And That Was… November 2023

OK, so this is a little late – OK, so this is a lot late. Sorry, but better late than never, right? Right? Anyway, let’s just ignore the tardiness and get on with it, because, there was plenty to enjoy throughout November – headlined by our very own Little Street Art Festival finally coming to life (what did we say about better being late than never?) alongside a slew of other favourites… What did we love? Read on and find out…

The Little Street Art Festival

After several years of planning, we were as proud as punch to finally bring The Little Street Art Festival to life in late November! A celebration of the powerful potential of smaller-scaled street art and it’s material diversity, the festival featured eight projects by nine local artists spread across the central city – from paintings to sculptures and even interactive treasure hunts. Additionally, we hosted guided tours, an artist panel, workshops and activations – thank you to all who took part and supported this event – we look forward to seeing how far we can take this unique concept and we are already looking forward to 2024! For more information, visit littlestreetartfestival.co.nz. [Photo credit: Centuri Chan]

Shadows Surgeon’s Cutting Up The Dark

We were lucky enough to be in the audience for the premiere of Shadows Surgeon’s incredible documentary Cutting Up The Dark at Wigram’s Silky Otter Cinema – surrounded by a who’s who of local graffiti artists, many featured in the film. A roving exploration of graffiti across Te Waipounamu, from abandoned hot spots to fresh productions captured in action, the film reflects the director’s stunning photography and willingness to explore – an amazing watch that re-frames our beautiful motu! Visit https://www.cuttingupthedark.com/ for streaming options!

Clones – A Show by Klaudia Bartos and Friends

Friday November 3rd saw the opening of Clones, a collaborative show created by Klaudia Bartos at Masked Artist Gallery in the Boxed Quarter. Taking her small clay face sculptures as the grounding for a collection of her friends to create new forms, the show was based around ‘clones’ of Bartos’ original pieces. A line up of diverse talents, the creations were striking, intriguing, humorous, clever and heartfelt. We were especially fond of Jessie Rawcliffe’s red skull piece, but so was someone else, who snapped it up straight away…

Dcypher’s Cybernetic City

Fittingly painted at the St Asaph Street entrance to Cotters Lane, where his nostalgic Kodak mural resides, Dcypher’s recent futuristic production is a clear contrast to the more historically-minded sepia work with a cybernetic vision of our entangled existence with digital technology. Deploying blues and pinks to highlight the neon effect, the work is yet another example of the talent of an aerosol master…

KURUPT Cleans Up The City

We loved these stencils popping up around the city, a playful poke at the buff and ‘cleaning up’ the city. Simple and clearly a celebration of the traditions of stencil art, the repeated piece also remembers that a sense of humour has always been a key component of post-graffiti street art’s commentary.

So, these were our favourites from November – what about you? Feel free to take a while to think it over, just like we did!

And That Was… October 2023

October is a transitional month. Technically it is Spring, but there isn’t quite the feeling that Summer is just about here. Rain is as likely as sunshine. It seems the most fitting month to represent Otautahi in some ways, enjoyably unpredictable. So what tickled our fancy over the October weeks? Well, there was a bit to enjoy – projections, murals, little bits and pieces – all sorts, just like the weather. Let’s get a bit more specific shall we? Here are five things we enjoyed:

Mark Catley’s “Battle of the Undies

Sure, we may be showing our bias as 80s kids, but if you remember the Masters of the Universe toys that had chests that would flick between various stages of battle scars, these paste ups by Mark Catlery will bring nostalgic joy rushing back…

Dcypher goes cosmic…

We are constantly amazed at the prodigious work ethic and technical skill of Dcypher – this new Colombo Street mural is evidence of both – the science fiction cum fantasy scene combines a range of flourishing details to astound passersby, but the speed with which it was painted is equally impressive – we truly have a master in our midst.

Jen_Heads at Te Pae

The latest addition to the Spotlight – Urban Art Projections series is a fiery and mesmerising collaboration between the titular artist and Sam Emerson from Offline Collective – rotating through illuminated iterations of Jenna Ingram’s urban icon, it is well worth the visit once the sun goes down!

