paste-ups, they’re just from McDonald’s or Coke. I’m not political in that sense, it doesn’t justify what I’m doing, but it just makes me go, I’m OK with this because I’m surrounded any way, we’re just adding our own take to what’s already there.

We did a massive sticker and paste-up installation at Spectrum in 2014. At that time, the local paste-up scene definitely didn’t have the numbers it has now. We had artists contributing from quite faraway places, but Slap City has such a larger network, I’m really looking forward to the breadth of work. Where has work come from and which artists are you most excited for people to see?

V: I’ve written a list… There is work from the UK, USA, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, Spain, Finland, Slovakia, Australia, Canada…

tls: In terms of who we are excited about, I’m going to go first because I’m so stoked about this big piece by The Postman. They are a collective based in Brighton in the UK. I’ve been asking them for a long time because I’ve put Björk pastes up all around the city and when I saw their Björk one, I was like, I need one of those! So, I hassled them and they were like, yeah, we’ll send one to you. It’s huge and I want to take it home, but I’m not going to! I would like a photograph, can I put it out there now? Me standing in front of that please with a big smile on my face! I would love that! I love their stuff, it’s phenomenal. They are a good example of paste-ups as a legit art form. They do everything from whole streets in Shoreditch in London to millionaires’ houses, they do everything. They also work with the artists that take the photos they use to get permission. They are ace!

An example of teeth like screwdrivers’ Bjork paste-ups

V: A lot of the people that have sent paste-up packs are people that I trade with quite regularly, so I’m most excited about seeing the work of locals, like Jen and Dr Suits, because I don’t see that many of their paste-ups. I know they’ve been doing it for a long time, but I’ve only seen Jen paste up twice! I’m just super excited to see what some of the people here in Christchurch create and just to have us all together in one space…

CoS: We went with her to do that giant head on the side of that building in town, and we were like, there she is in action!

tls: For people coming to view the show, they won’t know a lot of these artists as well as you do or I do or any of us in the crew do, because we’re always in cahoots and collaborations with them anyways, we’re seeing all their feeds constantly, but if there’s someone coming here for the first time, they’re going to see Vision or YAYA for the first time, and they are going to be like we were when we first saw them, that’s amazing!

CoS: I’m keen to see some of our younger Slap City members or people that work on their own stuff and don’t necessarily always paste with us, alongside all these other guys that are really well-seasoned. I can’t wait to see their growth. I’ve grown so much, because of Vez really, she invited me to the first Slap City and I helped hold the bucket when she put up all the YAYA stuff around town, so that was my initiation and from then I’ve been hooked and just seeing other people get that joy from the show will be amazing.

A Slap City collaboration featuring international artists, including YAYA, Vision and more…

When you’re getting work from so many sources, you often also get an insight into the stories behind the artists. For instance, we had a 6-year-old, who drew robots in New York and pasted them up with his dad, send work in, there was someone who sent work from Iran, and just to get it out of there was a big deal. Have you had any interesting stories come up?

tls: We are not getting stuff out of Iran, but honestly, I’m getting people trying to send stuff to New Zealand and we are not on the list of places to send stuff to for a lot of countries at the moment. There was one person, they sent it to someone else in another country, because then that person could send it here. You wouldn’t ever think that would be an issue.

A selection of the sticker frames set for the International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival

I guess you can get around that by sending a digital file as well…

V: I’ve committed to printing for about three or four people who have struggled to post stuff. It keeps people included.

tls: We don’t need to have the physical person here to do it, although [Australian artist] Tweet is saying she’d love to try and get across, you know people are keen and if the borders were in the right place, we’d probably have a few Aussies coming over.

V: Tweet is in Melbourne, we’ve swapped a few packs, and we’ve developed a friendship, we chat regularly, not even just about art anymore. She’s really keen to come over for the festival and help us out…

tls: Panty Baggers and Larf’n [from Dunedin] were all talking about trying to get up. So, there are Instagram friends sending their artwork and they want to come up…

CoS: When we take photos and put them on Instagram and tag our international friends, it always feels like there’s a great sense of wow, look at us up in New Zealand!

tls: There is a sense of New Zealand being so far away, it is like: I made it to all the way to New Zealand!

