The Flare Street Art Festival, March 2-12, 2022

Christchurch’s street art reputation is, in many ways, built on the legacy of festival events. The likes of From the Ground Up, Rise, Spectrum and Street Prints Ōtautahi established the city as a destination for artists to find opportunities and for a new audience to experience amazing examples of urban art in a setting that was forced to re-imagine it’s creative profile and identity. It has now been five years since the last significant festival was staged in Ōtautahi, but with the emergence of the Flare Street Art Festival, Christchurch is braced to once more flex it’s status as Aotearoa’s leading urban art city. We sat down with Selina Faimalo, project manager for Flare, to discuss the challenges of developing a street art festival in 2022, what Flare promises, and who we should be excited about…

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The Flare Street Art Festival is just days away, how are you feeling? Are the nerves jangling or is it just excitement? 

I’m really excited to see it all, well nearly all, coming together! Obviously, I’m still a bit nervous because things can change between now and then, as we know, but we’re pretty fool-proof under the red traffic light setting. We’ve adapted.

What are some of the significant changes you have had to make? 

We originally planned to have a large celebration of street art culture, hip-hop and urban art at the end of the festival. We were going to close down High Street and have a big market and festival with live music, dancing, skateboarding, food trucks, urban stallholders and a pop-up gallery, all sorts of things. That part of the festival had to be cancelled, so instead we’re doing micro events over the ten days; we’re going to have street art tours with Watch This Space, which we were always going to have, they can still go ahead. There will be tours on each weekend of the festival. We’ve still got a pop-up gallery and kind of hang out space, that will be open during the days. Fiksate and Offline Collective are collaborating and going to do some street art projections in some vacant spaces in the SALT District. We have the panel discussion with the artists, that is also with Watch This Space, with some of the headlining artists at 12 Bar, which will be an awesome way to interact with the artists and get to know a bit more about them. It’s going to be live-streamed as well, which is really cool as we can’t host as many people as we wanted to…

It still is a really good program. I think it is important for street art and mural festivals to provide chances to engage with different elements…

Absolutely.

The festival or market day would have been amazing, but I guess there’s a silver lining in that you can now perfect it for next year and grow the festival as a recurring event… 

Totally, it might be a bit of a blessing in disguise. I’ve spent about eight months on the process of organizing this festival, so I think it gave us a lot more time to re-evaluate things and put that energy into different things. Obviously, it’s unfortunate that we had to cancel those elements, because we have musicians and vendors were relying on that income from the event. Cancelling those individuals and businesses was really sad, because you have already committed and turned down other bookings… It’s been tough for all in the events industry.

Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson is one of the headline artists for the Flare Street Art Festival

Bringing together the wider urban art community is really important. As you said, there are the headline artists, but that’s not the whole picture, you’ve got other artists too, like the Fiksate team, the artists with work in the pop-up gallery and some smaller live painting events as well. There is a much wider array of people than the names on the posters… 

It was important to involve as many Christchurch artists as possible, to make it inclusive and diverse, including, the “OGs” as well as the younger generations, as well as making sure there are female artists represented, who are not always as predominant in the street art scene.

Can you give us a little bit of background on ARCC, who are the organization behind Flare

ARCC is a group of business leaders and place-makers, who just want to make a bunch of cool stuff happen in the city and revitalise what’s happening here. George Shaw from OiYOU! is a part of ARCC and is obviously a big advocate for street art and he recognised that a lot of the murals from the Rise and Spectrum festivals are not there anymore, as the city is being rebuilt the visual aspect of street art is not there as much, it’s being built in front of or covered, so he just wanted to bring that back, putting it on new buildings and filling these blank walls with street art again and retaking that status as a street art capital, we were obviously in the Lonely Planet as one of the street art capitals of New Zealand and the world…

A lot of that recognition came from the festival events, because you’re seeing a lot of work appear in a short time, there is a rush in activity that captures the attention. So, Flare becomes an important way of re-claiming that title. How did you come to be the project manager for Flare

