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.

Showtime!

Vacation from Reality – Pener, Fiksate Gallery, 15th July, 2022

Polish artist Pener’s mid-Winter residency at Fiksate culminated with a stunning show at the Sydenham Gallery. Despite the cold and wet weather, Vacation from Reality was irresistable, with the artist’s striking abstract paintings spilling subtly onto the walls behind, extending the impact of the bold lines, colours and forms. The combination of bright and muted colours, along with the dynamic compositions wowed the crowd, who were treated to the sublime work of an international visitor with a refined practice…

Do you have a show coming up? Let us know at hello@watchthisspace.org.nz!

Gearing Up – Dcypher Apparel

Since returning home from a stint living in Los Angeles, Dcypher has quickly cemented his reputation and one of Aotearoa’s most talented and prolific mural artists, without missing a beat with his signature graffiti pieces. With his artistic roots firmly planted in graffiti and skate culture, his art has always teemed with the energy of street culture. Much of Dcypher’s work, including his graffiti, reflects the urban cityscape and elements of urban culture, making for the perfect aesthetic for his latest undertaking – the street wear line Dcypher Apparel.

T-Shirts have long been a staple of urban culture; the DIY fashions of Hip-Hop and Punk have celebrated the statement potential of the garment, while the physicality of skateboarding means loose-fit comfort provides a practical attraction. From Jimbo Phillips’ iconic Santa Cruz Screaming Hand, to the Bones Brigade, Powell-Peralta and Vision Street Wear designs, Zoo York and OBEY, tees have been a way to proclaim your cultural, political and stylistic affiliations. Likewise, t-shirts provide creatives with a canvas that reaches a wider audience, stretching beyond the wall or the gallery.

As a skateboarder and graffiti artist, t-shirt designs were a natural progression for Dcypher, his bold illustrative and graphic style translating well to the printed format, while his imagery was already attuned to the urban wear aesthetic. Inspired by the likes of Evan Hecox’s Chocolate Skateboards, he began dabbling in the idea of t-shirt designs while still in Los Angeles, producing images for his CBS crewmates. Dcypher initially considered an online, made-to-order approach, scaling down overheads, but the hyper competitive US market made it a tough proposition to crack.

By the time he returned to Aotearoa, Dcypher had collated a stockpile of t-shirt images. Enter Tim Ellis, founder of fashion company Movers and Shakers. Dcypher had met Ellis through Truth Dubstep, when the artist had worked with the musicians on logos and promotional designs. Ellis brought the industry know-how, connections and capital to Dcypher Apparel, allowing the artist creative freedom to put his designs onto tees and into the world as creative director. The Dcypher Apparel brand was born.

While initially hesitant to use his hard-earned graffiti name as the brand identity, it has ultimately proved beneficial due to his reputation in the urban art world. As creative director, Dcypher leads the designs, but also ensures he has input in where the shirts are stocked, choosing locations based on their connection to skate and graffiti culture, providing the right audience for the brand and a sense of authenticity. There is always a tricky line between making a brand accessible and still elevating it above mass-produced fast fashion, making sure it gets into the right hands – urban wear and youth culture is all about influence. Locally, the tees are available at Embassy on Colombo Street and Encompass at The Tannery, as well as further afield at Cheapskates Wanganui, Fusion in Wellington, Pavement in Dunedin and The Plugg in Kaitaia. Dcypher acknowledges these locations guarantee the right audience and, vitally, respect the cultures that gave birth to the brand.

Although Dcypher’s personal style leans towards the understated these days, favouring a plain black tee, the lure of a t-shirt serving as another platform for his art is undeniable. Rather than developing a completely new approach, Dcypher’s t-shirt designs are drawn from his mural, wall, studio and digital designs, the artist feeling his way through the process and making changes where needed to suit the cotton canvas. And yet, the designs can also be unique from large-scale works, which often require more compromise. The t-shirt graphics are free-form, following the artist’s interests as they develop, rather than being proscribed by briefs from above. The designs (on upsized tees, as preferred by skaters who value the freer movement) feature urban landscapes, Dcypher’s signature skulls, characters and graffiti pieces, sometimes all worked together. Other works take on specific narratives, from corporate greed to Noah’s Ark and Eastern influences. Dcypher’s iconic, but now obscured, Welcome to Christchurch postcard mural (the text mid-construction in reference to the rebuild), has also been rendered as a design. With a growing range, Dcypher continues to develop new ideas for seasonal release, including the exploration of glow-in-the-dark printing.

As an artist brand, Dcypher Apparel is less concerned with fashion trends, and more about the art and aesthetic as a reflection of Dcypher’s style. T-shirts, with their broad appeal and ability to reach a wide audience, allow the artist and his art to engage audiences in new ways. As Dcypher suggests, young people don’t often buy art, but they do buy t-shirts, and he hopes his tees can connect the two worlds.

