Burn So Bright – Flare Street Art Festival Recap

Almost five years since Street Prints Ōtautahi, Christchurch’s last significant street art mural festival, Flare Street Art Festival provided a welcome shot in the arm for a city with an established reputation as an urban art destination. The brainchild of ARCC, a urban activation collective of local business people and place makers, Flare burst into life with a roster of seven headline artists painting huge murals and a flurry of additional activities.

Flare was built around the selection of massive new murals that would transform the SALT District and surrounding environs, landmarks that showed an impressive diversity, each artist flexing their unique styles, interests and intentions with creative freedom.

Koryu’s massive mural

The largest mural, on the side of the newly renovated Cotters Lane building, was completed by Koryu, a Japanese artist who has been based in Aotearoa since the 2020 lockdown, living in Geraldine but travelling across the country to paint murals. While relatively new to urban art, picking up a spray can just three years ago after visiting Melbourne, Koryu’s impressive depiction of fierce Niō warriors, guardian statues of Buddhist temples in Japan shows his quick development. The circular motif in the middle of the image suggesting the infinite quality of existence, the warriors themselves representing the beginning and end of all things (the open and closed mouths symbolic of the in and out breath, the first and last characters of the alphabet). The huge work, over 160 square metres, was a massive undertaking, filled with detailed musculature and gestural painting and aware of the shared experiences of Christchurch earthquakes and the Tohuku earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 when both regions were struck by devastating natural disasters, making this work, a gift of guardians, even more resonant.

Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson

Nearby, overlooking Manchester Street, local artist Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson displayed his technical skill with a vibrant depiction of a woman wearing rose-tinted glasses and chewing bubble gum. The pink gum exploding into a cloud of pop culture references, a baseball cap, a paint roller, headphones and more bursting out of the cloud. The combination of realism and pop-esque cartoon work a summation of Wongi’s style. The upbeat energy of the work infecting an area that still bares the scars of the city’s ongoing .

Detail of Kell Sunshine’s mural

Tucked down Memory Lane, behind the imposing SALT Mural by Paul Walters and Dcypher in Evolution Square, Gisborne artist Kell Sunshine added a rolling, lyrical mural, a beautiful contrast to the architectural and pared-back piece around the corner. Floral forms blooming and unfurling around the phrase ‘Take a walk on the wild side’, Sunshine’s mural reminds us of the need to break from convention and embrace our ‘wild side’ – a literal depiction of nature amidst the urban jungle. The 70s vibe is relaxed and the somewhat secluded placement allows for the viewer to stop and absorb the message before returning to the bustle of the city.

Meep on St Asaph Street

On St Asaph Street, homegrown talent Meep produced the largest work of her career, with a stylised self-portrait against a bright orange backdrop. The massive image shows the artist, with a backpack filled with paint, a roller and a blackbook, walking along the tracks (a traditional graffiti hot-spot and suggested by the large roller piece behind the artist), headphones plugged into a television-headed representation of hip-hop music – her constant companion (the homage to hip-hop cemented with the Kangol bucket hat and the MF Doom and Wu Tang Clan t-shirts). The strong representation of a female graffiti writer illuminating an often marginalised presence in a predominantly male sub-culture.

Ikarus on Manchester Street

On the corner of Manchester and Welles Street, local legend Ikarus of the DTR Crew recounted his own experiences in graffiti through the lens of an AR video game (a cartoon version of the artist shown in full AR goggle mode in the corner). The levels of the game move through the stages of graffiti, from tags to throw-ups and finally ascending to masterpieces, the obstacles and intricacies thrown in as well. The shout-out to traditional graffiti an important inclusion in a forum where the culture is often excluded in favour of birds and buildings. The shout out to the legendary Jungle acknowledging the legacy of those who have come before and the important role of mentorship through example.

Olive by Swiftmantis

In the rear of the Little High car park on St Asaph Street, Palmerston North artist Swiftmantis continued his series of ‘Stray Stories’ with a huge depiction of black cat Olive, her green eyes surveying the surrounding area. The amazing detail reveals the feline’s character, her tattered ear a sign of her survival. Currently with the Cats Protection League of Christchurch. Olive, perhaps now the city’s most famous cat, is still looking for her forever home, the work serving to highlight her situation and to celebrate the work done by the Protection League. The image has already stopped hundreds in their tracks, wowed at the production and enamoured with the beautiful, majestic animal.