I’m actually a trustee of the SALT District, so I already knew about ARCC because a lot of the team are on the SALT District board as well and they had mentioned it. I was going along to the street art meetings and they were talking about it and I’d already been in touch with George anyway because I’d mentioned to him ages ago that I really wanted to do some type of hip-hop street art event and I wanted to know how you would make that happen. He said let’s keep in touch, maybe there will be something that we can do. I also run the Conscious Club with Kophie (Su’a Hulsbosch), we do social and environmental events in Christchurch, we’ve been doing it for the last two years, in which we weaved creativity into the majority of our events. We have held exhibitions together and shared creative working space with her for a while now. I’m not part of the street art community, but I’m a massive fan of street art culture and hip-hop in particular. I really wanted to do a hip-hop event, I talked with Red from the Hip Hop Summit about all the different things that we could do. George’s plan was to run Flare, but he had another exciting project come up. The timing wasn’t great for him to project manage Flare, so he asked if I would be interested in project managing it with his help and guidance, along with the rest of the team at ARCC helping out as well. As business leaders they have great connections to building owners to help make this happen. One of the biggest challenges of a festival like this is getting a building owner to agree to getting their wall painted without knowing what it will be, so without those connections and networks I don’t think it would be possible!

Local legend Ikarus of the DTR Crew is another Flare headliner for 2022

There’s a fine art to that side and you probably had to learn on the fly a little bit! You want wall spaces that are visible and attractive, but you also want to ensure that that building owners are supportive of artistic credibility and freedom. You have to find that balance of great walls with the right people, right? 

Yeah, we’re telling artists they will have creative freedom, but obviously it can’t be anything offensive or inappropriate, and when we say inappropriate, like when we spoke to John Hutchinson of Team Hutchinson Ford, about painting his wall, he said as long as you don’t paint a Holden! It was little things like that, I just wouldn’t think about. In general I would say building owners can be a little bit conservative, and like to play it safe, might not want certain things on their walls, so it’s a balancing act of letting some know and showing them designs and then we will be surprising some!

I’m a big believer that part of the job of street artists is to bring the audience along, rather than being dictated to creatively to fit a popular trend that supposedly speaks for everybody. The reality is that we are incredibly diverse as a population, made up of individual voices, so why not let murals be a voice of an individual and in doing so, present a little bit of a challenge to the public audience to come with the artist rather than the artist having to go to the audience? What other skills that you maybe didn’t expect to draw on were needed to bring Flare to life? 

I guess navigating the street art scene is something I didn’t know a lot about. I’m quickly learning it is tricky! Obviously, graffiti comes from the streets, which means there an element of rebel and conflict. Having people involved in the festival like DTR crew and Kophie, has helped with those situations. The panels along the Smash Palace pathway will be painted with local graffiti artists, and I don’t think that was my call as to which artists would be involved in that, so I asked Dcypher and Ikarus to facilitate that part of it, so they have led that part because they can navigate the relationships within the graffiti community. Even curating the headlining artists, that was tricky. George actually curated that aspect, but I was part of the conversation, and I don’t think I would have thought about who you should choose in case their work gets tagged over because they’re not respected in the street art community. That is a huge thing that I’ve learnt a lot about recently, if you put the wrong person on a wall, then it’s likely going to get continuously tagged over because they don’t have that respect or that mana in the community…

Kophie Su’a Hulsbosch is the third Christchurch-based headliner for Flare 2022

In terms of the final headlining artist roster, from Christchurch we have Kophie, Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson and Ikarus, and from out of town are Elliot Francis Stewart from Auckland, Kell Sunshine from Gisbourne, Swiftmantis from Palmerston North and Koryu, who is kind of itinerant, kind of travelling around NZ, right? 

Yeah, well, he’s based in Geraldine…

That street art mecca!

Yeah! He is based in Geraldine, but he travels a lot, he is originally from Japan.

Gisbourne’s Kell Sunshine is one of the visiting artists headlining Flare 2022

So out of that list, who are you excited to see? 

Out of all seven? I mean, I’m going to say Kophie, big respect to the wahine! Being a woman in general is hard and being a woman street artist is even harder and I think she has really stepped up. she has been doing it for over ten years now and I think this is her time to leave a mark in her own city. She’s done commissioned murals but this time she gets to paint what she wants to paint and she’s so talented.

I’m a big fan of Kophie too, she is super talented and its great to see her given this platform. Anyone else? 

I would say Koryu, I think his mural will be very cool! I’ve seen his design as well, so that’s why I’m really excited to see what he’s doing. I’ve been watching him this summer, watching every mural that he’s painted and it’s incredible.