For more about Dcypher Apparel’s range and for stockists, follow @dcypher_apparel on Instagram or visit  https://dcypher-apparel.myshopify.com/

Street Treats, Vol. 7

For the latest installment of Street Treats, we are serving up a selection of pieces, pastes, pixels, petals and beyond. From a reminder of an old pal’s legacy, to epic collaborations and tiny treats, the streets have provided a range of goodies. That is, of course, the joy of the urban environment as a setting for creative (and naughty) interventions, there is no curation. The result echoes the physical presence of our cities, where thousands, indeed millions of people interweave as they go about their own concerns, trials and aspirations. Any city is a collection of individual voices and the art of the streets reflects this diversity, each piece the compulsive expression of an individual that can be read in infinite ways by the passing audience. In a world where online communication has become increasingly toxic and antagonistic, the art in the streets provides something different, still capable of asserting beliefs and ideologies, but devoid of the escalating tensions or echo chambers of comment sections. Indeed, as one image attests, often the response to uninvited additions is not so much beautification as silencing, ensuring a monochromatic environment. So enjoy this platter of pictures and relax, our cities and our communities are not monolithic, and the streets provide the platform for that multiplicity…

Tune! With Daken

The latest contributor to our ever expanding playlist Tune! is our pal Daken – our favourite graffiti, comics and bootleg toy enthusiast. When he provided us with his selection of five songs that inspire him as an artist, he admitted it was not an easy task, pointing to evidence of a scrawled page of ‘almost’ cuts that didn’t quite make his final list. Daken’s selection is influenced by his creative endeavours and, importantly, his role as a father, music serving as a bridge between his youth and his children. With a mix of hip-hop, Emo and the genre mixing Gorillaz, it is a road trip through a few eras, which is, to borrow a phrase, “for the children”…

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Music is the closest thing I will get to time travel in my lifetime. Not to say I don’t listen to contemporary artists, I listen to a wide range of stuff. But two years ago a couple things happened. I became a father and I found a new art medium: bootleg art toys. Being a father lends itself to reflecting on one’s own childhood experiences. Trying to work out what makes you, you. Working in this new medium that invites play, wonder and nostalgia, my listening habits seem to be a higher percentage of things I listened to as a kid. Certain albums, artists, songs or even lyrics acting as doorways to memories I can pull on, to pass onto not only my art but to my children too. I hope you like these memories I put together for y’all. Stay dope, peace homies.

Fall Out Boy – Hum Hallelujah

Warren G – Regulate

Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks

Flobots – Handlebars

Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc.

And That Was… June 2022

June, smack bang the middle of the year. We can see the path to spring and summer in front of us (OK, that might be optimistic, but from a strictly numerical point of view…). But the midst of winter does not mean there was nothing on – sure, the weather is a little bit more unpredictable and the mornings colder, but the tricks and treats keep coming. The last month has seen some interesting propositions and amazing opportunities, the chance to connect with a wide range of people and, of course, some awesome art…

The Little Street Art Festival Boost Ōtautahi Campaign

As you may know, Watch This Space is developing The Little Street Art Festival, a street art event with a different spin – spotlighting the smaller scale and great diversity of urban art across Ōtautahi. From small-scale paintings and stencils, to sculptural installations, craftivism and light-based work, the festival will provide a unique platform for local and Aotearoa urban creatives. But, to bring the Little Street Art Festival to life, it requires money! We undertook a Boost Ōtautahi fundraiser through June – and thanks to the generosity of our friends, whanau and networks, we raised $15,000! This is a fantastic building block for the festival – we are super excited!

JZA’s Street Signs

We have loved spotting JZA’s sneaky street sign alterations around the city. Bringing a smile to people’s faces, declarations such as ONE LOVE, ONE EARTH and more show how little interventions can provide meaningful impacts to our daily experiences.

A Quick Trip to Akaroa

I was also lucky enough to have the chance for a nice drive to Akaroa, where I presented a talk about the complexities of urban art to an enthusiastic crowd in an amazing venue, the picturesque St Pauls Church. The chance to field questions and share my passion for graffiti, street art and neo muralism with an audience keen to engage was a pleasure and ultimately stimulating. It’s funny the places you can find yourself…

Crossing Live to Australia

To add to the list of unexpected happenings in June, I was also lucky enough to meet up with Steve Jacobs and cross live to Studio 10 in Australia as the roving reporter toured the South Island. Over a lightning quick tour of some of the street art around Little High, we chatted about why urban art has been so important for the city…

Josh Bradshaw’s Things I Thought You’d Say, Or Don’t @ Absolution

It was great to finally see a new solo show from Josh Bradshaw, whose new creative direction is a far cry from his previous identity – refreshingly urban, punky and monochromatic, I’m onboard (and have been for a while). His show at Absolution was a perfect tonic for a cold winter evening, beers and chats in an intimate environment with fresh art to explore. Perfect.