Ghostcat’s Leave No Trace Trail

Firstly, apologies for the blurry photo, but honestly, one of the best aspects of Ghostcat’s latest addition to his Leave No Trace trail is its subtle placement deep inside City Mall. Paying homage to the iconic Hack Circle, a legend of the city’s youth culture, the small recreation sits as a nodding wink to those who survey their surroundings and a reminder of the ways things change.

Paint the Town Blank…

We don’t know the artist but we couldn’t exclude this cheeky little stencil work – it’s influences are clear, but it is still a playful reminder that white-washed walls are, quite frankly, boring.

And That Was… September 2023

September. The month Daylight Savings kicks in and a more optimistic air becomes more pervasive. The changing of the clocks allows us all to feel like we can get more done, that we can become more sociable and upbeat. Sure, this may not be universally true, but it is kind of real, right? It definitely felt like that. But it was also apparent that for this more upbeat attitude, the weather was keen to keep us on our toes, from wet downpours to howling winds, a number of the events and projects we loved this past month were affected by unpredictable weather. From significant projects and popular events, September provided a number of treats, and here they are:

Kophie Su’a-Hulsbosch and Janine WilliamsWāhine Toa Mural

We were privileged to work on this significant project, supporting two immensely talented artists, Ōtautahi’s Kophie Su’a-Hulsbosch and Tāmaki Makaurau’s Janine Williams, in spotlighting the legacies of five wāhine toa who left indelible influences on this city and country. This landmark mural, depicting author and peace activist Elsie Locke, Olympian Neroli Fairhall, singer, broadcaster and champion for Māori culture and language Airini Nga Roimata Grennell Gopas, Māori welfare and health activist Erihapeti Rehu-Murchie and conservationist and Ngāi Tahu leader Wharetutu te Aroha Stirling, was launched on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of the Suffrage movement in Aotearoa, a reminder of the importance of honouring those who laid the path for our future generations of women to succeed and change the world. Thank you to ChristchurchNZ for the support!

Christchurch Hip Hop Summit x DTR Crew Graffiti Jam

No crew in Aotearoa can match the productions of our own local legends the DTR Crew – a fact evidenced by their work at the Dance-O-Mat for the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit – a stunning work that is all the more incredible when we acknowledge the conditions under which it was created, with torrential rain howling around the artists. But bad weather is no match for the DTR Crew, with a stunning creation, evoking the Lonestar State, and featuring Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson’s incredible portrait of musician That Mexican OT, transforming the site.

Christchurch Hip Hop Summit Graffiti Art Panel Discussion

We were lucky enough to host the graffiti panel discussion at the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit’s series of talks – a great opportunity to hear from four artists about their insights and experiences in the world of graffiti art. With a panel consisting of Ikarus, Drows, Meep and Local Elements, we touched on gender in graffiti, colour blindness, the centrality of style across hip hop, exploring cultural identity through graffiti and more topics. (Image from Christchurch Hip Hop Summit)

Spotlight – Urban Art Projections

September saw two stunning works featured in the Spotlight series – Bloom’s Wall of Blooms and Jimirah Baliza’s Get a Grip – both very different creations, but both beautiful ephemeral additions to city after dark and testimony to the talented female creatives who call Ōtautahi home! While Bloom’s linear bouquet provided a serene encounter, Baliza’s candyfloss pink claw game riffed on the nostalgia of childhood. Spotlight has been an amazing opportunity to afford artists a new format to showcase their work, one that has unlocked plenty of future potential! (Image: Jimirah Baliza’s Get a Grip)

Cheap Thrills Market @ Lyttelton

We loved the pop culture goodness at Dead Video’s Cheap Thrills Market in Lyttelton in mid September – from film to anime, cartoon, collectibles and gaming, it was a treasure trove of memories and must-haves. I even managed to pick up a signed One Man Gang 8×10 (IYKYK)…

These were our highlights for September – but what did we miss? Let us know your favourites in the comments!