He’s relatively new to it as well, right? But he’s developed a style that is both very distinctively his, and I think also speaks to his heritage, but also something that you can understand why the public gravitate towards the detail. It’s graphic and pictorial, you can easily see a crowd going, wow! He also just seems like a lovely guy! There is some amazing footage from South Sea Spray where he won the ‘People’s Choice’ award and he did a break dance because he’s a b-boy as well… 

I know, he’s so amazing! That’s one thing I’m really sad about, as part of the festival we were going to have hip-hop and break dancing, and it would have been really cool to have a headline artist paint and dance!

Japanese artist, Koryu, now residing in Aotearoa, is another headline artist

Maybe he could still do that at the panel discussion! 

I think so, just break it out!

So, the Flare Street Art Festival begins on the 2nd of March, when the headline artists start painting, but how can people find out more? How can people get involved in the various events? 

They can head onto Facebook for the Flare Street Art Festival or the website which is flare.nz. The full program is on the website and if you want to book tickets to any event, you can do that online. I recommend having a look online because that will be have the right information, it is the digital age, we can update things!

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The Flare Street Art Festival is located across the SALT District with a range of activities – follow Flare on social media or visit their website for more information and booking options. Flare runs from the 2nd March until the 12th March, 2022.

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Slap City presents The International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival, March 2022

Slap City has become a central part of Ōtautahi Christchurch’s urban art scene, and now they are bringing even more international flavour to the city with the first International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival in early March, 2022! The 8 day festival will feature a massive exhibition of stickers, paste-ups and associated works at Sydenham’s TyanHAUS, as well as public installations and workshops. With an array of artists from across the globe, it will be a brilliant cacophonous celebration of paper-based street art in all it’s glory! To get the lowdown we spoke to Slap City stalwarts and festival organisers and participants Vez, teeth like screwdrivers and Cape of Storms

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How did the idea for the International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival come about?

Vez: I had this idea since I moved here, I wanted to put more paste-ups around Christchurch, to bring in more international artists and turn it into an event. I had that dream when I first got here two years ago…

teeth like screwdrivers: I’ve actually got a page on my website that’s about doing the same thing. Originally, I wanted to cover one of the giant cans and make it a festival. But one night we were at Fiksate and we were having a few drinks…

V: And doing karaoke…

tls: Someone said something to us, I won’t say what they said, but someone said something to both of us and we were like, well, that seals it! It was an instant decision, right there, let’s do this…

You two hadn’t talked about it together, even though you both had the same idea?

tls: No, but we had both seen other shows around the world and put our own work into other shows around the world, and we knew Christchurch could deal with a show like this.

A paste-up festival is a great fit, firstly because of the amazing community around the Slap City scene, but also it is a perfect form to involve an even wider community, paste-up and sticker culture seems to be about networks and collaborations…

tls: Completely, especially if you put it under the heading of street art, if you look at other types of street art, they are based around not doing that, like graffiti is based around not collaborating.

Cape of Storms: Yeah, it’s more anonymous…

tls: And it is also about going over someone else, being higher or being louder…

It also requires a literal presence; you have to physically be in the place where you’re writing…

tls: Years and years ago, we used Flickr and maybe occasionally we would get contacts through that, but with Instagram the ability to connect with people anywhere in the world and instantly trade with them is part of why I like it, because it’s a positive thing all the time. There’s no negativity.

V: What I also like about paper-based art is it’s really inclusive. With graffiti, not everybody has got the skill to do it, including myself, but with paper-based art you can just collage or you can take things out of magazines or you can draw, or you can work digitally, there are loads of different ways you can produce work, so everybody can contribute if they want to…

CoS: I feel like with paper-based art, its more towards the art side, rather than the tagging thing, so people who don’t feel comfortable with that element of street art, it’s still something where you can have integrity about where you place your art. It’s transient. It’s not going to be there forever. It’s going to dissolve with rain and water or a little bit of elbow grease, but it still has the same effect…

tls: We’ve all kind of come to an agreement, whether consciously or subconsciously, that we’re not sticking it on people’s houses or businesses, you know? Personally speaking, I’m an older dude, I’ve got three kids of my own and if they see my art on the street, I don’t want them to go, why have you stuck your art on that?

A Cape of Storms paste-up in central Christchurch

But at the same time, you don’t want them to not know that you are doing it, right?

tls: Exactly. They always see my pencils and they always comment on them, but they’re not seeing them on people’s houses, they’re seeing them on derelict buildings, or council electrical boxes, because they are boring and they need paint or stickers or something! I’m probably speaking for you guys, but we kind of had a subconscious agreement that we’re not destroying shit, we’re adding to it.

