And that Was… December 2021

December was kind of like a microcosm of the year 2021 – lots of uncertainty and doubt, but still enough to keep us occupied and perhaps an optimism underlined by the hard-earned resilience of the last 24 months. This month’s And That Was… is a little shorter than normal, largely because we put together the whopper 2021 recap and co-ordinating that many responses is hard work! But that doesn’t mean we should not acknowledge some of the cool stuff we saw and did in December 2021, the sign-off to a year that was… unforgettable?

BOXed Quarter additions…

Nick Lowry’s massive Eel and Bone piece is one of a collection of new works at the BOXed Quarter to sign off 2021

New work at the BOXed Quarter added to the already impressive collection, with new pieces by teethlikescrewdrivers, Bols and Bloom n Grow Gal, as well as a massive, three-panel high production by Nick Lowry, a new, neon-tinged landmark for Madras Street traffic…

Stitch-o-Mat Bouquet in New Brighton

We loved finding these beautiful cross-stitched floral arrangements in New Brighton, weaved through a netting board, they are beguiling, intricate, and ramshackle – the perfect combination…

ZZAN

The Watch This Space team enjoys the food and atmosphere of ZZAN!

ZZAN Korean Fried Chicken on Manchester Street is not only great because it has huge servings of good food – it also has the coolest decor in the city – the graffiti aesthetic is so good Watch This Space had to have our Xmas gathering there!

New TOGO works at Fiksate

Wellington based artist and adventurer TOGO is a definite favourite here – from his daring graffiti that breaks expectations around style and aesthetics, to his incredible, but often less visible studio and gallery work – so we loved seeing some new pieces at Fiksate – continuing his experimental techniques to create abstract works that draw on urban chaos and chance, they are simultaneously elegant and energetic.

It’s not about the gifts…

Some of the new books the author compiled throughout December. Now it is time to find the opportunity to read them!

December is both my birthday month and Christmas, and while I know its about the time spent with loved ones, it is also nice to know my collection of art books is always likely to grow come the last month of the year – and 2021 was a fine example, with new reads now piled high on my dresser!

And That Was… December 2021 and 2021 wrapped! Join us in 2022 for more lists, interviews and articles – and let us know what and who you would like to see featured in our online content this year!

Spread the word about what's happening in the Christchurch urban art scene:

And That Was… 2021

I think we all expected to be able to look back at 2021 and say, well at least it was better than 2020, but let’s be honest, it was pretty much a replay: more viruses, more lockdowns, more political shenanigans, and a heap of new entries into the encyclopaedia of frustrating human experiences. This year, when we reached out to our favourite artists, some familiar, others new friends, we wanted to keep the questions a little more open-ended than previous years, recognition of the challenging times and also giving more room for reflection. The responses echoed that intent, with a wide-ranging focus, lots of shout-outs and importantly, acknowledgements that even through all the stress and chaos of 2021, Ōtautahi’s urban creative community continues to grow, thrive and evolve… So, even if it is through gritted teeth, here’s to 2021, a year of resilience…

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Dcypher (@dcypher_dtrcbs)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

My kids have been super influential in my general outlook on things over the past year, but as far as painting is concerned I’m constantly influenced by everything I see. Obviously the pandemic has had a massive influence on people from all walks of life on an international scale and has given artists time to hone in on particular aspects of their process during lock down. I’ve been lucky enough to have spent some time in my studio over the past 12 months.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Internationally, I’m constantly finding new artists doing incredible work and taking their art in different directions. Bond has been doing amazing wall paintings with the integration of various outcomes in VR augmented reality, RFID devices and experimenting with crazy tools and paint contraptions, it definitely makes him one of the most interesting artists of 2021 in my opinion. Locally, Ghostcat’s work is top notch! He’s constantly stepping it up.

What would you say had been your personal highlight in 2021?

One of Dcypher’s paintings at South Sea Spray in early 2021

My personal highlight of 2021 was South Sea Spray by a long shot. It was the best festival I’ve ever had the honor to attend! There were highlights within the highlight; awesome line-up, the hospitality, the sights, and plenty of hyped locals!

Teethlikescrewdrivers (@teethlikescrewdrivers)

teethlikescrewdrivers takes stock of his Paste-Up Project installation in early October…

What has been the biggest influence on you in 2021?

The collective minds of SlapCity continue to be a huge influence on me personally. It has been amazing to see this random group of people hang out and support each other in so many ways. Our original intention was to push sticker and paste-ups as a legitimate artistic medium here in Aotearoa and abroad, and I feel we are doing just that. Collectively we have had members run their own independent art shows as well as feature in them. We have been part of organising and collaborating in paste-up and sticker shows across the globe. We have seen our work on public installations, featured on blogs and have been interviewed by The Press about what we do.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Interesting is an interesting word! I am a huge fan of subversive stuff, so @fokawolf will always reign supreme there. I have continued to be in love with @eter_91’s typography and have a special place in my heart for @mambotattooer’s line work. Cannot forget our Ghostcat. His Welcome to Christchurch – The Garden City sign is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. Stoked to see his book project get the funding it rightly deserves.

Ghostcat’s miniature Welcome to Christchurch sign was a favorite of teethlikescrewdrivers in 2021…

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Just being able to see my stuff up and about. Having the opportunity to take over one of Phantom Billstickers’ bollards on Manchester Street as part of #thepasteupproject was right up there. It was so great to upscale my work and think of it as a whole piece rather than just individual pencils. I was really stoked with how it came out. Being part of @helloiamtheshow‘s PB n Jam was amazing. I never thought that people would want to buy stuff with my pencil on it. Who knew?

teethlikescrewdrivers’ work at PB n Jam at The BOXed Quarter in August featured found objects adorned with his iconic pencils…

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Gigs. I wish I could have seen more gigs.

Vesil

What has been the biggest influence on you in 2021?

I’d say the obvious one would be Covid, being in and out of lockdowns. It definitely has given time to reassess what’s important and what I’m striving for as I’m sure it has with others. Friends have also influenced me over this year, watching them succeed and accomplish their goals has been a real incentive to get off my ass and do the same. Getting out of the city which is something I’ve tried to do a bit over the year. The exploring of different spots, catching up with old and new friends and coming back with a new insight than the one you left with, as well as at least one good story to go with it.

A fresh perspective, 2021

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Harry King would definitely be someone who springs to mind. I’m always really impressed by the sheer volume of work he consistently produces that’s always at a high standard. The same can be said for Tepid who too is pumping out a lot, across a variety of mediums. A couple of other honourable mentions go out to PK, Revos and Fiasko.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

My personal highlight would be, aside from the freezing cold and running out of beer, freight hopping up the country.

Travelling the country freight-hopping was a highlight for Vesil in 2021…

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Worry less and explore more.

Ghostcat (@ghostcat_mb)

Image from Fiksate Gallery

What has been the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Christchurch. The city has had the biggest influence on me as I’ve seen it from a different perspective with regard to my journey this year. Learning about people’s connections to places that are no longer there, exploring places I’d never been. There’s so much to take in.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Jacob Yikes continues to blow my melon year in year out. His work is always so insanely good! The details and the way it takes you on a trip to another place.

Jacob Yikes’ Only here to pay some bills and maybe fill a cart with cat food

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

My highlight was without a doubt was Shadowtown, my first ever solo show at Fiksate earlier this year. That was one of my highlights of my entire life! Putting my work out there and getting the response I did was amazing, so much love!

Ghostcat at his show Shadowtown in early 2021 [Photo credit Charlie Rose Creative]
What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I wouldn’t have changed a thing as every action throughout 2021 has led me here. It’s had its challenges, but it all comes to together.