CoS: There is a feeling of pride at their work making it all the way to this little island and look at what these people are doing for my art down there…

tls: It’s great! If you think about a street artist in the traditional sense, as someone who is doing pieces on the side of a building or murals, they have to be where their art is, but any one of us can say our art has been shown in numerous festivals around the world. There was one in Athens a couple of months ago. I’ve never been to Athens, but there on this stairway going up from the bottom floor to the mid floor of this building, there’s a giant pencil!

CoS: Vez sent a parcel to Captain Eyeliner in New York a while back and I snuck in some stuff just because I was there as she was packing the envelope and I got my stuff put up in New York!

tls: Some people are like that with New Zealand, like New Zealand!?! Hobbits!?! That’s what they’re thinking, because to the majority of the world, that’s exactly it, we’re on the other side of the world, so to have all that stuff here, in the ether, is pretty exciting. The audience won’t just be the hundred people we get through the door on the night, most of the audience will be online, on Instagram.

Another Slap City and friends collaboration

What have you got happening alongside the exhibition?

tls: Sticker trading is part of what we do. So, all the work that’s coming to us, Vez is doing an amazing job tallying it up and getting the return addresses so that at the end of the festival the leftover stickers will get sent back out to the people who sent stuff to us. It’s a trade like you do already, but instead of a trade with me and they just get a pack of my stupid pencils, its a trade with maybe a hundred artists from around the world that they might never have come across or might never have traded with.

V: I’ll also encourage all the Slap City people to put stickers in as well when we post packs back out.

tls: We’re also going to jazz up some of the spots in the city that we already use, so people can go and have a wander and explore the city as well, like the old Two Fat Indians spot and the Ao Tawhiti wall. It’s not legal, but they don’t get touched too often. We will include the bollard Bloom’s just done [The Paste-Up Project] as well, because that’s us too. We’ll include [New Regent Street bar] WILKO because we did a whole wall in there a few months back…

V: We are going to have an interactive map.

tls: It’s going to be beautifully created by Cape of Storms. This festival is trying to highlight what we do in terms of creating artwork via paper, both in a gallery-style setting, but also by directing people to be more observant in the real-world setting…

Bloom n Grow Gal completing her Paste-Up Project installation on Manchester Street

It’s an important part of events like this, to further instill the city’s reputation as an urban art destination, right?

tls: Street art capital, right? Lonely Planet said so! As a group, we have such a wide range of artistic endeavors, but we’re all tied together by a bucket of paste and a brush. We have people who come along and just draw smiley faces…

CoS: And we have some people working for weeks and weeks, spending months perfecting something. Or somebody like Lost Boy who listens to our conversations and cartoons what we’re chatting about and then pastes it up! I was saying something about how you should never microwave a sausage, because it’s not good, and he drew a cartoon strip about it! It was hilarious!

A Lost Boy paste-up

tls: Sometimes, I’d say relatively regularly actually, we’ll meet up somewhere and the meeting is more important than sitting down and drawing. It’s knowing that you’re just checking in with everybody and having a good week and is everything alright and we’re all good. I might draw two pencils on a piece of paper and that might be it. Other times I might sit down and not talk to anybody and draw 50, it doesn’t matter. We’ve had people come in for one session and we never see them again. We’ve had a kid come with their dad…

CoS: That kid was so shy, but he was so happy to be there.

tls: We’ve also had kids come along on walks and freak out because they get to put a sticker on the side of a wall. We’re not molding it into one thing. It just is what it is.

CoS: It’s also not a session where you necessarily need to bring anything, and you can take away whatever you want from it. I feel like I do a lot of my cutting out, rather than making my collages, which requires a lot of space and a lot of focus. I just get the energy that I need. Also, the confidence of being in a group is important, going out on your own is quite daunting.

tls: That’s the thing we do differently, there’s safety in a gang. We haven’t got patches, but we go out and there’s a couple of spots on Manchester Street where you don’t want to be hanging around by yourself at 10:30pm at night on a Wednesday, but when you’ve got a group giggling, laughing and joking, it makes light of the situation, for sure.