CoS: It is financially accessible as well, it’s not as expensive as buying loads of spray cans.

tls: It might be low impact physically, but not in the messages…

Not visually or conceptually…

tls: I will argue that any one of us who is putting up 1000 pictures of whatever it is we are putting up is going to have an equal impact to anyone tagging…

There’s also the really interesting longer lineage; revolutionary posters, political posters, advertising, sloganeering…

tls: Yeah, I found a picture other day, it was in Paris, an advertising hoarding and it looks like what we’re doing, but it’s a hundred and something years old! It looks exactly the same as what we do…

The Victorian Street in the Canterbury Museum has a fence that is covered in pasted posters…

tls: Because wheat paste was cheap and easy, posters got your message across for free essentially!

CoS: Graffiti writing is beautiful in its own way, but this is maybe a little bit more accessible to people that aren’t so into graffiti necessarily. It’s got a sense of humour, like Vez’s spoons are there to bring joy to people, to make them think, this is so out of place, let’s not be so serious about life! Christchurch can be quite a dull and flat and miserable place…

tls: No! I can’t believe you said that!

CoS: But it’s the people and the sense of humour and the unexpected juxtaposition, that’s why we do it, we can put something funny out there…

Two of Vez’s iconic spoon paste-ups

It’s a lovely juxtaposition, from the seriousness of signs and the coercion of advertising…

tls: And tilt slabs! That is why it doesn’t feel so quite so awkward. We’re not fighting that, we are just putting stickers and paste-ups up on streets covered in stickers and paste-ups, they’re just from McDonald’s or Coke. I’m not political in that sense, it doesn’t justify what I’m doing, but it just makes me go, I’m OK with this because I’m surrounded any way, we’re just adding our own take to what’s already there.

We did a massive sticker and paste-up installation at Spectrum in 2014. At that time, the local paste-up scene definitely didn’t have the numbers it has now. We had artists contributing from quite faraway places, but Slap City has such a larger network, I’m really looking forward to the breadth of work. Where has work come from and which artists are you most excited for people to see?

V: I’ve written a list… There is work from the UK, USA, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, Spain, Finland, Slovakia, Australia, Canada…

tls: In terms of who we are excited about, I’m going to go first because I’m so stoked about this big piece by The Postman. They are a collective based in Brighton in the UK. I’ve been asking them for a long time because I’ve put Björk pastes up all around the city and when I saw their Björk one, I was like, I need one of those! So, I hassled them and they were like, yeah, we’ll send one to you. It’s huge and I want to take it home, but I’m not going to! I would like a photograph, can I put it out there now? Me standing in front of that please with a big smile on my face! I would love that! I love their stuff, it’s phenomenal. They are a good example of paste-ups as a legit art form. They do everything from whole streets in Shoreditch in London to millionaires’ houses, they do everything. They also work with the artists that take the photos they use to get permission. They are ace!

An example of teeth like screwdrivers’ Bjork paste-ups

V: A lot of the people that have sent paste-up packs are people that I trade with quite regularly, so I’m most excited about seeing the work of locals, like Jen and Dr Suits, because I don’t see that many of their paste-ups. I know they’ve been doing it for a long time, but I’ve only seen Jen paste up twice! I’m just super excited to see what some of the people here in Christchurch create and just to have us all together in one space…

CoS: We went with her to do that giant head on the side of that building in town, and we were like, there she is in action!

tls: For people coming to view the show, they won’t know a lot of these artists as well as you do or I do or any of us in the crew do, because we’re always in cahoots and collaborations with them anyways, we’re seeing all their feeds constantly, but if there’s someone coming here for the first time, they’re going to see Vision or YAYA for the first time, and they are going to be like we were when we first saw them, that’s amazing!

CoS: I’m keen to see some of our younger Slap City members or people that work on their own stuff and don’t necessarily always paste with us, alongside all these other guys that are really well-seasoned. I can’t wait to see their growth. I’ve grown so much, because of Vez really, she invited me to the first Slap City and I helped hold the bucket when she put up all the YAYA stuff around town, so that was my initiation and from then I’ve been hooked and just seeing other people get that joy from the show will be amazing.