Jessie Rawcliffe (@jessie.er)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

The fact that you’ve sent these questions means it’s been an entire year since the last time. Once again, I initially struggled to remember anything definitive from the last 12 months, then it slowly came back. Your yearly questionnaire is strangely therapeutic as it’s a great reminder that I have in fact made and seen some shit…But to answer the question, being employed. The flexibility and time I thought I’d be giving up, that I assumed would be detrimental to my creativity, never came to fruition. Or at least it was completely counterbalanced by the reduced anxiety of finally having some financial stability. Realising that I don’t thrive being my own boss was a huge influence on my painting. Not needing to sell work to live has made me more selective about being in shows and I’ve been able to make whatever I want with less parameters. The irony being that when you make stuff for yourself without caring about how it will be received by others, people tend to respond positively, or at least the people whose opinions you actually care about do.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I’ve gotten a bit obsessed with @post_vandalism on Instagram. It’s a collection of works curated by Stefano Bardsley, thematically linked by their connection to graffiti, vandalism and their removal. I almost thought that the whole intersection between graff and fine art had been done to death, but I keep seeing stuff that holds my attention.

Ed Bats’ Italio OD, 2021 [Photo from Ed Bats’ Instagram]
Honorable mention to Ghostcat Mike Beer as well. His solo show was an amazing reflection of his obsession for detail, and the little collaborations within it made it extra special.

Jessie Rawcliffe’s collaboration with Ghostcat for Shadowtown in early 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Getting to paint a couple of walls this year was a huge step and something I’ve wanted to do for ages. I’m at that point where I’m pretty certain about what I’m capable of, but during both the Berlin Wall and NZ Opera pieces I had moments of ‘ah this looks like shit wtf am I doing’. Me, up a ladder, with a too small paint brush, rookie.

The Marriage of Figaro mural Jessie Rawcliffe painted in mid 2021 in collaboration with the NZ Opera

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I lost momentum in the middle of the year and took on miscellaneous freelance design projects (because if you stop moving you die right?) when I should have just kept painting.

Bloom n Grow Gal (@bloomngrowgal)

Bloom n Grow Gal painting in the BOXed Quarter to close out 2021

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

A huge influence on me this year would have to be the Green Lane community. I was so lucky that this was the first group of people I met when I came to Ōtautahi. Hanging out and drawing during the markets inspired me to start my pop-up art shows. Something I had enjoyed doing at university, I then had the opportunity and support to start it again here! I’ve made some truly amazing friends, found my creative drive and flare thanks to these guys. There will always be a big spot in my heart for Green Lane.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I have been so incredibly lucky to work and meet with extremely talented artists this year. To just pick one is hard! I have really loved what Harry King has been doing. I only met him and discovered his work this year at one of the Art Walls shows at The Welder. King did a series of four paintings for the show, one in particular really caught my eye. I honestly think my Grizzly’s bread intake increased over the period of time King’s work featured there. I had to get it, the painting of the cowgirl now hangs in my room, alongside a load of other epic pieces of work I have collected this year. King is also an amazing tattoo artist at Absolution in the Art Centre. I’ve loved seeing him develop this art of his work too.

One of Harry King’s works from Art Walls at The Welder, 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

These are the hardest questions ever, so mean! Haha… it’s so hard to just pick one. I think it’s going to have to be the three shows I put on this year, More the Show, PB n Jam the Show & Even More the Show (I know that’s technically three, I loved them all equally and can’t pick) All those emails, all the organising, all the art hanging into the early hours of the next day. Working and discovering all these incredible people in Ōtautahi. As well as having made some amazing friendships through the process I have an incredibly amazing art wall now at home full of pieces I have brought from the shows. It also really pushed me to discover something I was really passionate about.

Even More the Show at Clubhouse Creative, one of three shows Bloom n Grow Gal opened in 2021…

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I would change being on my phone just as much as I have been this year…even the past two years. Ever since this global pandemic started I have realised my screen time has increased by an embarrassing amount. I noticed after doing this my mood would be low and my desire to create minimal. Although I feel like some of my work produced was slightly fuelled by the pandemic, I definitely want to go into 2022 with less screen time… Live Laugh Love and all that.

Ikarus (@highdoctornick)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

I don’t know if I’m heavily influenced by outside factors tbh. I try to just do what I do. My crew, DTR, inspire me n so do the super active graffiti guys

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Ghostcat has definitely been on his grind, seeing his energy towards pursuing art full time is infectious and it’s hard not to love the builds he does. Vesal FOK owned the streets in Christchurch this year, hands down nobody put in more work than him.

Vesal was one of Ikarus’ favourites for 2021

The big TMD show up north looked awesome too. Special mentions to Race n Hoaks from A2D crew, they aren’t Christchurch guys but the work I’ve seen of theirs is super cool n I’ve definitely been interested in seeing what those guys come up with week to week.

The TMD crew roll call from the TMD: An Aotearoa Graffiti Story at the Dowse Gallery in Lower Hutt

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

It’s hard to beat South Sea Spray, even though that was all the way at the start of the year. Everything about it was just too next level. Also organising the wall n line up for the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit n getting a nice line up of different generations of Christchurch graffiti guys together.

The DTR Crew collab at South Sea Spray in early 2021, featuring Yikes, Dcypher and Ikarus [photo supplied by Brian ‘Rowee’ Rowe]
What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

The mandate. Fuck that shit. I’m not against vaccines but I am against the way this whole shit is unravelling.

Jacob Yikes (@jacobyikes)

A Pool Full of Deep Ends, a new work from Jacob Yikes in 2021

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

I’m not really sure to be honest, the last 2 years have been pretty chaotic and I’ve yet to really reflect on all of it but yeah, I struggle to narrow it down as I think everything good and bad influences everything I do in terms of my art.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I think I would have to say that Ghostcat takes the prize for that one this year, he’s on another level with his miniature works, some really impressive stuff for sure.

Ghostcat’s Volcano and Lava Bar build from Shadowtown [Photo credit Charlie Rose Creative]
What would you say has been your personal highlight?

In terms of personal highlights relating to painting I would say that some of the projects that myself and my crew have been a part of this year have been a lot of fun and we have some pretty rad projects lined up for early 2022 And yeah another would be the fact that I’m nearing completion on a large body of work that I have been working on for the last few years and I’m pretty excited to exhibit those paintings middle of next year.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Haha, I’m not sure if I would change anything. That probably seems kind of weird and yeah obviously Covid is a pain, but yeah, I’m not one to get strung out on shit I can’t change

Jonny Waters (@jonnywatersart)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Finding someone I truly love and adore. Art wise – Probably shedding a few more layers of caring about what others think about what I make and abstraction.

DOOR/SCOPE was part of Jonny Water’s push into abstraction in 2021

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Vesil, OXY and the FOK crew & Fiasko

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Producing Ōtepoti Hip-Hop Hustle and organising another banger Graff Jam for Ombrellos in Dunedin.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Painted more with the TiC homies.

Jenna Ingram (@jen_heads)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

The people. The Christchurch crews – music, art, hospo, retail. We are very lucky here! Some are artists I’ve admired and looked up to since 2006/7 and now work with, some I am now great friends with, some who have inspired me and some who have helped me out a lot. Some are amazing Fiksate supporters that we are honored to know and call friends too. It’s all about the people for me.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Lots of great art this year. Ghostcat. Jessie Rawcliffe. SlapCity Crew. Misery. Jess Johnson. Dr. Suits. Chimp. Askew One. Jasmine Gonzalez. Pener. The Dreamgirls (Xoë Hall, Gina Keil, Miriama Grace-Smith). Studio Soph. Laurie Steer. The DTR Riverside mural is pretty outstanding!

Birds of a Feather, one of the works from Chimp’s show Social Woes at Fiksate in October 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight? 

Ghostcat‘s ‘Shadow Town’ exhibition, Askew One & Jasmine Gonzalez‘s ‘Continuum’ exhibition, Askew One‘s mural that Nath organised. Chimp‘s ‘Social Woes’ exhibition. Ghostcat’s miniature Fiksate Gallery. Dr. Suits and Porta completing an amazing mural for Graffiato in Taupo. Getting a kitten. 

Dr Suits and Porta add some detail to Dr Suits’ mural at Graffiato (Image via Graffiato Taupo Street Art)

What one thing would you have changed from 2021? 

Can’t change the past man! So nothing! What’s done is done. Learn from it and move on.

Jacob Root/Distranged Design (@distrangeddesign)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021? 

I think the way the world currently is has given me a greater influence to become the best version of myself, not only in art but in all areas of my life. But yeah, I think it’s pushed my work more because I want to constantly be creating and it puts me in my own wee world.