Spotlight – the moving image…

Watch This Space is proud to present Spotlight – Urban Art Projections, a project in collaboration with ChristchurchNZ that literally shines a light on local creative talent. Spotlight showcases a series of unique art works created by some of Ōtautahi’s best urban artists in collaboration with talented local animators, exploring new possibilities for urban creativity and adding a surprising twist to Christchurch after dark!

Making use of the prominent wall on the exterior of the Te Pae – Christchurch Convention Centre at the intersection of Colombo and Gloucester Streets, Spotlight projects the work of four Ōtautahi visual artists, their work brought to moving life by local digital artists. The animation gives each work a new lease of life; the mural-sized projections imbued with subtle, alluring movements that re-imagine the original productions. With a planned four installations, Spotlight has already platformed two works that have captivated and surprised passersby:

Jacob Yikes’ I will never know…

The Surrealist world of Jacob Yikes provided the first Spotlight installation back in May; the artist’s beguiling landscapes a fitting subject for this unique project. Animated by Nicholas Keyse from Immersive Reality, Yikes’ 2022 painting I will never know was animated with slowly unfurling tendrils and a rolling horizontal band of shimmering turquoise, creating an evocative, unsettling atmosphere and providing an invitation to explore this strange, unexpected landscape manifested on a central city wall, like a dream come to life. The softly moving pieces gently beckoned the viewer, requiring a double-take as more parts of the image were revealed to be alive with understated movement.

Yikes’ world-building has always suggested movement, here, this landscape was given life, while still retaining a sense of quietude and mystery. Occupying the Te Pae wall for a month, I will never know created an unexpected encounter for many walking past, a perfect starting point for Spotlight

Dcypher’s Welcome to the City…

The second, and current Spotlight installation is Dcypher’s illustration Welcome to the City, a work that draws on the artist’s formative experiences exploring the urban environment through graffiti and skateboarding. Enduring influences, these subcultures recognise the urban landscape, and its overlooked spaces as sites for expression, transformation, subversion, and creativity. Dcypher affirms that: “The beauty that these spaces hold as inspirational layers to be interacted with is the key message of this work. I’ve always loved the look of the raw underbelly of urban architecture, the flip side of the facade, the back alleys, the fire escapes… These spots are constantly in flux as urban subcultures expand in their complexity and reach.”

Dcypher’s adventurous environment has also been brought to life by Keyse, who utilised the artwork’s layers to craft a captivating illusion. Exploring the scene’s depth by zooming in and scanning across the composition, the viewer is guided through the maze-like terrain, Keyse explaining: “As the journey unfolded, I aimed for a thought-provoking narrative to take shape, hinting that this snapshot is merely an echo reverberating across the vast expanse beyond the immediate foreground.” The movement emphasises the exploratory element, the blue-grey tone and flashing yellow lights suggesting the distinct worlds of interior comfort and exterior adventure. Welcome to the City continues Spotlight‘s mission to activate the city…

The next installation, a work by painter and illustrator Jessie Rawcliffe will be unveiled in the coming weeks – stay tuned!

Spotlight is a collaborative project between Watch This Space and ChristchurchNZ working with a collection of local creatives – let us know about your Spotlight encounters!

And That Was… May 2023

May is notable for a few things: the final fling before winter really kicks in and a celebration of a galaxy far far away. With fewer large-scale projects, this is a perfect time to explore the things that are a little bit smaller, a little more understated or in the case of one of our entries, focused on the audio rather than the visual. From bright blooms and beats to darker images, scary monsters and anime heroes, here are some of our highlights for the month of May…

Local Elements – Learning Curves EP

Local rapper and producer Local Elements released Learning Curves, his first solo EP, on May 22nd, a four track effort with the artist also producing the majority of the songs. The result of hard work and hustle, the EP’s title refers to the literal learning curves of the task, but the final result is a funky piece of head-nodding hip hop with a distinctly local flavour. Stream Learning Curves on Spotify and via Local Elements’ website…