CoS: It also gives us the opportunity to mix our art together in the streets, so we’re not individuals, it becomes a collective thing…

V: One of the nicest things we’ve done is where we take over a whole box and we collage it…

CoS: It’s everybody’s work all at once. It’s so instant, although sometimes people don’t want it to be too chaotic!

A beautiful bird paste-up by Slap City member Salsa Stark

We were talking about the other events…

tls: Oh shit! Yes! So, you’ve got workshops, on the Wednesday after the opening night, it will be similar to what we do already, and we might do one for younger people beforehand. We have the ability to share stuff on the wall here, we have the ability to play music here, we have the ability to do lots of things, which is why we are having it here at TyanHAUS.

How did that relationship with TyanHAUS start?

tls: I judged a youth skateboard competition that was run here on a wet day a while back. We were going to run it at Two Thumbs Brewery, but it was too wet. So, I came down to help Jack [from local skate brand DuckEwe] to judge. I was looking at this big wall and I thought we could cover that! The guys from TYAN were like, yeah, sure, go for it! We did a few workshops here where I drove my car inside and we lay down on the nice clean floor. We talked to them and they were keen to host this festival, so we said yeah let’s do this! Now it’s almost here…

It is going to be a busy time with Flare Street Art Festival as well…

V: We talked about cross promotion, but I feel like everything’s happening at the same time, so people that are interested in street art are going to find out about both…

It is awesome to see these two things overlapping, speaking about the same culture, just from different perspectives…

CoS: I imagine the audience is going to be the same, so I hope that people check out both shows. We’ve done a few of the graffiti workshops at the giant cans and that was awesome. This cross section across the two events is great, with some really big names in graffiti and we have some really big names in paste-up culture, as well as a lot of people that are virtually unknown…

tls: We had to force Lost Boy to get on Instagram, because we wanted to tag him in posts. But he is also totally fine with just coming along and drawing his drawing funny pictures about shit we say. He’s actually got an exhibition opening on the 22nd, its fucking grand! Along with the paste-up show, there will be a Hello! I am the Show exhibition with members of Slap City. It’s not specifically about paper art, but it is connected…

How can people find out more? How can they make sure they don’t miss out on anything?

V: It’s all on our Instagram account, we’ve got a Facebook event set up as well and we are going to get posters printed and pasted up.

Who is supporting the festival?

tls: We’ve got obviously TyanHAUS on board, they’re amazing, we’ve got Hello, who is doing our lovely art show, Karma Cola are doing drinks and there’s talk of a beer and wine sponsor, we don’t need much else. It would be great if there’s someone out there who makes wallpaper paste, hook us up! Or people who can print some stuff for us, hit us up on the Instagram page!

Is there anything else you want to add?

tls: Come along!

CoS: Participate! Do the workshops! Support local artists!

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Follow Slap City on Instagram and Facebook for more information about The International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival. The Festival runs from March 4th to March 12th at TyanHAUS on Carlyle Street, Sydenham

Dr Suits goes to Akaroa…

Back in November, we caught up with our good friend Dr Suits to chat about his experience at Taupo’s Graffiato festival, Aotearoa’s longest running street art festival, what he didn’t let us know at that time was he was in talks about a massive mural on the grounds of Akaroa Area School. Akaroa, the picturesque waterside township south east of Christchurch on Banks Peninsula, is not an expected location for such a project – but word of Dr Suits’ ability to produce bold, striking mural works had obviously spread. In January 2022, Dr Suits and Porta loaded up and headed to Akaroa to spend a week transforming the junior school with colour and the result, Polymorph, is stunning. When he got back we sat down to talk about the project and the technical process…

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How on earth did you find yourself painting such a massive ground mural in Akaroa?