A Thorn in the Roses was released as a fundraiser for Movember by Distranged Design

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

In my opinion I’ve loved seeing the work Daniel Arsham has been creating, it’s all just so different and the collaborations he’s been a part of have been insane!

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

I think the collaborations I’ve done, and those I have also organized that are in the pipeline are my proudest moments, it makes this career even more fun when you can work with others and bounce off ideas with like-minded creatives.

United, a Distranged Design collaboration with Hannah Jensen (@hannahjensenart) from 2021

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I’d love to have been able to travel, but that wasn’t possible! I’ve got something cool planned next year which I can’t wait for though!

Meep (@kophie_loaf)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Probably living through heaps of major world events at once, haha! Also seeing how much online and social media has played a part during these times and making people nuts.

Meeps work confronted the issues facing us all through 2021

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I follow so many different areas of art, fashion, graffiti, fine art, illustration etc., so I can’t really pin-point anything. But I will say that I am so proud of my friend McChesney (@mkaartist) for finally getting a tattoo apprenticeship, she has wanted it for the longest time, and I am sooo happy for her, she’s going to be so famous one day.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Probably the anti-racism Stand Up Event I organised alongside The Conscious Club and getting to be a part of the Hip Hop Summit was a great way to end the year. I have also had a lot of opportunities this year that I am very grateful for.

Meep takes stock of her character for the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit graffiti event

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I have had a lot of ups and downs the past 2 years, losing two of my family members and dealing with heaps of other life stuff while simultaneously living through huge world events. It’s been the hardest couple years of my life, so it can only go up from here hopefully! Haha!

Harry King (@atribecalledhaz)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Liv O’Callaghan (@livocallaghan) – she’s taken me under her wing and is showing me the ropes of the tattoo ship.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I’d have to say Josh Bradshaw’s barbed wire roses for the last Art Walls of the year.

Josh Bradshaw’s tiny roses made from recovered barbed wire were some of Harry King’s favourite pieces from 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Starting my tattoo apprenticeship.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

More Memphis Meltdowns!

Josh Bradshaw (@joshbradshaw_art_)

Photo credit: Mitch Barnard

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Biggest influence on me in 2021 has been my new job that I started working at in April. They have all sorts of woodworking machinery, laser cutters, sand blasting and metal engraving machines as well as a spray booth. It’s basically a McDonald’s playground for anyone that likes to make stuff. Being able to use all the gear for my own artwork unlocks a whole other realm of works that weren’t possible for me before.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Not me that’s for damn sure. Probs some random person overseas that has been shadow banned by the Zuck man on Instagram for no reason so that no one even sees their work anymore anyway.  But Levi Hawken and Dr Suits are steady favourites of mine locally speaking.

One of Levi Hawken’s concrete casts. Hawken is a favourite of Josh Bradshaw.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

A personal highlight was finally making my little barbed wire rose series (I picked a dozen but not for you) that I thought of ages ago but couldn’t get around to making it for most of the year. Felt good to not have that idea in my brain anymore. Also bought myself a sick old book press which is cool.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I dunno, maybe something about not making NFT’s trendy/ a hype beast, wait in line for an ugly cartoon of a monkey that matches your limited edition dunks so you can get into a club in Hollywood type of deal this year. It’s just not it.

Sofiya Romanenko (@chchasti)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

The Instagram’s tight grip on me has been as strong as ever this year, but in a far more productive way than before. I love to hate it and hate to love it, the broken window into the world of great talent from all of the corners of the world the tendrils of the internet can reach, which inspires me to degrade my artistic abilities on the daily, whilst simultaneously lighting enough fire under my ass to produce my own work.

Another thing, the influence of which this year cannot be understated, is skateboarding. Delving into the thick of it and finding how closely it is intertwined with everything I loved for years made it feel like I found the missing link between my long line of interests and helped me gain a whole new perspective on them, contributing greatly to my work.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I feel that with me being very new to the art scene I’m just barely scratching the surface of what this country has to offer, especially given a bit of stagnancy brought upon us all due to the pandemic, but among the many local artists I’ve been following this year my two favourites are: Miiekes, whose wild trash art lies near and dear to my rotten heart – I’ve been a fan of pretty much every piece she put out in 2021; and Cammy (@__cammy_h__), whose photography evokes just the right level of discomfort in its lonesome stillness – something I very much enjoy to channel through my own art as well.

Image from @__cammy_h__

Among foreign names I can mention Jerry Hsu, Trevor Hernandez, Kludge, Jason Gringler, and pretty much everyone in the post_vandalism Instagram account.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

It’s pretty tough to pin-point a particular highlight in a year that has become my life’s highlight in itself. I’ve gone through a lot of exciting and important changes in 2021, which finally made me feel like I’m exactly where I need to be, but I guess the common thread among all of these changes is finding the path to “myself”. Or rather, whatever I want this mysterious self to be.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

The only change I would’ve made is started taking antidepressants sooner – could’ve saved myself a lot of miserable days.

 

Lost Boy (@lostboy_chch)

Image from @lostboy_chch

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

In one word the biggest influence on me in 2021 has been: Life. My normal everyday life that occurs between wake and sleep. The people I meet, things I do, words I speak. Sometimes ideas enter into my mind and swim. I try to fish them, but can only catch so much in a day.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I have found throughout 2021 the works by the following humans have caused interest to pique in my mushy ape brain: JR, Banksy, beeple, Ron Hauge.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Personal highlight of this year… Becoming a regular member of SlapCity. Having a space to come together and splurge onto paper, stickers, and anything else, this is good. Creativity is shared by osmosis in them.

The Slap City crew on a mission. Image from @slapcity_chch

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Throughout 2021 I should have had more fruit.

Phew. The questions have been answered. Made my brain whirl for a while, now its stopped. I can finally rest.

Mark Catley (@mark_catley)

Bloom n Grow Gal and Mark Catley’s Three-Eyed Freaky Girl

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Covid and my little one, Alba. I had a lot of ideas and WIP’s this year, but with the whole Covid cloud over everything I’ve really just felt drained. So I’ve just tried to hang out with my 2 year old Alba and enjoy life.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I really love Askew One’s Innovate mural. It’s the most different thing I’ve seen around the streets this year. But everyone’s work is just getting better and better. All the new 3D / 2D art works are super cool and even my mum likes them, lol. I’m also amazed by the talent of Jessie Rawcliffe.

Askews Innovate mural at ARA

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

I had a lot of fun working with Rollickin Gelato at the start of the year…and it’s cool to see giant action figures up on the walls inside a shop.

Mark Catleys Wampa at Rollickin Gelato, one of several paste-up additions he made to the beloved gelato store

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

That Covid was gone for good… and that I could get my head around NFT’s and start selling them for bitcoin.

Bols (@bolsamatic)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

There have been a few key influences this year, even if I take the obvious pandemic-sized elephant out of the room. Getting older and taking on certain responsibilities as a father and a partner has been a big thing. There have also been so many people who have been influential, spending time with talented artists and rad folks has been undeniably impactful…

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Seeing Askew One paint his mural at ARA and working with Benjamin Work when he painted the floor work at the Canterbury Museum were highlights in terms of process and conceptualisation. Locally, Ghostcat has had an amazing year, the guy is always buzzing with ideas and to top it off he is just one of the best humans alive!

Ghostcat and Bols Soggy City Ciggies from mid 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Working on the Paste-Up Project and seeing the first installation by teethlikescrewdrivers was awesome, working on Benjamin‘s project was a highlight as well, observing someone I have admired for a long time in a celebrated location was pretty neat. The TMD show at the Dowse was phenomenal (writing a review of the show for Art New Zealand was fantastic as well). In terms of my own art, it is fresh, but I really liked the piece I painted at the Boxed Quarter right at the end of the year.

The floor-to-wall mural has become a striking element inside the Museum, while also adding a range of fascinating discourses.
Benjamin Works Motutapu II inside the Canterbury Museum

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I would have liked it to have felt longer, which sounds strange in hindsight, but the reality is that so much of the year was lost that it almost seems like we deserve some extra time…

Thanks to all the artists who contributed to this recap – as a city with so much talent, 2022 is sure to be exciting! Let us know what you loved from 2021 and what you are looking forward to in 2022 in the comments!