A Slap City collaboration featuring international artists, including YAYA, Vision and more…

When you’re getting work from so many sources, you often also get an insight into the stories behind the artists. For instance, we had a 6-year-old, who drew robots in New York and pasted them up with his dad, send work in, there was someone who sent work from Iran, and just to get it out of there was a big deal. Have you had any interesting stories come up?

tls: We are not getting stuff out of Iran, but honestly, I’m getting people trying to send stuff to New Zealand and we are not on the list of places to send stuff to for a lot of countries at the moment. There was one person, they sent it to someone else in another country, because then that person could send it here. You wouldn’t ever think that would be an issue.

A selection of the sticker frames set for the International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival

I guess you can get around that by sending a digital file as well…

V: I’ve committed to printing for about three or four people who have struggled to post stuff. It keeps people included.

tls: We don’t need to have the physical person here to do it, although [Australian artist] Tweet is saying she’d love to try and get across, you know people are keen and if the borders were in the right place, we’d probably have a few Aussies coming over.

V: Tweet is in Melbourne, we’ve swapped a few packs, and we’ve developed a friendship, we chat regularly, not even just about art anymore. She’s really keen to come over for the festival and help us out…

tls: Panty Baggers and Larf’n [from Dunedin] were all talking about trying to get up. So, there are Instagram friends sending their artwork and they want to come up…

CoS: When we take photos and put them on Instagram and tag our international friends, it always feels like there’s a great sense of wow, look at us up in New Zealand!

tls: There is a sense of New Zealand being so far away, it is like: I made it to all the way to New Zealand!

CoS: There is a feeling of pride at their work making it all the way to this little island and look at what these people are doing for my art down there…

tls: It’s great! If you think about a street artist in the traditional sense, as someone who is doing pieces on the side of a building or murals, they have to be where their art is, but any one of us can say our art has been shown in numerous festivals around the world. There was one in Athens a couple of months ago. I’ve never been to Athens, but there on this stairway going up from the bottom floor to the mid floor of this building, there’s a giant pencil!

CoS: Vez sent a parcel to Captain Eyeliner in New York a while back and I snuck in some stuff just because I was there as she was packing the envelope and I got my stuff put up in New York!

tls: Some people are like that with New Zealand, like New Zealand!?! Hobbits!?! That’s what they’re thinking, because to the majority of the world, that’s exactly it, we’re on the other side of the world, so to have all that stuff here, in the ether, is pretty exciting. The audience won’t just be the hundred people we get through the door on the night, most of the audience will be online, on Instagram.

Another Slap City and friends collaboration

What have you got happening alongside the exhibition?

tls: Sticker trading is part of what we do. So, all the work that’s coming to us, Vez is doing an amazing job tallying it up and getting the return addresses so that at the end of the festival the leftover stickers will get sent back out to the people who sent stuff to us. It’s a trade like you do already, but instead of a trade with me and they just get a pack of my stupid pencils, its a trade with maybe a hundred artists from around the world that they might never have come across or might never have traded with.

V: I’ll also encourage all the Slap City people to put stickers in as well when we post packs back out.

tls: We’re also going to jazz up some of the spots in the city that we already use, so people can go and have a wander and explore the city as well, like the old Two Fat Indians spot and the Ao Tawhiti wall. It’s not legal, but they don’t get touched too often. We will include the bollard Bloom’s just done [The Paste-Up Project] as well, because that’s us too. We’ll include [New Regent Street bar] WILKO because we did a whole wall in there a few months back…

V: We are going to have an interactive map.

tls: It’s going to be beautifully created by Cape of Storms. This festival is trying to highlight what we do in terms of creating artwork via paper, both in a gallery-style setting, but also by directing people to be more observant in the real-world setting…

Bloom n Grow Gal completing her Paste-Up Project installation on Manchester Street

It’s an important part of events like this, to further instill the city’s reputation as an urban art destination, right?

tls: Street art capital, right? Lonely Planet said so! As a group, we have such a wide range of artistic endeavors, but we’re all tied together by a bucket of paste and a brush. We have people who come along and just draw smiley faces…

CoS: And we have some people working for weeks and weeks, spending months perfecting something. Or somebody like Lost Boy who listens to our conversations and cartoons what we’re chatting about and then pastes it up! I was saying something about how you should never microwave a sausage, because it’s not good, and he drew a cartoon strip about it! It was hilarious!