Elliot Francis Stewart’s mural closed the festival

The final work, located on Manchester Street, was delayed when Elliot Francis Stewart was unable to make his way to Ōtautahi until the final (or at least the final official) day of the festival. Renowned as a supremely talented illustrator, Stewart drew inspiration from Christchurch’s ‘Garden City’ moniker to depict a sweetly nostalgic scene of a shovel and bucket in a garden. The electric colour scheme of blue, yellow and magenta highlights the intricate detail, the leaves, bark and even tiny lizards occupying the serene setting. It is a show stopper that draws you in, your eyes led across the incredible detail of the wall.

FUEGOS joined the Graffiti Jam

While these murals were the central focus of Flare, there was plenty more going on across the extended two week programme. Just prior to the official launch, Dcypher, Ghostcat and Dr Suits installed an anti-war 3D mural – an oversized Molotow pen fixed to the wall appearing to be the tool used to scrawl over the image of a tank in bright pink – a peace sign and the declaration ‘Make Art Not War’ defacing the symbol of military force. Just around the corner, Flare made use of a High Street shop as a pop-up gallery, featuring local and visiting artists, an array of art and apparel available.  The pop-up served as the central hub for the festival, with artists hanging out and passers-by drawn in (our Watch This Space guided tours also departed from the pop-up space, while the Watch This Space Artist Panel was held at 12 Bar on St Asaph Street). An unassuming High Street space hosting a projection work, a collaboration between Fiksate Gallery and the Offline Collective, added a dynamic night-time presence to the festival. The BOXed Quarter’s collection grew with the ‘Wahine Takeover’; Jessie Rawcliffe, Jen-Heads, Berlin and MKA adding fresh paintings to the panels. The final Saturday of the festival saw over two dozen artists take over the lane ways surrounding popular bar Smash Palace with a graffiti jam, artists from different cities and generations lifting the veil from graffiti’s often mysterious presence as visitors could watch the paint being sprayed on the wall. Finally, on the last weekend, Billens Lane, next to Little High, received a make-over with fresh hoardings painted by Jacob Yikes, Dcypher, YSEK, Chile One, Ikarus, Tepid and Bols, adding further diversity to the collection of Flare works.

YSEK and Chile One on Billens Lane

With over 40 new works of art painted across the city, and over 30 artists involved across the festival, Flare served to connect the dots as an event that was for the city and the culture. This is an important element of such an event, recognising the need to support local talent and provide opportunities of varying scales, to raise the profile of urban art and foster the seeds of the city’s creative foundations. Of course, with new incarnations will come new challenges, from finding fresh walls to the massive task of finding money, but Flare has made a promising start, and we are already looking forward to 2023!

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!

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!

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!

 

Tune! with Bols

Tune! is a brand new series where we ask artists about the importance of music in their practice. For many creatives, forms of art overlap and provide incredibly important influence, whether it is those who are multiple threats (you know, the amazing musician who is also an incredible painter), or those who admit to the vital sustenance consuming one form has on their production of another. Music and visual art or object-based art have a long entwined relationship, from bands formed at art schools to iconic album covers, or even the idea that a fully formed creative eco-system is vital to any subculture, such as the four elements of hip hop. So, here, Tune! allows us to create an ongoing eclectic playlist of music to make art by…

For this edition, we hear from local stencil artist Bols about his failed dreams of rock ‘n’ roll stardom, how his tastes vary and what music he listens to while at work…

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I was nine when my parents gave me a cheap guitar and I started lessons. Unfortunately, I showed neither an aptitude nor a willingness to practice and after just a handful of lessons my fledging path to superstardom came to an end. Yet, I never completely gave up that faint dream of somehow writing a song that would change the world, I just made sure I didn’t tell anyone until now. I cringe when I say this because it is such a common response, but I have diverse musical tastes. It might seem weird, but I love abstract painting and sculpture, but musically I have always connected with songs with potent, evocative, cinematic storytelling rather than beats, whether that is edgy alternative, soundtrack indie, conscious hip hop or even morose alt-country. I was probably the wrong age for the rise of electronic music, that was the domain of the nerdy kids who knew something the rest of us didn’t. I have always appreciated the way music can evoke a spectrum of emotions, I like nothing better than a song that makes me sad. Music connects with a time or an event in my life and as I get older that becomes even more powerful (there is a line in a song, When You’re Ready by Brian Fallon, where he talks about watching his daughter colour in while wearing new pyjamas and it gets me every time), it might be in the way it makes me feel, it might be because I was listening to it whenever, but my life has played out to a soundtrack. I tend to think of my art in musical terms, from perfectly phrased lines to more abstract lyricism. I find inspiration not just for ideas but also for a call to action to work as well. There are a heap of artists I could have included, but for now, here are a handful of songs that inspire me…

Lord Huron – Twenty Long Years

This album, Long Lost, is on high rotation right now and this is my favourite song from it. It has an old-time feel, with feelings of regret in a last guy at the bar vibe. It’s lonesome and romantic: “I gotta find a way out of this mess, I’m in trouble and it sure looks bad..”