Spread the word about what's happening in the Christchurch urban art scene:

Nick Lowry, teethlikescrewdrivers, Bloom n Grow Gal and Bols @ the BOXed Quarter

After a week of rain fall and grey skies, the sun returned just in time for a group of local artists to add to the already impressive collection of art on the many panels of the BOXed Quarter on St Asaph Street. Nick Lowry, teethlikescrewdrivers, Bloom n Grow Gal and Bols each brought their own styles to various panels throughout the complex, joining works by Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson, Joel Hart, Meep, Chile One, Newen, YSEK, Mark Catley and more. Inside, Bols stencilled a multi-layered grey-scale text piece, reading ‘The kids round here live just like shadows’, a line taken from Bruce Springsteen’s epic Jungleland, while Bloom n Grow Gal’s flowers took root on nearby panels, boldly outlined and oversized. On Madras Street, teethlikescrewdrivers played off the existing buff patches to create a colourful swatch of squares and line-work pencils, bright colours buzzing against the rich ochre background. Around the corner, Nick Lowry went big, with a three-panel high piece featuring the evocative image of an eel wrapped around a bone, the background a shift of green tones. Reaching the top of the building, Lowry’s work is visible from far down Madras Street, a new beacon of the BOXed Quarter’s vibrant walls.

Let us know about your favourite new works around Otautahi by commenting on our social media, or send us an email at hello@watchthisspace.org.nz!

 

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

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

LKM (Lara Kate Marshall) and Jesse Rubenstein in front of LKM’s work
Lydia Thomas and her bloom pieces (with real flowers adding a new twist!)
Josh Bradshaw’s tiny barbed wire roses were picked, but not for you…

 

Ikarus’ grimy miniature graffiti scenes…
Ryan Robertson’s Stew Art, mixed media on canvas
Louann Sidon’s beguiling watercolour and metallic powder works
And, to top it off there were goodest bois as well…

 

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

 

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Tune! with Bloom n Grow Gal

Bloom n Grow Gal’s affection for music was clear from our first conversation. The more we chatted and the more I have come to know about her work and process, the connection became even more apparent. When I suggested she write a list of her favourite songs for Tune! she was immediately excited. When I received her list, it was accompanied by an admission” “I’m not sure if I have done this correctly…” and explanation that she could have added a heap more musical influences. But as I started to read, it was, in her inimitable style, clear that she had got it spot on – connecting songs to her memories and lived experience (I was transported to my own recollections as I listened to The Strokes and Temper Trap) and illustrating that many of us are captivated by the connection between art and music from a young age and that it endures as we grow…
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Music plays a huge part in my life, it always has. It sets a mood and helps create the environment. As far back as I can remember birthday and Christmas wishlists would consist of tapes, CDs and records and of course cassette players then portable CD players then iPods. Mum and Dad both have impressive record collections and I always remember spending hours and hours flicking through them and putting out my favourite artworks and lining them up. Looking back now, I think my first realisation of the relationship between art and music was in these records. The Beatles, ABBA, The Clash, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, they all had incredibly cool record sleeves and music. I collected so many CDs, every paycheck I would be down to the local music shop buying all my favourites! I was always so envious of friends that had Sky TV, just have the music channels on whenever they wanted. This is bringing back so many moments! Where do I even start…or stop!
For me, music and my art represent moments in my life, the journeys I was on, or the beginning of something. This was incredibly hard to get down on paper because I get so much feeling and energy from music I don’t even know where to start! The DJ Anne Mac who I listened to on BBC Radio one throughout my teens and adult life recently had her final show and something she said in it just got me thinking about how I feel when a song comes on that I just connect with: “If you like the music you gotta get up and dance, just do it…” If it’s not dancing, it’s drawing, or wheat-pasting, or sewing… Create, Dance, Move!
Song: Mr. Scruff – Get A Move On
I think I was about 16-17 years old, me and a friend had gotten Mr. Scruff tickets. I’d loved the artwork behind Mr. Scruff as it had always connected with me. I was doing my art A levels and hating every moment, everything had to look like Van Gogh. I just wanted to be doing my own thing, I didn’t want to be sat trying to paint sunflowers exactly like Van Gogh. The Mr. Scruff concert was so awesome, I still remember it to this day. I think it was my first time getting properly high on weed. Mr. Scruff has these visuals that played on the screens and I remember just being so amazing at the connection with the music and the animations and how fun they were. just over ten years later, I got to do something similar at P.B. n Jam – The Show. I got to have my illustrations on a screen alongside music!

Song: The Temper Trap – Sweet Disposition
I remember listening to this song on my iPod mini on a bus, going from Barcelona Airport to the centre of Barcelona. I remember the colours of the sunset sky, how tired I was, but how beautiful and exciting it was. It was around the time I really started getting into point and click film cameras. Growing up mum and dad had documented our whole childhood on film. I just loved flicking through the albums, looking at the colours, the graininess, and the imperfections and blurs created by the risk of having one chance and one moment. I loved the spontaneous nature of the picture, the single chance you had to get it right. But then, even if it wasn’t quite right, there was always something nice about the picture. Although I wouldn’t say I am a photographer, I love taking photos on films. I love the unknown surprises that come with it. It’s like a metaphor for life, you don’t know how it’s going to turn out but you’ve got to try to find out (that might have sounded better in my head!).

Song: The Strokes – Someday
The Strokes have honestly been with me through so much; so many late nights at university getting the final bit of my projects finished. Their music carries me through the night and early hours of the morning and motivates me to get things finished. In between drawing I can always get up and have a boogie too. Their music just makes me want to use all the colours on every corner of every page. So yeah, The Strokes are my go-to for an artist deadline!

Song: Radiohead – Reckoner
Reckoner brings back some mixed feelings. It was a song and a band that got played a lot in my university years. Throughout university, I always doubted myself, and I was extremely hard on myself. I thought everything I was creating and had no purpose. I look back now and see how everything I was doing was just me developing as a person, you need to make mistakes or you never learn. Radiohead reminds me of just that.

Song: Elliot Smith – Needle In The Hay
I first heard Elliot Smith featured in the Wes Anderson film The Royal Tenenbaums. This song always reminds me of Wes Anderson films. I love their colour palettes, the film sets and the clothes.

Song: The Beatles – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
I feel like it wouldn’t really be my art and music list without having a Beatles song in there. It was honestly hard to pick just one song because two albums covers I would always pull out from my parent’s collection were Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Yellow Submarine. I loved all the people on the cover of the Sgt Pepper’s album, and the flowers at the front. I still think to this day it’s one of my favourites. I loved the collage effect. Collage is something I always love the look of, but don’t think I quite have it. But then, if I think about my paste-ups, that in itself is a kind-of collage, so maybe I am being a little hard on myself again! I loved the movie Yellow Submarine too and my favourite part was when Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds played. I always use to sing it as “Lydia in the sky with diamonds”… I just love the colours!!!

Song: Jorge Ben Jor – Take It Easy My Brother Charles

Honestly, it was so hard to get down six songs! I am constantly changing up my music and returning to old favourites at the same time. A song that is getting me through this lockdown is Jorge Ben Jor’s Take It Easy My Brother Charles. It is full of joy and colour, it gets me out of bed in the morning ready to draw some flowers. Actually I think I am going back to drawing more flowers now!

Follow Bloom n Grow Gal on Instagram and Hello I Am on Facebook to keep up with all of BGG’s activities, from art to exhibitions…

Check out our other issues of Tune! for the ever-growing playlist our artist friends are creating!

 

 

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Even More: The Show

We sat down with Lydia Thomas (a.k.a. Bloom n Grow Gal) recently to talk about her work and her show Peanut Butter & Jam at Flux, which featured a selection of artists from the SlapCity collective. Lydia is not the type to sit still and she is already getting ready to present her next show, the follow up to More: The Show at the Boxed Quarter earlier this year. More: The Show and the new exhibition Even More: The Show are a platform for Ōtautahi female artists, from painters and illustrators to designers and craft artists, from those who work at home, in the studio or in the streets. The premise is to ensure the scope of creativity is not restricted and that people are empowered to show their work to the world, in many cases, for the first time in an exhibition setting. That intention is revelatory of Lydia’s generous nature, she is infectiously energetic and it is always a pleasure to sit down and chat about what she has in store with the latest Hello, I am the Show event…

It wasn’t too long ago that we sat down to talk about Peanut Butter & Jam

Yes!

