Tune! – with Dr Suits

Next up on Tune!, our ever-expanding playlist of the music that inspires our creative friends, is Dr Suits. If Dr Suits is painting in his studio space at Fiksate, chances are there is a classic Reggae, Ska, Dub or Rocksteady vinyl playing. With an impressive collection of vintage and re-released vinyl (trips to Ride On Super Sound are a common occurrence), the music is a strong influence on his creative process, setting the mood for for his work and manifesting in various ways. For Tune! Dr Suits takes us on a trip through these vital and influential genres…

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Music is a fairly important part of my creative process. I use music to help me get in a calm and consistent frame of mind. To do this, I like to play vinyl, predominantly Dub, Rocksteady, Ska and Reggae. The older the better. What I like about this music is its experimental and honest imperfections you can hear in the music. The artists are more about exploring a concept rather than trying to perfect a composition. Plus I generally love any old Jamaican music!

Playing vinyl means I’m engaged in the act of listening, its much more tactile. I like the physicality of flicking through the crate and experiencing the artwork, opening the cover, admiring the details on the insides and the sleeves. Each record will have 4-6 tracks on one side, this means every 20-30 mins of listening, in no time, I’m back there exploring the music again. So, although I like the tunes, I also love the vintage graphics, photography and bizarre outfits of early avant-garde experimentalists of Jamaica.

It’s hard to pick 5 albums, so I’m going to aim to cover the genres listed above…

Jackie Mittoo –  The Keyboard King

The Skatalites – African Roots

Lee Scratch Perry – Cloak and Dagger

Studio one – Rocksteady Got Soul

Trojan Records – Rudeboy Rumble

Tune! is an ever-growing playlist of music that inspires our artist friends!

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And That Was… November 2021

Personally, the arts have provided a feeling of comfort throughout the challenges of 2020 and 2021, but November 2021 was a reminder of the struggle faced by the arts, not just in the midst of the Covid pandemic and all of it’s associated barriers, but more generally, the stark reality of the need to scratch and claw to survive. Many events and projects are produced on a shoestring budget and the realities of life as a creative are sobering, many balancing other careers and making time by burning the proverbial candle. Watching an Arts Foundation panel discussion featuring some of Aotearoa’s most renowned artists brought this reality into clear sight, sharpened and tempered by the determination of those from our community to continue to stage events and the audiences that provide support. So while the art life is hard, requiring a seismic shift in how we instill new attitudes towards the arts nationally, it is always so warming to know that the arts community is nothing if not durable and determined. November was a case in point, plenty of highs and unfortunately some lows, but all underlined by a sense of the need to keep on keeping on…

Chimp – Social Woes @ Fiksate

Wellington artist Chimp returned to Ōtautahi Christchurch and to Fiksate Gallery with Social Woes in November, with a body of work exploring the impact of social media on our state of mind and social networks and behaviour. Pushing his work towards increasingly fragmented compositions, Chimp has made some bold progressions stylistically while grappling with very contemporary issues…

Chimp finally got the chance to relax after a busy opening at Fiksate for his show Social Woes

Berlin Wall – Community Event @ Rauora Park

The installation of the Berlin Wall segments in Rauora Park in late 2019 was completed with relatively little publicity, many unaware of the historical significance of the concrete forms that appeared like painted monoliths from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. In response, a collective of German expats, led by the amazing Alex Falk and Deutsch in Christchurch, staged Kia Ora Berlin, an event celebrating and exploring the history of the Wall’s deconstruction. Following an official ceremonial portion, the crowd were let loose on a scale wall produced by local artist Nick Lowry, with hoards of kids getting wild with spray paint, brushes and pens. The swell of activity lasted for an hour, until all the supplies were exhausted, a reminder of the power, and attraction of writing on walls, a reality heightened by the displayed photographs of the real wall on display nearby.

Nick Lowry’s Berlin Wall replica is painted by guests at the Kia Ora Berlin event

Farewell to The Giant Cans

Not far from the Rauora Park location of the Berlin Wall event, the Giant Cans at the Place Making at One Central site were enjoying a last hurrah, with a graffiti art workshop led by the DTR crew. A unique and participatory urban element, the Cans have hosted hundreds (if not thousands) of visitors, and literally layers of paintings, messages and scrawlings, since their installation in 2018. Now deconstructed, the cans are seeking a new home. Fingers crossed these iconic forms, originally created for the Spectrum Festivals at the YMCA, can return soon…