Bright Blooms

As the days get a bit colder and the nights a bit longer, I’m thankful for the small, but bright, blooms appearing throughout the city. Ōtautahi’s urban gardener Bloom has been planting the small wooden blocks adorned with her stylised flowers across the city, often in unassuming places, places where a spot of colour and joy is most definitely needed. Keep your eyes out for Bloom’s Urban Gardener project as part of the 2023 Boosted Ōtautahi campaign – support her fundraising effort here

Dark Ballad

If Bloom’s flowers add life and colour to the darker months, the intense images of Dark Ballad are a perfect fit with the greyer skies – moody, graphic imagery that is equally alluring and unsettling. The artist’s collection of paste-ups in stark black and white are a striking contrast from the colourful walls on which they are found…

Ikarus, Dcypher and Captain Kris in New Brighton

New Brighton is a true graffiti art hot spot, with a selection of legal walls constantly refreshed with slick pieces and productions. One of the most impressive is this latest collaboration between the DTR crew’s Ikarus and Dcypher and Ōtautahi ex-pat Captain Kris – the formers’ pieces either side of the latter’s Goku character – a winning combination. Teeming with crackling energy, this Dragonball Z themed production is yet another reason to head out to the beach for some wall walking…

May the Fourth be with you…

May the Fourth is, of course, synonymous with Star Wars and here in Ōtautahi, May the Fourth means the likelihood of some fresh paste-ups by resident vintage toy enthusiast Mark Catley… This year to celebrate the galaxy that George Lucas built, Catley added some nasty looking creatures to the central city streets, including a Rancor on Hereford Street…

These were our highlights – what caught your eye? Let us know in the comments – or send your pictures to hello@watchthisspace.org.nz

And That Was… November 2022

November brought BIG news – almost 10 years after the landmark Rise exhibition, Canterbury Museum will stage SHIFT – an urban art takeover of the iconic institution and a final hurrah to the building before redevelopment. But, this exciting news isn’t all that made November memorable! From international rock stars to small street art, summer is shaping up to be exciting!

SHIFT – Urban Art Takeover @ Canterbury Museum

Perhaps the biggest news of November was the announcement of SHIFT – Urban Art Takeover – a massive artistic takeover of the Museum, with over 50 artists transforming 5 floors of the iconic cultural institution! A completely unique exhibition, this is sure to be an unprecedented event!

Dcypher @ Chiwahwah

A fresh new work appeared along the lively Terrace strip in the central city in November, with a striking Mexican-inspired anamorphic mural by local legend Dcypher on Chiwahwah Cantina’s exterior wall. The mural stretches along the wall and is best viewed from a specific vantage point – make sure you find it!

Ikarus goes small…

Dcypher’s DTR crewmate was also busy, but at a different scale, with a series of small urban diorama’s covertly placed around the city. The grimy settings like tiny stage sets that blend into the surrounding environment.

Archetypes @Fiksate

Archetypes, a collaborative show by Dr Suits and Jessie Rawcliffe ran through November at Fiksate Gallery. The alluring paintings combine Rawcliffe’s stunningly meticulous portraits with Dr Suits’ dynamic abstraction, the results forming a beautiful suite of works that illuminated new readings of each artist.

Klaudia Bartos @ TyanHAUS

Another exhibition that we loved in November was Klaudia Bartos’ Haus of Heads at TyanHAUS in Sydenham. The beguiling series of surreal, devilish visages, produced mediums ranging from watercolour to fabric, were haunting and intriguing, inviting closer inspection…

And a Bonus…

Normally And That Was… is capped at five entries, but I couldn’t leave the return of live gigs by international artists returning to Christchurch! I may have missed UK band Idles, but a week later I was able to witness an impressive performance by US alt legend Jack White, and, it is safe to say, I’m glad I did! There was a request for no videos, so the video below will make do to replicate the energetic opener Taking Me Back

They were out highlights from November 2022 – what were yours? Let us know in the comments!

Gearing Up – Dcypher Apparel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And That Was… March 2022 with Selina Faimalo and Kophie

This month’s And That Was… is a special edition – dedicated to the impact of the Flare Street Art Festival across March (the festival opened on the 2nd and eventually came to a close on the 20th, an extended run). Who better to break down the highlights than Flare project manager Selina Faimalo, who gamely took on the challenges of such a multi-faceted event, and headline artist and pop-up gallery curator, Kophie Su’a-Hulsbosch (aka Meep). From the amazing murals to the additional elements of tours, exhibitions, panel talks and more, Selina and Kophie break down what made Flare such a success!