I imagine you woke up the next day and were straight onto this new project, right?

Yeah, I have like two days of rest and then I’m like, right, what can I do now? I always tell myself I’m going to have a holiday, that I’ll take a break, but I can’t sit still. I need to be focusing on the next challenge. I wanted to fit another More show in before Christmas, that was my goal. It has definitely been more challenging this time around with COVID, but just having something to look forward to has been the big drive this time, we need this, we can’t keep canceling things and postponing things. I mean, if you are going into lock down then you have to, but I felt like I had to keep this one going!

This show is the second incarnation of the More: The Show concept, with a new line-up of local female artists, was it always something that you thought was going to become a recurring series?

Nah, I didn’t. I mean, I never thought it was going to work! That’s probably terrible to say, but you know, I was like, I’ll just give it a go. I thought that it would only attract a couple of artists, but then more artists wanted to get involved and I just can’t say no to people. So, the show happened, and afterwards I was getting messages asking when’s the next show was coming. I think what excites me about being able to run your own show is that I’m in charge of the rules and I can make the decisions around what kind of art I want. I love giving the opportunity to people who do embroidery or street art and giving them a platform to put it in a show. I’m so excited this time around, I’ve got people showing clothes and mustard tins, it is so out of the box that I really, really like it.

From what I’ve seen already seen, it is a diverse range of artists… 

Yeah, it’s great!

With More: The Show you started with an expectation that it would be small, but then people would say, I’ve got a friend who does this, or I’ve got another friend who does that… Has it been the same this time?

More got a small following on social media and then I created a website which is a collection of the shows and the artists, as well as promoting my own art. I wanted it to become a catalogue. I created a subscription box that people can subscribe to hear about More shows. I realized I needed to actually have a new show that people are going to subscribe to hear about! It’s mind blowing when you start getting subscribers and you have no idea who they are. I don’t really know where half the people have come from, which is great, that’s the point of it, I feel like I’m doing my job! It’s easy if I’m only targeting my friends…

As you grow, everybody brings their own world to it as well and increases the eyes on it, right? Lockdowns have showed us more than ever the importance of having some type of outlet and creating the opportunity for people to reveal what they’re doing is really empowering, for those artists and for you. The artists realise that what they are doing is important, it might not be changing the world, it might be a very personal thing, but it is still really valid and that’s really important…

For Peanut Butter & Jam, I’d approached people teethlikescrewdrivers, who just never associated themselves with being an artist, and he pulled it off and it was amazing, and it’s the same this time around. I’ve got somebody who has produced this beautiful macrame lamp shade and I asked for her artist bio and she was like: artist bio? I’m an artist? Yes, you are! Look at this beautiful masterpiece that somebody’s going to buy and hang and it’s gorgeous. It’s about changing people’s perceptions that what they’re doing is art and it is beautiful.

While it is an all-female line-up, there is no thematic brief, right? That it is all female artists is enough for it to be powerful…

Yeah, I would get messages asking: what’s the theme? What do I have to stick by? For me, the fact that it was a female art show was enough. I don’t want to restrict it any more than that. It’s a platform for females to do what they want to do. There’s no rules after that. Just do what’s on your mind, do what feels right in the moment. That’s what I’ve done and it seems to work so far.

That’s kind of the philosophy that runs through it all?

I don’t feel like I’ve been in enough art shows to know what I’m doing, I don’t know how I’m pulling it off! Other than when I was at university, I’ve been in very few art shows, so my experience with running them is that I’m just a very kind of organised person, I know how I like things and that’s how I’m doing it. I’m not really sure how other people have worked in the past with shows, but I get so many emails asking is this going to be OK? Is this going to work? Or saying: I’ve done this now, I’m worried. My response is always, it’s cool! It will work! It’s going to work! I just have this mindset that it’s going to work no matter what happens, so don’t stress. If I’m not stressing, you shouldn’t be stressing!

In the past, there might have been a tendency to follow a traditional approach, so I think that by not adhering to conventional rules, it reflects where this city is now. Speaking of where it’s at, you’ve got a new venue for this for this show as well…

I’m in the old Green Lane which is the new Clubhouse Creative. Originally the first More was supposed to be there and I got a bit panicked about the walls and thought maybe I just need to start small. But this time around I was like, I can do this now. I want more artists. I want to give more people the option to be involved. The walls are massive so people can submit bigger pieces as well, because last time some artists enjoyed the challenge to do something around the A3 size, but this time they wanted to go big or go home. So, to put it in a warehouse was exciting. I love that kind of grimy, dirty look as well. I’m not so much into white walls. I like off-white, dirty walls with texture…

It also brings up the possibility to think beyond hanging a piece on a wall, maybe more object art, or works that sprawl out in different forms, almost like installations. Now that you have more room you can have a broader scope of display. Have those conversations come up?

There’s been a bit of talk about live art and things like that, like we did with Peanut Butter & Jam. I’ve got a bit of a performance for the opening night with people hula hooping and things like that and there will be a DJ, but I didn’t go down the line of live art this time. I think the whole Hello, I am The Show idea is something that I really want to keep developing and working on and I think for the new year, my goal is to get somebody else on board that can help me with extra little touches to just go bigger. This time around there is like 35 female artists, I know, it has got too much again! Doing the socials, making sure everybody’s kept in the loop, all of that is so important to me and every time I bite more off than I can chew! So, I need to get somebody else on board. Someone who is just as passionate and also doesn’t mind putting in a lot of work for not a lot of money! But there are a lot of good feelings that you get back instead!

Do you think you will explore individual shows, or is the concept strongly collaborative and sort of community-based?

My idea is not collaboration as such, it’s the pop-up idea that I love: here’s a space, let’s pop something up for a couple of days then it can disappear again, kind of like street art, you know? You don’t know how long it’s going be there, so you have got to go and see it. So, I would love to work with individual shows and things like that in that context, with like a tent or a caravan maybe that appears around town.

Give us your best sales pitch for Even More: The Show!

I’ve drawn a blank! No, here: Even More: The Show. Female artists from around Ōtautahi. Opening night is on Thursday 14th October, 5:30 to 8:00pm. There will be wine, there will be beer. There is going to be such a broad selection of art, there will literally be something for everybody. Big things, tiny things, beautiful things, sparkly things, clothes… It’s on for two days after opening night, so you have got to get in there, that’s the fun of it!

Thanks Lydia!

Get down to Clubhouse Creative (22 Southwark Street) on Thursday, 14th October, 2021 for the opening of Even More: The Show, from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. Even More: The Show is open 15th – 16th October. For more information, head to Hello. I am the Show on Facebook

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And That Was… September 2021 – with Cape of Storms

To recap September we caught up with Cape of Storms, our favourite street collage paster-upperer! You will know Cape’s paste-ups, even if you don’t realise it, they utilise vintage cooking books, kitsch knitting images and more retro finds to create whimsical juxtapositions that are at once funny and mysterious, adding that sense of wondrous inquisition as they appear across the city, revealing the absurdity of life. As I suspect it was for many of us, Cape of Storms’ September was hectic, catching up on a life that was put on pause… So, what was keeping Cape of Storms busy? Read on and find out…

September was a blur.  My recollection of how the month passed by is somehow not linear.  I remember key events, like feeding my best friend’s new baby girl for the first time, dressing up and going out for a special meal with my partner at Soul Quarter just after we passed into level 2.  Going back to the gym, the stress and irritation around how and when to mask up. But most of all, I remember the build-up and anticipation, coordination, ultimate execution of of MOVING HOUSE.

Moving house is awful.  It confronts you with all your life decisions and lifestyle choices and forces you to judge yourself as you pack up your life, box by box (well, at least for me anyway!).

I arrived in New Zealand just under three years ago with two suitcases full of clothes, a racing heart and a head full of dreams for my new future.  For the first few weeks I muddled by sleeping on the floor on a blow-up mattress, eating at a rusty camping table and managing the delicate balance of ice-to-water ratio in a chilly bin.