A Lost Boy paste-up

tls: Sometimes, I’d say relatively regularly actually, we’ll meet up somewhere and the meeting is more important than sitting down and drawing. It’s knowing that you’re just checking in with everybody and having a good week and is everything alright and we’re all good. I might draw two pencils on a piece of paper and that might be it. Other times I might sit down and not talk to anybody and draw 50, it doesn’t matter. We’ve had people come in for one session and we never see them again. We’ve had a kid come with their dad…

CoS: That kid was so shy, but he was so happy to be there.

tls: We’ve also had kids come along on walks and freak out because they get to put a sticker on the side of a wall. We’re not molding it into one thing. It just is what it is.

CoS: It’s also not a session where you necessarily need to bring anything, and you can take away whatever you want from it. I feel like I do a lot of my cutting out, rather than making my collages, which requires a lot of space and a lot of focus. I just get the energy that I need. Also, the confidence of being in a group is important, going out on your own is quite daunting.

tls: That’s the thing we do differently, there’s safety in a gang. We haven’t got patches, but we go out and there’s a couple of spots on Manchester Street where you don’t want to be hanging around by yourself at 10:30pm at night on a Wednesday, but when you’ve got a group giggling, laughing and joking, it makes light of the situation, for sure.

CoS: It also gives us the opportunity to mix our art together in the streets, so we’re not individuals, it becomes a collective thing…

V: One of the nicest things we’ve done is where we take over a whole box and we collage it…

CoS: It’s everybody’s work all at once. It’s so instant, although sometimes people don’t want it to be too chaotic!

A beautiful bird paste-up by Slap City member Salsa Stark

We were talking about the other events…

tls: Oh shit! Yes! So, you’ve got workshops, on the Wednesday after the opening night, it will be similar to what we do already, and we might do one for younger people beforehand. We have the ability to share stuff on the wall here, we have the ability to play music here, we have the ability to do lots of things, which is why we are having it here at TyanHAUS.

How did that relationship with TyanHAUS start?

tls: I judged a youth skateboard competition that was run here on a wet day a while back. We were going to run it at Two Thumbs Brewery, but it was too wet. So, I came down to help Jack [from local skate brand DuckEwe] to judge. I was looking at this big wall and I thought we could cover that! The guys from TYAN were like, yeah, sure, go for it! We did a few workshops here where I drove my car inside and we lay down on the nice clean floor. We talked to them and they were keen to host this festival, so we said yeah let’s do this! Now it’s almost here…

It is going to be a busy time with Flare Street Art Festival as well…

V: We talked about cross promotion, but I feel like everything’s happening at the same time, so people that are interested in street art are going to find out about both…

It is awesome to see these two things overlapping, speaking about the same culture, just from different perspectives…

CoS: I imagine the audience is going to be the same, so I hope that people check out both shows. We’ve done a few of the graffiti workshops at the giant cans and that was awesome. This cross section across the two events is great, with some really big names in graffiti and we have some really big names in paste-up culture, as well as a lot of people that are virtually unknown…

tls: We had to force Lost Boy to get on Instagram, because we wanted to tag him in posts. But he is also totally fine with just coming along and drawing his drawing funny pictures about shit we say. He’s actually got an exhibition opening on the 22nd, its fucking grand! Along with the paste-up show, there will be a Hello! I am the Show exhibition with members of Slap City. It’s not specifically about paper art, but it is connected…

How can people find out more? How can they make sure they don’t miss out on anything?

V: It’s all on our Instagram account, we’ve got a Facebook event set up as well and we are going to get posters printed and pasted up.

Who is supporting the festival?

tls: We’ve got obviously TyanHAUS on board, they’re amazing, we’ve got Hello, who is doing our lovely art show, Karma Cola are doing drinks and there’s talk of a beer and wine sponsor, we don’t need much else. It would be great if there’s someone out there who makes wallpaper paste, hook us up! Or people who can print some stuff for us, hit us up on the Instagram page!

Is there anything else you want to add?

tls: Come along!

CoS: Participate! Do the workshops! Support local artists!

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Follow Slap City on Instagram and Facebook for more information about The International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival. The Festival runs from March 4th to March 12th at TyanHAUS on Carlyle Street, Sydenham

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Dr Suits goes to Taupo

Our pal Dr Suits recently ventured to the beautiful Taupo for Aotearoa’s longest running urban art festival Graffiato, an event now over a decade old. With the dust settled on a whirlwind trip, we thought it would be good to catch up with the artist to hear about the experience and his production on the town’s BNZ building. With a diverse catalogue of public works, it is surprising that this was Dr Suits’ first time as a featured artist at a festival, with his abstract compositions providing a stylish point of difference from other mural styles. Joined by his good buddy and technical painting whizz Porta, Dr Suits created a striking, colourful piece that explored subtle developments of his style, with tonal variations and new iconography drawn from his studio practice, providing that point of difference from other guest artists, which included the likes of Milarky and Xoë Hall as well as a selection of local artists…

How did the opportunity to paint at Graffiato come about?