What made your list for June 2022? let us know in the comments!

Exploring Aerosol – A Masterclass Workshop with Wongi Wilson

Back in June, we were lucky enough to work with local aerosol legend Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson, Toi Ōtautahi and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage to deliver the free masterclass workshop Exploring Aerosol. Hosted at the iconic CoCA on Gloucester Street, where the white-walled upper gallery provided a stunning setting, attendees were given the chance to learn from Wongi’s mass of accumulated knowledge. Learning about the building blocks of graffiti as a gateway to can control, from the simple tag to the more developed three-dimensional effects of a larger piece, guests were let loose to explore techniques as Wongi presented his insights. The afternoon session dived into Wongi’s approach realism, from landscapes to his mastery of hands, the crowd in silent appreciation of how his images came together.

The free workshop was one of the first of a series of classes targeting practicing artists and providing the chance to expand technical skills. In developing Exploring Aerosol, the goal was to enable artists to develop aerosol techniques while also exploring how the spray can might be used for a variety of forms and styles, elevating the tool to a broader perception. With an energetic response (with limited spaces, not every applicant was able to attend), we hope this was just the first of future workshops that might explore the toolbox of urban art…

We want to hear from more people interested in these types of workshops and initiatives – let us know in the comments or via email to hello@watchthisspace.org.nz

Showtime!

Things I Thought You’d Say or Don’t – Josh Bradshaw, Absolution, 3rd June, 2022

Josh Bradshaw’s first solo show in several years (and the first under his real name) gathered a crowd on Friday, June 3rd at Absolution in The Arts Centre. Things I Thought You’d Say or Don’t presented a collection of works that indicate Bradshaw’s new creative direction, explorations of the urban environment that utilise an array of materials and techniques, producing a punk-infused, anarchic and yet poised range of evocative images. A good crowd braved the chilly June weather on the night, buoyed by the art and, of course, the barrel of Double Browns…

A pair of disposable cameras allowed people to document the night…
Josh Bradshaw, right, with fellow artist Harry King from Absolution
There was a busy crowd throughout the night
Our pal, Beartrap drummer Mitch Barnard was all smiles

Only the finest drinks…

Do you have a show coming up? Let us know by emailing hello@watcthisspace.org.nz

And That Was… May 2022

May is the month when you can feel winter coming, daylight savings ends, the weather becomes just that little bit more unpredictable, and t-shirts start to be accompanied by warmer layers (just in case), yet we can also ignore these signs and enjoy the final throes of Summer’s waning presence. This May, we have enjoyed a range of treats, from the streets of Ōtautahi to gallery walls in Te- Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, a beautiful secluded gem in Waltham, a haunting surprise outside one of our favourite bars and the odd geeky nightmare…

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Cape of Storms – The Paste-Up Project

We welcomed the third artist to the Phantom bollard take-over The Paste-Up Project, with Cape of Storms adorning the circular structure with a signature blast of colourful retro collage posters. The installation, titled Foreign Objects, reflects on the adjustment to life in Aotearoa, highlighting Kiwi quirks through nostalgic compositions of food and fashion and vintage media. The appearance is easily mistaken for official poster advertising, until closer inspection reveals the acerbic humour – check it out on Manchester Street!

Jessie Rawcliffe – Adam Portraiture Award

We’ve always known our pal Jessie Rawcliffe was super talented – now she has the certificate to prove it! Jessie’s striking portrait Richard, of Wellington tattoo artist Richard Warnock, was highly commended in the Adam Portraiture Awards at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery in the capital. From 351 entries, the Adam Awards exhibition was narrowed down to 45 works, with Jessie’s painting being placed in the top 7 by judges Linda Tyler and Karl Maughan.

The Haunted Teacup

You may know about Watch This Space’s plans for The Little Street Art Festival in 2023 (if not, more to come soon!) – but did you know about Ghostcat‘s Haunted Teacup – a work created to exemplify the types of works the festival will celebrate? The worn Victorian-styled automata viewing box has been surprising viewers passing The Last Word on New Regent Street through May, drawing people in with the promise of a terrifying supernatural experience, but is it what it seems? Go and check it out… If you dare!

7 Oaks Mural

We recently had the chance to work with Life in Vacant Spaces and the amazing community at Waltham’s 7 Oaks – an incredible site where array of groups make use of a beautiful space. Together we created a participatory mural welcoming visitors to 7 Oaks, a team effort where 3 year olds and those just a little bit older all contributed to a mural that draws on the surrounding environment.

Return to the Upside Down

Last, but not least, is a shout out to my nerdy side (which is possibly 73% of me) and the long anticipated debut of season four of everyone’s favourite 80’s homage Stranger Things! I may or may not have binged all seven episodes in one night, but who is asking, really? I also may have already re-watched it and now wait impatiently for the final two episodes… Bada Bada Boom!

What made your May list? Let us know!

 

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