Slowly and steadily I started to accumulate stuff. Four months after relocating from Cape Town, four modest boxes arrived by sea, filled with precious kitchen and household items from my previous home.

Fast-forward to September 2021 and van- load upon van-load of stuff needs to be ferried from the old house to the new house, multiple trips to Ecodrop required, $850 raised in Facebook marketplace sales and days and days of sorting, cleaning and reorganising.

And what did I learn about myself during this process? Well, a quite a few important things actually.

Friends, and friends who have become like family are my “home” in this new country.  The physical objects I own only carry meaning for me if they are linked to how I can interact with the important people in my life, or bring me comfort and act as reminders of special memories shared with the people who are no longer physically present due to distance and time zones.  Being a bit of a clutter-bug, I was amazed at how easily I was able to get rid of things that did not meet these requirements, and how important the objects that remind me of my home country and family actually are.

My home environment has become very important to me.  This space has become my nest, my anchor which I can categorically call “my own”.  Where I can express my personality and recharge.  Taking the time to curate my space a bit better and only surround myself with things I truly need has been wonderful.  Also, realising that my space is now shared with my partner makes this even more special as we create a life together.

When my life was in limbo for a few weeks, I really craved my routine and the activities that mean the most to me, the things that create balance in my day.  For me, that was “studio”/workspace area back in order.  This move has been really great as I have now seriously upgraded my work space and I really look forward to a lot of productive time being creative on a day-to-day basis, as I’m trying to incorporate making/creating into my daily routine.  Another big one was realising how important regularly connecting with my fellow artist friends at weekly Slapcity meetups are to me.  Slapcity is a group (I won’t use the dreaded word “collective”) of like-minded artist friends with a passion for street art.  Some artists focus on sticker making, some on paper paste-ups, some on graffiti writing, some on drawing – but honestly any medium is welcomed.  We get together every Wednesday evening to chat and do a little bit of work on whatever we feel like really, usually with a beer or cold beverage in hand.

So September was for the most part spent preoccupied with the move, but by no means all that I got up to…

Danny Knight-Baré at PB & JAM

Something that’s been preoccupying me throughout September is Slapcity member Danny Knight-Baré’s stunningly intricate multi-layered screen-printed pieces I saw at the PB & Jam show in mid-August.  At first glance you would mistake the abstract colour-blocked pieces for digital prints, but once you realise that each line and dot have actually been screen-printed onto the surface, sometimes in up to 23 layers you truly realise their genius.  I could stare at those textures and colours for hours.  PB & Jam was an awesome group art and music show put together by the gorgeous Lydia Thomas (another Slapcity member!).

The return of Slapcity Wednesday nights!

Level 3 saw us getting together via Zoom calls, but a return to Level 2 meant face to face meet-ups again!  The pleasant sound of scissors snipping, vinyl cutting, the heavy smell of marker pen ink hanging in the air, good tunes playing in the background and our inane and random chatter is the definition of my happy place.  It’s a totally relaxed and free environment, and I just feel so recharged and energised after every session.  We alternate between the workspace at Fiksate Gallery and a few other locations around Christchurch central.  New members are always welcome.  Check out the Insta page for more info.

Lazy weekend brunch/lunch at Unknown Chapter

(Image from Unknown Chapter’s Facebook page)

Mine and my partner’s favourite brunch spot on St Asaph Street in the central city.  Excellent coffee and yummy fresh food (especially in the cabinet), all in all a beautifully decorated hanging plant-filled space.  The hanging plant jungle that covers the entire ceiling of the café has Millenials and Gen Zs frothing at the mouth, but looking beyond this #hashtag nirvana, the food, coffee and service is really amazing.  Our favourites are the Eggs Benedict, the Salad bowl with halloumi and the Florentines from the cabinet.

Aussie art rock and my trusty Blundies

I’ve had Twilight Driving by Methyl Ethel on repeat on a daily basis.  I just can’t get enough of Jake Well’s gender-bendingly unique voice and the haunting lyrics.  I’ve been listening to a lot of Holy Holy as well.  Coupled with the fact that I have been wearing my beloved brown Blundstone boots so much that I’ve had to introduce “rest days” for them is making me question my loyalty to this Antipodean island in favour of the other, larger, hotter one.  But then I think of those poor sods in Melbourne and happily return to sipping my flat white and dunking my ginger slice.  Also, Blundstones are actually made in Vietnam now…

Preparation for EVEN MORE THE SHOW (15-16 October)

Trawling op shops for old textiles.  Saturday morning hours lost inside the labyrinth of Creative Junk.  Clandestine printing missions at my office photocopier.  Gluing things to other things.  Figuring out how to paint and paste onto old biscuit tins and suit cases.  All in preparation for Even More The Show, opening Thursday, 14th October (and running through the 15th and 16th) at Club House Creative on Southwark Street.  Even More The Show is yet another group show organised by the charming Irish creative dynamo Lydia Thomas.  I was so stoked to be invited to take part, and it is made all the more special by the fact that proceeds made from the show will go to Youthline.  Quite a few of my local female artist friends will also be taking part, its going to be a hell of a lot of fun!

Follow Cape of Storms on Instagram and check out her work with a heap of talented local creatives in Even More The Show this week!

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Bloom n Grow Gal – I Can Parallel Park

The flowers were intriguing. They were familiar and earnest and yet other-wordly. They sprang forth from the concrete surroundings with a fantastical whimsy, part of a city-wide takeover alongside the pasted images populating our walls. I soon found out that the artist behind my new favourite paste ups was Bloom n Grow Gal (BGG), or Lydia Hannah Thomas (sometimes just Lyds), a Northern Irish artist now living in Christchurch who was part of the Slap City collective. Soon, I found out BGG was also busy curating and hosting exhibitions, the first being More the Show, a group show of work by Ōtautahi wahine that included music, food, drinks and an array of creations. The show was hosted at The BOXed Quarter and drew an excited crowd. I finally met the artist one Sunday morning at Green Lane markets, quickly chatting about a range of topics it become clear that she was an energetic, enthusiastic force. Wandering around the market we bumped into each other again, this time she was busy drawing on the floor next to her stall, her energy focussed on her creative output. Now, BGG is presenting PB n’ Jam, a unique show in collaboration with Flux that combines art and music, with live art and performances creating a byline throughout. We caught up with Bloom n Grow Gal for a chat about her journey to New Zealand, her illustration background, her introduction to Slap City, tending to flowers and the shows she loves to put on…

I’m going to put you on the spot, how would you introduce yourself?

Terribly! I’m not very good at telling people about myself! I would just say I’m a doer, I’m a people pleaser, but I hate talking about myself! I love talking about art and music, but when it comes to introducing yourself, “Hi, I’m Lydia, I’m 30 years old. I’m from Northern Ireland…” Arghh, I hate it!

 How did you get from Northern Ireland to Ōtautahi?

I was always dreaming of getting out of Ireland. I don’t know why, I’ve just always kind of enjoyed my own company and doing things for myself, by myself. I’m like a loner but I have lots of friends! I worked out a way to get out of Ireland and that was going to university, even though it was to do illustration, which seems pointless looking back now! I wouldn’t recommend! But all these things happen for a reason. So, at university I met somebody. His parents lived over here so we came over here, and I felt free and a little bit empowered being so far away from everything. I think I was really hard on myself back in the UK. I judged myself and never thought myself any good. I felt like there was a lot of competition in the UK and it wasn’t nice, it felt like everybody was out to get you. New Zealand felt to me like this like fresh chapter. I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know where I was. I was so far away from it all. So, now I’m here.   

And how did you end up in Ōtautahi?

I just love the beauty of it. It sounds terrible because places like the West Coast of Ireland are just amazing. But there was something about flying in over the Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps, it was just so beautiful. When I came here seven years ago, Christchurch wasn’t very appealing. So I ended up living in Methven for years and I think I ended up getting a little bit lost. I was trying to find out where I fit in this country town, but I realised that I just didn’t. I kind of met somebody in Christchurch and I started coming here and going to the art gallery when that re-opened and going to all these other pop-up galleries, and it started to become exciting. Then just before lockdown last year, I went through a break-up, I lost my job, I felt like I had nothing to lose, so I came to Christchurch. The first person I met when I moved here was Ben Lyttle. He was like this chilled creative and honestly, he was the first creative person I’d met since I came to New Zealand. I remember feeling that enjoyable sense of creating again, which I hadn’t felt for so long. That led me to Slap City. I remember the first Slap City that I went to, Vez passed me a bit of sticker paper and was like, just draw and I thought my god, I haven’t drawn in seven years! But I feel like that’s how it started, by simply drawing again. It was so enjoyable, I missed it living in Methven, driving trucks and going to the pub…

You weren’t doing anything creative in Methven?