The invitation came as a bit of a surprise, really. I was walking along the beach at the time, and my phone pinged, it was Olivia Laita from Aotearoa Urban Arts Trust, asking if I was interested in doing Graffiato this year. She was curating the event and thought that my focus on abstraction would be a point of difference to what they already had, so she just wanted to reach out to see if I was keen. This would have been well before lockdown at the start of the year, so Olivia and I have been in contact via email since then…

Image via Graffiato Taupo Street Art

How much did you know about Graffiato?

I knew a wee bit about it. I knew that Wongi has been, that Handbrake and Chimp have been, so I knew a few artists that have been part of it, but I hadn’t really done much research into it. I didn’t realise how many murals they actually have up in Taupo, so I was blown away when I actually got up there…

This is the eleventh year of Graffiato, it is the country’s longest running street art festival. I am not super familiar with Taupo, but it’s not massive, so when you have been doing something that long, the legacy must build up…

Definitely. It’s run by an organization called Town Centre Taupo, so all of the murals are focused around the central business district which is not a huge area, so if you find one of them, you’ve found a vein and you just follow them around…

That is exactly how I like to get to know new places, I find some street art and let it lead me to more…  In terms of your festival experience, you had some involvement with the Rise and Spectrum shows here, but this is your first out-of-town event, and also your first time as a headline artist. Knowing that your work is somewhat non-traditional in terms of muralism, coupled with your strong studio output, have festivals and public works always been a goal?

I really like the idea of diversity within my work and having a broad range of outputs. Murals are lots of fun and a good way to reach a diverse audience as well. So, is it a goal? Yeah, sure. Is it my main goal? Not really, I’ve got lots of goals. I don’t tend to hang on to one too strongly…

Dr Suits’ red zone roadside mural

There is an increasing number of events in Aotearoa now, with Boon Street Festival, Whanganui Walls, South Sea Spray…

I’m totally open to those invitations, festivals are lots of fun. You meet lots of great people, you get to be part of a broader community and you get your work out there as well…

You are process-focussed as an artist. How is the conception and execution of a mural work different from your studio output?

It comes down to the wall. For instance, the nature of the wall in Taupo was challenging because it was broken into two sections and it was elevated from the ground. Above the wall was a series of windows, including to round port-holes, and down the right-hand side there was a pipe. It was a challenge, but I just designed around them. I mean, I could imagine someone who’s going to paint a realistic style might find that really distracting, but because I work in composition, I could use it to my advantage and make it part of the design. I just had to take into consideration where I could use my big brush [the artist’s handmade tool for creating textural patterns] and the directions I could drag it, and which areas I would want to do block colours, like over the pipe to make it disappear. I realized I needed to not do much with the big brush or go too technical at the top, where I would have to mask out the windows. I didn’t want to waste my time masking those windows out.

Dr Suits at work in Taupo (Image via Graffiato Taupo Street Art)

People may not realise that there is real time pressure for these types of events. You were saying you pulled a 14-hour day on the Saturday…

Yeah, we flew up on the Friday, and painted the Saturday and Sunday, we had the option to paint on Monday as well if we needed it, and then we flew home on the Tuesday. The weather was looking pretty patchy for the weekend. So, I decided to modify and simplify the mural ever so slightly, just to make sure that the rain wasn’t going to be a hindrance…

And you had some help?

The coolest thing about the invite was that they asked if I wanted to bring someone with me. Straight away I was like, I’m taking Porta! He’s a machine and we work so well together. We just look at the picture, we hardly even need to talk. We are in sync. By bringing Porta, we got through so much more work than if I was trying to explain things to a local artist.

There is a level of trust, as well I suppose, and that synchronicity is vital. Also, Porta’s so relaxed that it just helps eliminate the potential for stress…

We’ve got really similar taste in music, so that helps as well…

I can imagine! So, tell us more about the actual work, you touched on some of the elements. The work seems to combine elements of previous outdoor works you have created, but it also brings in aspects that have been prominently featured in your studio work as well, so it seems like a slightly new direction in some ways…

That was the idea. It was an open brief and I wanted to do something that was really striking, I wanted it to be recognizable within both my studio work and from of my past murals or ground works. I wanted to smoosh everything together and come up with something that the town likes, and if they don’t, well I like it….