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The Flare Ōtautahi Street Art Festival was a conglomeration of large murals, a pop-up exhibition, graffiti art, guided tours and art talks.

The ARCC collective wanted the festival to be a collaborative event, with artists involved in the curation of the event and to incorporate traditional graffiti as well as street art. Dcypher, Ikarus and of course, Kophie, were eager to jump on board to have the most authentic festival possible. It is amazing to break down Flare by the numbers:

Flare became a 20 day festival with a total of 44 artists participating, including seven headlining artists, as well as a three-artist collaborative 3D mural and a three-artist projection installation, a ‘Wahine Takeover’ at the BOXed Quarter with four female artists,  an exhibition featuring 21 urban artists, and a two-part graffiti jam with 35 artists. Flare saw the completion of 44 new artworks across the SALT District. More than 1200 visited Flare Central on High Street, with many taking home art from the pop-up exhibition, while 136 people joined the guided tours (and more just tagged along!).

Overall, we had so many wins, including Koryu taking home Kathmandu’s People’s Choice Award (voted by FLARE attendees) and the heartwarming development of Olive the cat, star of SwiftMantis’ mural, finding a home when she was adopted from the Cat’s Protection League!

Koryu’s amazing A Hum – The Beginning and the End was voted People’s Choice winner for Flare 2022. Photo supplied by Flare Festival

Swiftmantis’ Olive was a very popular piece and when the feline was finally adopted, the story got its happy ending… Photo supplied by Flare Festival

In addition, these were our personal highlights…

 

Wāhine Takeover 

Jessie Rawcliffe’s stunning piece as part of the BOXed Quarter Wahine Takeover… Photo supplied by Flare Festival

Kophie and I are the founders of The Conscious Club and until very recently we were based at The BOXed Quarter, an amazing part of SALT District with a variety of murals by different artists.

The Wāhine Takeover was added to the programme as when we were organising the graffiti jam, it became obvious that women graffiti artists are few and far between in Ōtautahi. Kophie took the initiative of choosing four wāhine to paint at the BOXed Quarter, adding a point of difference to the area and a diverse range of new artworks. The selected artists were Jen Heads from Fiksate Gallery, Lucia Kux from Berlin, who has a background in graffiti and is a tattoo apprentice, McChesney-Kelly Adams from Lyttelton, who specializes in realism and also has a tattoo apprenticeship and Jessie Rawcliffe, who specialises in highly detailed portraiture.

The Pop-Up Exhibition 

Kophie was the driving force behind the pop-up exhibition at Flare Central

As well as being one of the headlining artists, Kophie also curated the Flare Central pop-up gallery. The exhibition was primarily a representation of Ōtautahi graffiti and street artists as well as art work from our headlining artists. The curation of the gallery was to be a homage to graffiti art as the art form that began street art and large-scale murals and adds vibrancy and culture to the city.

Offline Collective x Fiksate 

An image from the Offline Collective X Fiksate collaboration

Offline Collective and Fiksate Gallery merged their creative outputs, mixing the work of local artists Dr. Suits and Jen Heads with Offline Collective’s renowned animated moving images. Overlaying visuals and interrupting the usually static images of both artists in two installations, the concepts were brought to animated life in an empty High Street space.

This installation was epic, exploring the murals at night and peering through the window on High St whilst eating an ice cream from Utopia (or even a few wines deep) was mesmerizing ! It was like seeing a Jen Head hologram from 2043!

Tours

We were so lucky with our selection of walls being so close together in the SALT District that all the murals were located within five minutes walk of each other.

Watch This Space facilitating the guided tours was absolutely amazing, Reuben’s passion and knowledge about the urban art scene had attendees hooked!! It created a sense of pride for residents learning about already existing art that they once just glossed over.

The great thing is, if you missed out you can still book in guided tour with Watch This Space!