I’ve always enjoyed making gifts. I’m known for always making birthday cards or a painting or something like that for people. I was doing a lot of baking, I don’t anymore, but I guess that was like my creative output, almost without even realizing it. I’ve always had sketching. I’m always sketching my food, my drinks, things that are in front of me, which is weird because my flowers are in my head, the complete opposite. I think I’ve got like seven years of creativity built up inside me. But I think I needed that, because I think university was so competitive with this weird grading system of putting a mark on your art, which I never really understood, that it really knocked my confidence. That’s why I’m like, don’t go to university, just do you! But at university, I would put on shows for people to show their art and I guess I saw the pleasure people get out of seeing their art on show and people buying art to put on their walls, and just knowing people are having a good time.

Is a sense of positive community important to you? It seems like things like Slap City and the shows you are putting on are all about people coming together…

That’s why I enjoy doing the shows, because I don’t care what your background is, I just think your stuff is amazing. I love it when people have side hustles taking photos or weaving or painting, it doesn’t matter if they are a lawyer or a teacher by day. Who cares about your background, history, education and whatever, this is what you are producing, and it is amazing! I’m so happy that I’m able to give people a platform. There was a girl in the last show [More the Show] who said she had a friend who wanted to be part of it. I got in contact with her and she said she had a pair of earrings, is that going to work? I’m like, that sounds so great! Everybody was doing their own thing, and this was her take on her art, a pair of earrings. I’m like that’s awesome! For some people earrings are just a piece of jewelry that you wear, but actually somebody’s taking the time to think about it and put their creativity into them. So, I was really happy for them to be in the show. It was her first show and she ended up selling them, it was amazing!

Bloom n Grow Gal collab with Teeth Like Screwdrivers

That idea of defining what art can be leads to the question of how you started making art in the streets, which itself is a way to break down conventions of how art is presented and consumed…

I want to say I’m precious about things, but I’m really not, I’m actually quite good at just throwing stuff out, of getting rid of things. I mean, I packed up everything in the UK and came here! But yeah, the idea of going out and putting my art in the streets just excites me. There is a flower not far from here, it’s slowly peeling away and it looks even better than when I put it up! Just walking around, doing my ‘dog walk loop’, I get to see how it changes and weathers. It’s really exciting. Should I add to it because somebody’s written over it? Or should I just leave it? Will somebody do more to it?

There is a lovely sense of both contributing to the landscape but also recognizing that you have to let things evolve as well. Did you have any previous experience making art in the streets?

When I was at university, I did a little bit of wheat pasting, but not a huge amount. It’s weird, I used to love taking a lot of film photography because it was so cheap to get it developed. I remember my ex and I were both so fascinated with billboards and stickers. We went to Berlin and Prague and all our pictures of us on holiday aren’t of us, they are just of these walls with drawings on them. I remember being in Budapest and drinking in this bar and it had all these illustrations on the walls and we just sat there for ages. So, although I wasn’t doing it back then, it’s amazing how fascinated I was by it all. I think my lack of confidence back then was why I never put my work out there, but now it’s like, yeah, let’s just do it.

It’s interesting, because street art was supposed to make art more accessible and participatory, it removed the elitist structures…

I think Slap City really boosted my confidence. I still watch Beautiful Losers on repeat and I remember ten years ago thinking, these people are so cool, I could never be that cool! But now some people think I’m cool! I’m getting tagged in posts by people I don’t even know. People are posting about my art. I never thought that it was good, but everybody takes it a different way and sees it in different ways. I think I’ve been so harsh on myself, and Slap City has been so positive. Everybody is like, let’s collab, let’s do this, that’s awesome! There was somebody a couple of weeks ago and it was their first time at Slap City. They were so rigid, and I remember that’s how I felt my first time. But you just keep going and then you’re like, I could do anything! Now I’m going out on my own and pasting up at night. Honestly, it makes me so happy. It’s like the best form of therapy.

Ultimately, whether it’s that circle around Alleged Gallery or the Slap City collective, they are communities of people with shared interests who want to support each other. And while the internet helped foster those networks, it feels like more recently it has been divisive and tribalistic and toxic, so it’s refreshing to have those real-world connections…

A couple of years ago I started going through my Instagram and saying this is not good for me, this doesn’t interest me, and my Instagram has become more art and street art influenced. It’s really more focused on joy and my inspirations. It shows the headspace and transition that I have been on over the last couple of years. It got me thinking about Slap City and that sense positivity and how maybe if I had that ten years ago at university it might have led on a very different path. Looking back at it now, it’s no wonder I was a mess, it was too competitive, but now I’m just so empowered to be creative. I feel right now there’s just such a great community within Christchurch, people supporting each other. It just keeps you creating, getting better and better without even realizing it. I look at what I was first doing at Slap City late last year and how I kept going and I kept doing things…

I first saw you flowers on Madras Street…

My first ones!

I loved the stylization, the appearance of nature, but in this surreal, fantastical style. They were so simple but so striking. I asked Teeth Like Screwdrivers who had made them and he said, “Our Lyds” and you could kind of tell he was so stoked that you were putting your art out there. Where did the flowers come from?

I can’t keep plants alive to save my life, but I’ve always been fascinated with flowers. Growing up my Grandad’s garden was just beautiful. It was massive and had so many flowers. As kids we’d always plant sunflowers and have sunflower races. I’m quite a colorful person so I just love the colors of flowers as well. They are just all so individual. They come and go, they are not meant to last forever. If I could just keep flowers alive!

In that regard they are fitting for art in the streets, where everything is fleeting. It is also interesting that you note the individuality of flowers, because we tend to think in categories, right? But flowers, like humans are all distinct. Was that in your thinking when you started drawing flowers?

I think I say it was now, but honestly, I don’t really think I was thinking about it. I just was doing it because I was really enjoying throwing one out and being like, oh, maybe I’ll change that or I’ll do that again. I like to do it fast, without overthinking the process. I think they end up being really pretty and people seem to enjoy them. I did this series of flowers on pieces of paper, like 100 of them, all drawn individually. I did them sitting and watching films. It was like therapy. It went through my mind to photocopy them, but I love how I’ve drawn every single one and every single one is individual. Just like flowers. Maybe I will change, maybe I will do photocopies, but I don’t know…

More recently, there have been the coloured A4 pages with lettering over the flowers, with phrases like ‘I can sing’, ‘I can dance’ and ‘I can parallel park’…

I’ve always loved text. I’ve always been so fascinated by short but bold statements. I love typography. I don’t think I’m very good at it, but I just love to dabble in it. It’s kind of ironic, because I’m severely dyslexic, and I spell a lot of things wrong sometimes, especially the first ‘parallel park’ one that I did! I’m quite inspired by David Shrigley’s paintings, how they are not necessarily positive, but they are to the point, and that’s why I began with ‘live, laugh love’. It was kind of taking the piss, but people can put their own interpretation on it, just like I have my own thoughts about it. I just needed something short and sweet. Recently, I was parking and my friend said can you parallel park? And I was like, I’m 30 years old! Of course I can parallel park! So, the affirmations grew from that…

Earlier we were saying that neither of us consider ourselves amazing singers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sing, right? We absolutely can!

It just feels like I’m in such an empowered position writing these messages on pieces of paper and putting them around Christchurch, literally nothing’s stopping me! And if somebody sees the ‘live laugh love’ works and it puts a smile on their face, that’s great, knowing that someone might have a chuckle, I like that idea. But I also love that I don’t have to stick with this, I don’t have to keep processing it. It was something I did. I really enjoyed it. Now let’s see what the next thing I can do will be. I’m thinking about song lyrics, digging back into my Yeah Yeah Yeahs phase. I’m going to go buy some supplies today…

Music is so important for so many artists, you have a wide range of musical tastes, right?