Dr Suits and Porta add some detail (Image via Graffiato Taupo Street Art)

Originally the plan was for you to do a ground mural, right?

Yeah, Olivia saw the basketball court and the piece that I did in the red zone and was really excited to get a piece on the ground, but it never fell into place. They showed me places that wouldn’t be suitable, like a tiled surface or a rough paved area. The places they had available were mainly pedestrian areas because a lot of the town at the moment is currently being redesigned, so all their roads and the way the traffic moves is being redone and they didn’t want to get something painted and just dig it up. So, we went down the road of painting the BNZ building, which was cool, I’m stoked on that wall…

A festival is intended to have a level of public engagement, but we live in the age of Covid and obviously that affected the event, there were quite a few artists and Olivia herself, based in Auckland, who couldn’t be there, and I’m sure there were other changes, did you still get a sense of that communal festival experience?

Absolutely, the crew have been running Graffiato for eleven years. You can tell that they are really passionate about looking after the artists and making sure the public are engaged. They run a well-oiled machine. They’ve got good sponsorship with paints and equipment, so when we were picked up From the airport they were like, do you guys want to start today or tomorrow? The weather was looking pretty iffy, so we said it would be good to start that afternoon and they just said, sweet, we will get you a scissor lift onsite by 3pm and you can start. They had the projector back at the house and we were good to go. We were well looked after, they put us up in a really nice Air B’n’B, there was food in the fridge, with beers and wine. We had a little car to zip round in…

Dr Suits’ final production for Graffiato (Image via Graffiato Taupo Street Art)

Those types of things make a big difference, right?

It just made it so easy for us to paint the wall. They would bring us lunch at the wall. They had a volunteer sitting on the wall with us to talk to visitors so we weren’t getting distracted, unless we wanted to be. Big ups to Linda, she would hand people a map and a flier with all the information about the festival and talk to them about where the next closest mural is and talk about our mural. There was a photo of our concept down at the bottom and she would talk them through it. That volunteer element meant that we could actually get the work done in the time frame. There have been commercial murals that I have worked on where people are coming and going all day and pretty much someone is always talking to a visitor…

It is interesting, because talking to people is a really important part of this new profile of urban art, so you don’t want to seem too cranky or unapproachable, and of course, it can be fascinating meeting new people, but it can end up eating up a lot of time. You were the only South Island artist at the event this year, why do you think there is often an under-representation of our artists at these North Island events in particular?

Maybe it just comes down to the cost. The logistics of getting artists up there. I mean, the other artists probably just would have driven. I know Milarky just drove from New Plymouth…

We have such a strong reputation here in Christchurch in particular, but maybe you are right, it might be the practicalities, although we still bring a lot of North Island artists down to events here. With all that said, who did you enjoy spending time with?

Me and Porta and Milarky were in the same house, so we got to hang out a little. But I just really enjoyed hanging with Porta, we basically spent the whole weekend together, apart from when I was asleep. Apart from that we didn’t really hang out that much with the other artists. There was a briefing at the start and we all caught up at the end for some pizzas and beers, but everyone was really trying to negotiate the weather and seeing if they could maximise the sun and weren’t really away from their wall. Julie, one of the organizers from Town Centre Taupo, picked us up from the airport and was saying there is a bit of a running joke that she chains the artists to the walls. She makes it so that the artist doesn’t have to leave other than to go to the toilet. If you need paint, they will go get it, if you need coffee, they will go get it. They do a circuit, and you see them every hour with paint or coffee or something to eat, you just put in an order…

Follow Dr Suits on Instagram for more of his work

Follow Graffiato on Instagram to see what other artists got up to…

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Postcard from Bluff – South Sea Spray edition with Brian ‘Rowee’ Rowe

Back in February, South Sea Spray saw a collection of Aotearoa’s finest urban artists congregate in Bluff. As one might expect, the outcome was an array of stunning works produced around the Southern town. We were lucky enough to get our hands on pictures courtesy of photographer Brian ‘Rowee’ Rowe, with permission from the festival organisers – so, in case you can’t make it down to the glorious South, here is our latest postcard…

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