It’s funny, the last thing I talked to you about was Graffiato (the street art festival in Taupo). As soon as I got off the plane in Rotorua after leaving Taupo, I checked my emails, and I had a message from Ross, the principal of Akaroa Area School asking if I would be interested in painting the junior area of their school. He didn’t really give away too much in terms of what he wanted, but it was quite exciting, especially having just painted at Graffiato

You must have felt like you were on a roll! How did you get on their radar?

One of the teachers showed Ross an article about Crossings, the red zone work we painted last year, and he must have thought, that looks good, this artist can paint a ground! I have a ground that needs some paint, so it’s perfect…

Did Crossings inspire the concept or were they already sold on the idea of painting the ground?

They wanted to paint the junior ground and after a conversation with them, they had some really clear ideas about what they wanted. When they asked me to quote the area, I was like, far out, how have this school got the money for this? To go through the design process with a school, I’d imagine it would be quite a long process…

I imagine there are a lot of stakeholders that must be consulted…

Yes. Their ideas were directed at traditional games and instructing children to play in a certain way and interact with the space in a very traditional way, like we probably would have interacted with spaces when we were kids…

You mean like hopscotch, that sort of thing?

Yeah, like Four Square, roads to follow, those types of things. I knew I wasn’t going to have a lot of creative freedom, so I just quoted the job. Anyway, Ross got back to me and said we can’t afford that, which I was expecting, so I called him back and I said, what is your priority? Is it to have those traditional elements, or is it to get a whole lot of color on the ground? He said if we can get that area covered, that’s the priority. So, I got talking to him about how we could make that happen, just using a more mathematical approach to working out surface areas and ordering smartly, basically designing according to how much material would be used…

So, you figured out a formula to achieve that? 

It was quite challenging. I hadn’t really approached the design process in that way before, I usually approach it more artistically. I’ve done it in fashion design, where you’re really conscious about material and how to maximize the design based on materials, so I kind of used that thinking. Basically, I tried to keep the design quite simple and geometric, because curves would slow me down, details would slow me down. I did a few concepts and gave them to my friend Roberto who put them into CAD, and he worked out their surface area, and then I calculated how much product I would need, and I tweaked it from there. I also had to consider the surface of the ground, because if it’s rougher, it’s going take more product, yellows and pinks will need more layers. So, I reduced the yellows and pinks and added more blues, because they cover the ground really well. It was all about efficiency, really.

You’re known for your color palette, particularly in your outdoor mural works and those pinks and yellows are pretty prominent. Was that a challenge to minimise those colors?

Yeah, it wasn’t a challenge as such, but I had to have some in there!

Did you use the paint product that you used for the basketball court in New Brighton?

A similar product.

Which is different to the standard paint that you used in the red zone. So, how did you go about sourcing the paint?

There were a few contenders, but it came down to durability and workability. I’d seen another company that used the same product, and I could see what it looked like in a similar context. I also had conversations with the sales rep. There are a few products within their range that are similar; some are acrylic, some are water-based, which is great, there were others that were chemical-based, which I wanted to avoid. I wanted to avoid playing around with solvents, which are unpleasant to work with and to clean up…

Particularly when you are doing such a massive job as well, that would have required a whole heap more gear just to get the job done…

Yeah. The paint company rep was great, he was really helpful. He probably got sick of me asking questions!

So, this product will be your go to from now on?

Absolutely, I got my head around how to use the product, putting the hardener in, laying it out. I had to get scales, a paint mixer and a few more things. The scales were a bit more expensive than I bargained for, but they came in extremely handy. I mean I couldn’t have done the job without either of those tools. There are different options for the application, the rep even recommended spraying it…

With a pressurized sprayer? Were you tempted? 

Spraying would be OK if you had a sprayer, but you’ve got to take into consideration masking, the wind, clean up and waste, and I wanted to reduce waste. Basically, once this product is mixed together, you have to use it within 40 minutes.

Was it a case of the old ‘measure twice, cut once’, or was there still a little bit of figuring out as you went?

I used a grid system, which meant I could get pretty accurate with the layout and composition, which kept me to plan, but when we were putting down the first coats, if there was half a bucket of product left, I’d improvise and chuck it in somewhere to break it up a bit…

How close was the original design to the finished piece?