Artist Panel

The Watch This Space: Flare Artist Panel was another highlight. One of the biggest struggles with Flare was hosting a festival in red light setting, as well as being in the peak of everyone catching COVID! (including me, LOL!), with a limit on gatherings of 100. We were so grateful to have access to equipment through WORD Christchurch to live stream this so those isolating and all across Aotearoa could tune in!

We had all our headlining artists on the panel apart from Elliot Francis Stewart and Wongi who couldn’t make it, so it was really great to hear the diverse stories; their backgrounds and their journeys to where they are now.

Graffiti Jams

Dcypher and Fuego, Graffiti Jam Part One. Photo supplied by Flare Festival

Yikes (left) and Dcypher, Ysek, Chile One and Ikarus (right) for the Graffiti Jam Part Two along Billens Lane… Photo supplied by Flare Festival

As the festival was extended (we had a few artists down with COVID!), we ended up having two graffiti jams!

We had 20 Artists painting at Graffiti Jam Part One and 15 artists at Graffiti Jam Part Two, and it was so much fun to get the community together to paint legally and incorporate traditional graffiti into Flare. We even had North Island heavyweight Fuego, who happened to be in town at the right time, get a piece in!

Dcypher and Ikarus had been such a huge part of helping put Flare together and they facilitated both graffiti jams. They have a mana in Ōtautahi that brought everyone together and had a great time.

Both laneways are special in their own way and walking down each one takes you on a journey of a range of styles like walking into a gallery on the streets.

We honestly couldn’t be happier with how the festival turned out. Even though we were in peak Omicron and in the red traffic light setting, it all came together through an epic community and residents supporting the arts! Fingers crossed we can do it all again next year, and actually hold the street party!

Wongi Freak Wilson produced this explosive piece for Flare, a fitting work for a the festival and its busy activations. Photo supplied by Flare Festival

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Follow Flare Street Art Festival on social media and keep an eye on the website for future announcements!

Showtime!

Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland proved the place to be on April 8th, with two exhibition openings drawing crowds. We happened to be around and managed to catch both The Main Line, a collaboration between Ōtautahi artist Ghostcat and 27 Aotearoa graffiti artists that served as a love letter to the iconic Spacerunner train carriage, and Shiny Things, a collaboration between Hannah Maurice and Tanja McMillan (known to many as Misery) that created a beguiling world inside The Mercury Plaza gallery space on Cross Street (just behind the famed Karangahape Road). While very different shows, one grounded in history, the other mythology, both were well worth the attention…

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The Main Line – Ghostcat x Aotearoa Graffiti Artists, Limn Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, 8th April, 2022

Inside Ponsonby Road’s Limn Gallery, a two metre long replica of a Spacerunner, one of New Zealand’s, and New Zealand graffiti’s most iconic train carriages, takes centre stage. Carefully laid out on top and along the walls either side are even smaller versions of the carriages, rusted and covered in tiny recreations of the graffiti that would fly by when the Spacerunners were still in circulation around Aotearoa. The tiny carriages were built by Ghostcat in his typically detailed style, before artists spanning the country and generations, contributed designs, from Opto, Vents, Lurq, Morpork and Phat 1 to Wayst, Togo, Meep, Vesil and Siar267…

Shiny Things – Hannah Maurice and Tanja McMillan, The Mercury Plaza, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, 8th April, 2022

The Mercury Plaza, home to a collective of creatives, where visitors can find food, art, clothing and, if they fancy it, get a tattoo. On April 8th, The Mercury Plaza welcomed guests to the opening of Shiny Things, a collaborative world building by Hannah Maurice and Tanja McMillan (Misery); an exploration of the sacred female and the conscious/unconscious that employs a range of approaches to engage the senses. From McMillan’s paintings to installations that seemingly serve as shrines, an air of ceremony palpable. Opening night was busy, with a moving karakia adding to the resonance of the works that reveled in dance, ritual, myth and dreams…

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Do you have a show coming up and want to let us know? Email hello@watchthisspace.org.nz and fill us in with the details!

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!