I don’t know how people can sit in silence. It freaks me out! I’m into a lot of dance and jungle at the moment, it makes me want to get up and move my body. I feel free and like I’m enjoying myself. But I was watching something the other day and an advert came on with Radiohead’s High and Dry and it triggered something in my brain that took me back ten years ago to university. I just had to listen to that song. I started listening to it and for some people it might mean something else completely, but for me it was like OK, I need to draw right now! That is what inspired me and then that led on to all these other bands on Spotify shuffle. Music definitely is a trigger. I like how music puts you in the mood and I love a wide range of genres. I was listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs the other night and Skeleton came on and it got me really emotional, but in a good way. It brought out all these sad statements, thinking about past boyfriends and breakups and things like that. But it was good because it made me feel creative. I think you still need to embrace the shit times and the music that triggers the sadness. But then MIA comes on, like Bad Girls, and I’m like, right, give me my big black marker, I want to go to town! But when I listen to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Radiohead, that brings out smaller, more delicate drawings. Music triggers different kind of moods and how you want to express yourself in different ways. Sometimes when I’m pasting, I will listen to going for a run music, getting the blood pumping. But then I start and I take the headphones off and look around sheepishly, haha!

You already have quite a multi-directional practice, making art in the streets and at home, as well as organizing and curating shows. Do you put much thought into where it all goes next?

When it comes to art, I am so chaotic! Sometimes I lie awake at night and I always have my diary or something next to my bed, or if my diary is downstairs, it’ll be my phone. My notes are just full of ideas, some don’t even make sense! Half the time these ideas come to me in the middle of the night. I’ll wake up and kind of sketch it down. I think that’s why the flowers are good because I can just smash a load of them out and I’m done. Then sometimes I can go for a couple of days where nothing inspires me, maybe I’m a bit tired or something. I have no structure to my art whatever!

Putting together the shows must be an extension of your need to be creative as well. Your first show I was aware of was More the Show at The Boxed Quarter earlier this year…

Yeah, that was my first show in Christchurch. It was inspired by meeting Sofiya Romanenko. I was blown away by her photography, they are so beautiful, they needed to be on show. So, I thought, let’s just do this. I will be in it because there will probably be nobody else, so it will be me and Sofia. But then I asked a couple of other people, thinking maybe five people would be in the show. But then it grew to 15, and I was like, oh my goodness, and then it got to 25! I was so overwhelmed by just how many people wanted to be part of it. I still can’t get over it. I don’t even know how to put it into words. But I put on More the Show with 25 artists, and it was really amazing. I can’t believe how good it was to give a platform for people to express themselves. I worked really hard, but it was so unbelievably rewarding. It was so exciting. Artists were messaging me, asking is this OK? Is this going to work? I’ve got something a little bit bigger, or meet my friend, she’s also an artist who would be great. I was creating another family within Christchurch and that was so important to me as well. I met so many amazing people. I was on cloud nine and then it was over, and I felt really sad, like I didn’t have a purpose. I thought it was just going to be a one-off thing. But then my brain started ticking away and I was like, OK, let’s do something else. Zak from Flux popped in and he was like, do you want to do something? He had this idea of bringing music and art together, which totally got me. Back in the UK I loved going to art and music festivals, so its a dream to be bringing art and music together. I can’t believe I’ve been given this opportunity to work with artists and musicians and it’s all going to come together in this beautiful place. So, I was like OK, now I have something to put my mind to again and start creating. In my head, I realised 25 artists was awesome, but maybe this time I would stick to fewer people, so it’s a little bit more relaxed. The idea of PB n’ Jam was that the artists would be the peanut butter, you know a little bit nutty, and the music would be the jam. I thought sticking to Slap City people would also suit the vibe, people like Teeth Like Screwdrivers. When I asked him, he was like, why me? I’m not an artist! But the thing is, he is, of course he is! I still can’t get over how shocked people are when you ask them to be part of something and it reminds me of myself when I was younger and had no confidence. Nobody asked me to be in an art show and now I’m in that position where I can be like, you should be in this show. This week people have been sending me updates of what they are doing and I know I’ve chosen the right people for the job because everybody is just psyched for it…

Photo credit: @verygoodphotoalbum

People really value the chance to be included…

Even with More, it was just so positive. I’ve not had a negative experience and I am just so excited to doing this with amazing people…

How will PB n’ Jam combine those elements of music and art?

When Zak and I first talked about it, we were thinking of a festival, which was really great, but was probably too much for me right now. So, we decided I was going to do the art show part and Zak would do the music part. Then we had the idea for live art. I’m getting some boards off Green Lane for live painting on the night. We also started thinking about visuals and projections, which took me back to my Mr. Scruff days in the UK, the gigs with projections of doodles and illustrations, with tea being served at the back! So, we’ve got visual projections which will help tie everything together; the music will be playing, the artists will be working, visuals will be projected, there will be a nice flow between the art and the music.

Who are you excited for people to see?

I love all the artists, but I’m excited to see what Teeth like Screwdrivers and Bongo come up with. All the other artists have been in shows, but asking these two street artists, who kind of throw things up all over the place, I think I’ve really kind of caught them off guard and tested them. I really like what both of them are planning, I’ve got a couple of little tasters and I think they definitely got the point!

PB n’ Jam opens 5:30pm, Friday, 13th August at Flux in the Boxed Quarter

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And That Was… July 2021

The weather has been incredibly unpredictable throughout these recent weeks, sunshine, clouds, rain, all coming and going without abandon. That sense of unpredictability is frustrating when it comes to weather but is refreshing when it comes to life more generally. I’ve never been much of a planner, partially because I don’t do expectation and anticipation well (impatient much?), but also because I tend to see the world unfolding around me and the joy in taking what comes. That isn’t to say I’m reckless, it’s just that I favour flexibility. So when I look back at last month, my initial thoughts were what have I seen and what have I done? Nothing stood out, but then I started writing down some ideas and they flowed forth. A full calendar sometimes means you miss out on the little, unexpected things…

Anyway, after that little philosophical rambling, here is a list of the things that stood out in July 2021…

A Trip to Te Whanganui-a-Tara

I got some family time away at the beginning of July, heading off to the capital city. It’s no secret I love Wellington – from eats at Sweet Mother’s Kitchen, to trips to the amazing Zealandia and the Surrealists exhibition at Te Papa, it delivered again. I also, as usual, took in as much urban art as I could, from the many playful DSide paintings to Askew’s amazing Rita Angus mural and the smaller bits and pieces along the always vibrant Cuba Street…

Play Again?

In the heart of the Burwood East X East Red Zone, this new Play Again? mural by Porta and Bols is an extension of the Power Up! project by the same artists from 2020, continuing the video game theme to represent the red zone as a space of memories, nostalgia and play. Visible from the nearby motorway, it makes for a cool visual! Supported by Life in Vacant Spaces and the Christchurch City’s Council’s Red Zone Transitional Projects Fund, it is hopefully just one of many creative additions to the space…

Bloom n’ Grow Gal Pastes

Bloom n Grow Gal has been on a roll recently, with her colourful A4 flower posters reinforcing positive vibes, albeit with some tongue in cheek. The blocky shapes and gridded layout add to the overall effect as well, like colourful street confetti! We are big fans!

Slaps and Pastes Workshops for Kidsfest

Joining forces with the amazing Teeth Like Screwdrivers, we recently hosted two Kidsfest workshops for young people to explore sticker making and paste ups – with a focus on allowing the participants to do whatever they were drawn to, it was super fun and inspiring! Thanks to GapFiller and Placemaking at One Central for the opportunity! We hope it becomes a regular thing!

Bye Bye Mayo… 

Not a highlight, but definitely notable – the demolition of the rear building of the YMCA’s Papa Hou space meant the disappearance of works by Mayonaize (2017), Sean Duffell (2013) and a host of younger artists (at the time of writing, I think Ikarus’ Spectrum piece is safe, and the works visible from Hereford Street remain). Of course, it is an eventuality and inevitability, but it is no less a shot in the gut to see a beloved piece literally reduced to rubble…

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