I’d say 85 per cent. There are a few add-ons here and there…

That’s always good for the creative process, right?

When I was designing it, I was working on such a small scale and when I actually got into the space, it was so much bigger than the piece of paper or the screen that I was working on. It definitely changes the perception of it. I think one of the coolest parts about the project was being immersed in that color as you’re working on it, really experiencing how colors change when you put them next to each other.

What was the area in square metres?

360 square meters.

Did you look at any comparable mural works in Christchurch? Do you know of any other similarly scaled works?

I didn’t even think about that. I was just focused on the task at hand. But, just to give you an idea of what that looks like, the longest straight line on it was 28 meters.

Wow! On that first day when you started painting or even just gridding it out, did you have to stop and ask yourself: am I going to be able to do this?

No, I’d done all that after I took the job on and designed it and been paid the deposit, that’s when I was like, shit! Am I actually going to be able to do this? It wasn’t until I went out there and had a good look around that I was like, OK, it’s not as big as I’ve built it up in my head.

Did it help as well that you had your trusty compadre, Porta, there with you?

Oh yeah! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Porta’s the man!

There were certain restrictions based on the colour palette, and you had to encourage them to move away from including those ‘instructed play’ elements, but was the final design based on any particular concept or idea other than dynamic shapes and space for play?

That’s it, just dynamic shapes and spaces. I used my trusty collage technique. I cut out some shapes and piece them together, and just subconsciously come up with something.

Have you been able to get feedback yet?

I sent Ross a message on the first day back at school to ask about the big reveal on the first morning of school, his reply was: ‘Awesome!! Thumbs up’. So, I figured, it must have been a big day…

Was it disappointing that you didn’t get to see that first response of the kids yourself?

Yeah, I was a little bit, but as we were working on it, people would walk past daily and even when we had one or two blocks of color down, people were pretty excited. It really started coming together towards the end, I knew as soon as we got the yellow down it would really start to come to life, and then when we put the final blue down at the end, that just tied it all together.

You also added a little touch where you painted a pole bright yellow?

That pole’s funny because I’ve always wanted to do a sculpture exactly like that, with a just off axis yellow line…

You finally got to do it! I was going to say that one of the great aspects of projects like this, and we talked about this with your court in New Brighton, is the way they encourage movement of bodies through and across these spaces (which allows people to engage with and respond to abstract art, even unwittingly). It would be really cool to have a drone video that shows the students moving across the mural.

Ross got some drone footage, with his kids walking on it, not playing unfortunately, but it will be really cool to see. With the COVID situation, schools have been really encouraged to get kids outside, and this work will really help with that…

An unforeseen practicality! Doing something in a place the size of Akaroa, I guess the work would reach the whole township. You said some people came past and saw it, did you get a sense that people were hearing about it and the word was spreading?

I think so. I did have that realization that we could have quite an impactful reach. Basically, if you are a family in that town with kids, they go to that school, and if you grew up in that town, you went to that school. So, hopefully people will be really excited about what we added to the school. The school is a really amazing environment, it’s nestled next to a hillside, there are a lot of native trees and birds, it was really beautiful to just hang out there painting…

Now that you’ve done something to this scale, it sets the precedent. How do you go about finding some new places to paint?

The school got funding from the Ministry of Education for the project and a couple of other projects around the campus, so my next task is to put it all together in a nice little package and reach out to more schools, find out what the funding was and how to go about getting it. Then just push them to apply for the funding to get something like this…

You will be taking more notice of school grounds now I imagine!

There were a lot of restrictions around this project, which made it good for the first one of this scale. Those restrictions really helped make it achievable and set boundaries, so I couldn’t really go too crazy with the design and get in over my head, which could have easily happened. I was learning a new product, I was out of town, if I ran out of something it wasn’t like I could just nip down to buy something. The product had to be ordered in from Auckland. So, if I get another job, closer to home, I’ll be able to push it a bit further and explore the color palette…

Follow Dr Suits on Instagram to what he has in store next!

All images supplied by Dr Suits