The Giant Cans begin their deconstruction from the Place Making at One Central…

Daken’s Emporium @ 413 Local

Although I didn’t make it along to opening night of Daken’s Emporium, I was glad I headed down to 413 Local on Tuam Street to check out the impressive output of customised toys and other goodies, from Daken and several guest contributors. Charming in their lo-fi DIY nature, it was packed with nerdy, playful and earnest references to films, comics and cartoons (most definitely after my own heart)…

A small selection of the creations on display for Daken’s Emporium

Arts Foundation State of the Arts Panel

The only event not to occur in Christchurch to make the list this month, the Arts Foundation‘s State of the Arts Panel was live-streamed late November and featured the impressive line-up of Dr Fiona Pardington, Shayne Carter, Oscar Kightley, Simon O’Neill and Moana Ete. Moderated by Miriama Kamo, the panel reflected on the state of the arts in Aotearoa in 2021. A lively and passionate discussion, it raised the striking reality that the arts, and artists, remain under-funded and under-valued. While the panel made clear the challenges, the passion of the speakers vitally reflected the need for collectivism, for digging in and for fighting for the cause…

What did we miss? Let us know what you would have added to this month’s list and stay tuned for more And That Was… entries in the coming months

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And That Was… May 2020 with A Tribe Called Haz

This month we asked Harry King, a.k.a A Tribe Called Haz, to fill us in on his month. During the lock down period, he seemed busy; painting, drawing, DJing (apparently all in his kitchen)… But for a pretty social guy, we were sure it was a challenge to not be out and about enjoying his wide network of crowds. With May finally seeing the lifting of the stricter lock down conditions, A Tribe Called Haz seemed a perfect fit for our latest And That Was… He told us: “I spent a large majority of May painting in my kitchen. I’m usually out every weekend but as we’re starting to re-learn how to interact with each other in a post lockdown era, I’ve been in the kitchen a lot more.” So, what has A Tribe Called Haz found exciting outside of his kitchen? Here are his five favourite things from May…

Celebrating Level Two

A crowd of friend gather outside a bar as people can return to small public gatherings.
A Tribe Called Haz and friends catch up at Dux Central as the lock down ended (photo credit: Becca Barclay)

May 14th marked the day we could hang out as a group of ten, so a group of us headed to Dux Central for a beer, some good food and some atmosphere. The best way to use our newly granted freedom.

DTR production for the New Brighton Outdoor Art Festival

The freshly painted DTR crew production for the New Brighton Outdoor Art Festival, May 2020
The freshly painted DTR crew production for the New Brighton Outdoor Art Festival, May 2020

My new favourite wall – The DTR wall for the New Brighton Outdoor Arts Festival! These guys (Ikarus, Dcypher, Freak and Yikes) keep killing it…

Collab tees with Notion Touring and Brand + New

A Tribe Called Haz's collab t-shirts with Notion and Brand+New
A Tribe Called Haz’s collab t-shirt with Brand+New (photo supplied by Harry King)
A Tribe Called Haz's collab t-shirt with Notion
A Tribe Called Haz’s collab t-shirt with Notion Touring (photo supplied by Harry King)

I released two collaboration t-shirts in May, one with the Christchurch House boys, Notion Touring, and another with a big player in the Christchurch Drum & Bass scene: Brand + New. Collabs that bring to together my favourite things are always a highlight.

Drum & Bass: The Movement at Hide Club

The poster for Drum & bass: The Movement, which screened at Hide Club in May
The poster for Drum & bass: The Movement, which screened at Hide Club in May

We ventured to the watch party for Drum & Bass: The Movement – The D&B Documentary at Hide Club on May 29th. There were beers, burgers (Black Burger to be exact) and Drum & Bass. Three of my favourite things! It was strange being back in a place I’ve spent many a night dancing & celebrating without having a thought about social distance, now under these new conditions. The documentary was informative, showing part of the history of the music I love.

Empire Chicken to the rescue…

Empire Chicken at Riverside Market, a lifesaver for A Tribe Called Haz
Empire Chicken at Riverside Market, a lifesaver for A Tribe Called Haz

Trying Empire Chicken down at Riverside Market for the first time on a rather dusty Sunday afternoon was an absolute life saver. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference.