Bruce Springsteen – Jungleland

Springsteen is not everyone’s cup of tea, but this song pretty much sums up my creative outlook – it’s cinematic, it’s romantic (“kids flash guitars just like switchblades”), it’s sprawling, it’s escapist, it’s epic (“the street’s on fire in a real death waltz”), but it is also relatable in a strange way. I rise and fall with the tides of this song, and always seem to find some new line that resonates – I feel like every time I hear it, I scramble for a notebook thinking there is some way to add that to a work…

Big Thief – Not

I discovered Big Thief when I heard the album Capacity and was immediately smitten. I was one of those people who raved about them every time I got the chance. I had tickets to see them in Auckland, but Covid. Not is still the track that stops me in place – it has an urgent energy combined with evocative lyrics that have me singing along while trying to unlock what Adrienne Lenker is saying…

Frightened Rabbit- Keep Yourself Warm

I heard Frightened Rabbit’s Swim Until You Can’t See Land first, and I loved it, but when I listened to their second album Midnight Organ Fight, it was stuck on repeat for months. The whole thing was so relatable and anthemic. It ultimately took on even more meaning with the death of Scott Hutchison, the leader of FR. Keep Yourself Warm is a cathartic song written in Hutchison’s style of witty self-deprecation that is also affirming, it is vulgar and yet uplifting. The version by The Twilight Sad after Hutchison passed is heart breaking and cathartic.

Aesop Rock – Blood Sandwich

My taste in hip hop stems from Public Enemy and follows a path through Arrested Development, The Roots, BlackStar, Common, Brother Ali, Atmosphere, Doomtree and of course the verbal master Aesop Rock. Blood Sandwich is just amazing song-writing and makes me want to wrangle words, Aesop evokes eras and moments in such visceral quality it is hard not to feel present in these events: “Can you even imagine a death in the fam from industrial fandom?”.

Reigning Sound – Stick Up For Me

I’m a fan of that guitar-driven British R’n’B sound, I think it comes from my Dad who with some mates ran a nite club in Christchurch when he was younger with a house band in the style. It is the grimy sound and energy that hook me, with this a particular favourite from the mid to late 2000s revival… It is a motivator, which is always vital for me as a procrastinator.

WU LYF – We Bros

I was introduced to WU LYF by Hitnes, an Italian artist who visited Christchurch in 2013. He played it but I forgot the name of the band and struggled to find them again for several years as they had disbanded. But when i did finally find their album Go Tell Fire To The Mountain, I listened to it over and over. It is menacing and mysterious and heavy and it allows me to drift off as I paint…

Follow Bols on Instagram and keep an eye out for more editions of Tune! coming soon!

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…

Check out our social media feeds on Instagram and Facebook (@watchthisspacechch) to see what else we love!

Street Treats, Vol. 5

This edition of Street Treats is eclectic and varied, ranging from playful whimsy to blunt anti-establishment messaging. That ultimately is the beauty of guerrilla practice (or in the case of some of these works, permissioned but free from curatorial censorship), the opportunity to say what you want, how you want. As contemporary muralism has taken over the popular image of ‘street art’, it has also transformed the imagery and ideology deployed. While this still results in some pretty stunning works occupying our skylines and there are, admittedly, different levels of input and freedom, it is left to the smaller interventions to speak in an unfiltered voice. The content is not always explicitly political, but the act itself is, always. So whether it is a beautiful surreal flower sprouting from a concrete pillar,  a constantly recurring pencil, playfully collaged scenarios, vibrant names or scrawled messages that question the colonial history of our city, look and listen, they are speaking to you and about us…

If you have submissions for upcoming Street Treats volumes tag us on Instagram or email your pictures to hello@watchthisspace.org.nz!

Street Treats, Vol. 4

High and low, under and above, inside and outside, protected and exposed. The city presents innumerable contrasts, all of which can provide opportunities for intrepid artists. From graffiti writers marking spaces no one else sees as useful or functional, to street artists creating moments of engagement in unexpected places, a city is always full of sites to explore and alter. From rooftops to wooden hoardings, lampposts to stop signs, revealing, playful and existential interventions can be found across and beyond our lines of sight. This diversity of locations is matched by the diversity of practice, with no material form invalid or off-limits; Chero One’s rocket ships, painted scrolls, or even hot sauce-filled buttons warning you not to do what you so urgently want to do. Always mimicking the visual culture that we come to expect, such interventions play on our tendency toward assumption. Popular culture rifs depend on your recognition of trends and eras, like digital memes, requiring some savvy understanding. Anti-advertising grasps the ubiquity and absurdity of commercial communications. Graffiti is an expected response to our dictum that success means having your photo on a billboard or the back of a bus. Ultimately, the streets are full of life, both official and unofficial, you just have to look closer and further, higher and lower, under and above, and start to sort out the relationships…

Street Treats, Vol. 3

The concept behind the Street Treats series is to reflect the diverse expressions on the walls of the city beyond the large scale permissioned murals, reaching into the traditions of urban art culture’s roots as a subversive, rebellious and independent art movement. Of course, it gets tiresome to use terms like rebellious for an artistic culture that is thoroughly mainstream now, but it is important to remember the potential of these types of expressions as both visual messages and tactical invasions of our heavily designed environments. Commentators (often those attempting to defend the ‘art world’ by dismissing street art, as if they are actually in competition) can often charge street art with a vacuity, and as such a lack of conceptual heft and valid commentary. However, the point is as much about the manner of expression as the content – the act is the message. There are of course exceptions, explicitly political messages that favour bludgeoning bluntness over sophisticated subtlety. The reason for such a decision is another aspect of street art’s aesthetic – the audience must be commandeered – they are not arriving inside a white cube with an idea they will be confronted, but instead engaged in their daily activities, necessitating an immediacy. Of course, in this type of situation, even a lack of message can impact a viewer, by simply adding an air of uncertainty and inquisitiveness to a stroll through a city. To that end, the selections in this volume run from wide-ranging political commentaries to nostalgic popular culture references, and importantly, the intervention into our surrounding environments, making use of the spaces and fixtures that we often take for granted, revealing the potential for transformation…

Don’t forget to share your own pictures from the streets by tagging us in your social media posts with #watchthisspace or #streettreats…

 

And That Was… October 2020

I know what you are thinking, it’s almost December, right? And you are correct (actually knowing what month it is is a reasonable feat in 2020), this edition of And That Was… is a tad late. The truth is we had a sweet guest contributor lined up, but due to unforeseen circumstances, it just didn’t happen. We are still hopeful of working with said guest, but we will keep that under our hat for now. However, what that means is a quick sidestep, a play called on the fly, a plan B, and now, here is And That Was… October 2020, with a few favourite things from a not so special contributor…  

DTR Re-Paint the Giant Cans

The giant spray cans at One Central have been under the guardianship of the DTR crew and they have regularly been refreshed by various crew members over their recent history. The recent refresh combined work by Dcypher, Ikarus and Wongi Wilson, including stylistic mash-ups and a stunning female portrait seemingly tattooed with graffiti tags and throw-ups, creating an effect evocative of the Mexican dia de los muertos

The Beths

Call me old fashioned, but I still like a live band. And in my opinion no-one is better in New Zealand music right now than The Beths. To say I was excited about their James Hay gig mid-October would be an understatement, and from the moment the stage curtain lifted, I was not disappointed, with their infectiously tight, energetic indie rock and understated charm. My night was topped off with a high-five to singer/songwriter Liz Stokes at the merch table.

Slap City Crew Get Paste-y

The last few months have seen the Slap City crew get busy across the central city, with diverse pastes appearing in busy conglomerations. The arrangement of works is always fun and revels in a sense of camaraderie. The flurry of activity from the likes of Teeth Like Screwdrivers, Vez, Cape of Storms, Bongo and more reflects the infectious energy of being part of a buzzing collective.

Dcypher, Yikes and OiYOU! Go Big!

Truth be told, I’m not sure if the massive Novotel mural was completed in October, my records are not entirely fool proof. But the massive scale of the Antarctic themed work (one of a pair by the artists with OiYOU! to celebrate the city’s role as a gateway to the Antartic) means it is a literal can’t miss and I’m sure at worst I am only a couple of days off. From the overwhelming size to the playful details, it is an impressive piece of work by some of Christchurch’s best, and I couldn’t leave it out.

Bols’ Retro Wrestlers

Let’s finish off this month’s list with a revelation of my inner geek… I grew up in the era of professional wrestling’s glory days. Not the violent, Limp Bizkit epoch of the Attitude Era as it’s known, but instead the over the top pageantry of American superheroes and bad guys of the eighties. It was a time when the concept of kayfabe (the idea that it is all real) was held firm and as a young kid, it was serious stuff. For that reason Bols’ nostalgic paste ups highlighting the dubious tropes and stereotypes of that era hit the mark, a reminder that not all childhood memories are as innocent as we might remember…

What are your thoughts on October’s highlights? Let us know in the comments…