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And That Was… November 2019

There seems to be a renewed energy in the air, although I guess Summer will do that. For me, November was pervaded with a flurry of activity, raising my excitement levels for the coming months. November began with the strange and awkward experience of filming for television and film crews, something I must admit is made easier by the great people I worked with, from international sportspeople to crews who were genuinely interested in the city and its urban art. I then had the chance to work on a project that gained national exposure and showed the reach of urban art as a communicative tactic and embraced an alternative to traditional marketing. It wasn’t all about me though, as plenty of other people around the city were doing what they do best, from sharing knowledge or staging exhibitions, to doing what urban artists should do best, painting and exploring the cityscape. There was plenty to enjoy, so, here are my top five for November 2019…

The Human Torch Was Denied a Bank Loan

John Bateman and Lewis Brown stand beside the stencils they helped paint on one of the giant cans for their segment with Sky Sports in advance of the match between the Great Britain and Kiwi rugby league teams in early November.

November brought a bit of wide-ranging exposure for Christchurch’s urban art scene, and I was placed in the position of film and television personality (OK, perhaps too strong a term!). Filming for both Sky Sports and an overseas film crew producing a video for Tourism NZ, the chance to show off our city was only marginally tempered by the awkwardness of being in front of a camera. We showed Great British Lions rugby league player John Bateman around the city and were joined by former Kiwis player and Christchurch-raised Lewis Brown, each spraying a stencil of their team logos on one of the giant spray cans. The video was then featured on the pre-game build up of the Kiwis Great Britain game on November 9th. Keep an eye out for the other production if you fly internationally!

Ruby Jones – All Of This Is For You

One of the Ruby Jones paste-ups found around the central city. Photo Credit: Rachel Eadie

You all know the iconic post-Terror Attack image of the two women hugging, one wearing her hajib, accompanied by the wistful declaration: “This is your home, you should have been safe here.” It was viral, and it gained its creator, Wellington-based illustrator Ruby Jones the opportunity to design the cover of the iconic Time magazine, the first kiwi to be given the platform. Ruby has recently released a beautiful book of her illustrations, All of This is for You through Penguin Books. To celebrate the release, and to recognise the role of Christchurch’s experience in Ruby’s work, the amazing Rachel Eadie from Penguin Publishing approached us to work on a unique campaign. Initially, the concept was perhaps a painted mural, however, the nature of the illustrations, their messages and the way they were to be experienced in the book, led to a new idea, a street art-inspired paste-up campaign that offered small engagements around Christchurch. In early November, we posted the range of images at various locations across the city, including the brick work exterior of Riverside Market, Market Square at the Arts Centre, Little High, City Mall, the Boxed Quarter and Tū The interventions provided the chance for reflection, for the chance to stop and take stock amid the bustling surroundings. Some have already disappeared, but that was inherently part of the beauty…

DTR Workshop and Painting Jam

Dcypher whips up a skull character on the day of the DTR workshop.

In mid-November, the city’s leading graffiti crew, DTR, hosted a one-day workshop and painting jam at the Lichfield Street Youth Space. Participants were supported by the talents of Wongi, Dcypher and Ikarus, and after a drawing session, painted the giant cans with an array of designs, from traditional letter forms to characters and even pencils. The energy and good vibes of the day were evident, with artists of various experiences colluding. I spent the afternoon just observing, seeing people figure things out and pieces coming together. As cheesy as it sounds, events like this are a reminder of the potential power of art.

Urban Abstract at Fiksate

Fiksate really knocked it out of the park with the impressive Urban Abstract, a show that brought together local, national and international artists who are united by their investigations of abstraction. Featuring Elliot O’Donnell (Askew), Levi Hawken, Togo, Tepid, Melinda Butt, Pener, Bols and Dr Suits, Urban Abstract showed the diverse range of abstract approaches, materially and conceptually, while also drawing on the roots of graffiti and street art as an inspiration for this interest. Graffiti’s reconfigured letter forms but tradition-heavy emphasis provides a conflict, while post-graffiti’s focus on accessibility and iconographic visual language means it has often been more marginalised, yet, of course, contemporary muralism’s increasing diversity has seen the emergence of abstraction on a grand scale. Togo’s photographs and video, Pener’s electric, angular sketches and O’Donnell’s painterly urban landscape work were personal highlights among a strong collection.

From the Rooftops

The newest addition to the Christchurch skyline, an abstract piece by TOGO.

I absolutely love this new rooftop piece by our favourite urban adventurer TOGO. A perfect tie-in with the focus of Urban Abstract, the work is a hazy, drippy contrast to the sharpness of other pieces around the city, disrupting the pristine white building. The fresh colours (notably not in the TOGO’s iconic pink and black) give a radiate a summer feel. It’s placement also ensures it is an surprising treat, appearing unexpectedly on the city skyline, distant from so many other examples. Works like this always renew my energy, cutting to the heart of urban art’s presence.

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