To recap September we caught up with Cape of Storms, our favourite street collage paster-upperer! You will know Cape’s paste-ups, even if you don’t realise it, they utilise vintage cooking books, kitsch knitting images and more retro finds to create whimsical juxtapositions that are at once funny and mysterious, adding that sense of wondrous inquisition as they appear across the city, revealing the absurdity of life. As I suspect it was for many of us, Cape of Storms’ September was hectic, catching up on a life that was put on pause… So, what was keeping Cape of Storms busy? Read on and find out…
September was a blur. My recollection of how the month passed by is somehow not linear. I remember key events, like feeding my best friend’s new baby girl for the first time, dressing up and going out for a special meal with my partner at Soul Quarter just after we passed into level 2. Going back to the gym, the stress and irritation around how and when to mask up. But most of all, I remember the build-up and anticipation, coordination, ultimate execution of of MOVING HOUSE.
Moving house is awful. It confronts you with all your life decisions and lifestyle choices and forces you to judge yourself as you pack up your life, box by box (well, at least for me anyway!).
I arrived in New Zealand just under three years ago with two suitcases full of clothes, a racing heart and a head full of dreams for my new future. For the first few weeks I muddled by sleeping on the floor on a blow-up mattress, eating at a rusty camping table and managing the delicate balance of ice-to-water ratio in a chilly bin.
Slowly and steadily I started to accumulate stuff. Four months after relocating from Cape Town, four modest boxes arrived by sea, filled with precious kitchen and household items from my previous home.
Fast-forward to September 2021 and van- load upon van-load of stuff needs to be ferried from the old house to the new house, multiple trips to Ecodrop required, $850 raised in Facebook marketplace sales and days and days of sorting, cleaning and reorganising.
And what did I learn about myself during this process? Well, a quite a few important things actually.
Friends, and friends who have become like family are my “home” in this new country. The physical objects I own only carry meaning for me if they are linked to how I can interact with the important people in my life, or bring me comfort and act as reminders of special memories shared with the people who are no longer physically present due to distance and time zones.Being a bit of a clutter-bug, I was amazed at how easily I was able to get rid of things that did not meet these requirements, and how important the objects that remind me of my home country and family actually are.
My home environment has become very important to me. This space has become my nest, my anchor which I can categorically call “my own”. Where I can express my personality and recharge. Taking the time to curate my space a bit better and only surround myself with things I truly need has been wonderful. Also, realising that my space is now shared with my partner makes this even more special as we create a life together.
When my life was in limbo for a few weeks, I really craved my routine and the activities that mean the most to me, the things that create balance in my day. For me, that was “studio”/workspace area back in order. This move has been really great as I have now seriously upgraded my work space and I really look forward to a lot of productive time being creative on a day-to-day basis, as I’m trying to incorporate making/creating into my daily routine. Another big one was realising how important regularly connecting with my fellow artist friends at weekly Slapcity meetups are to me. Slapcity is a group (I won’t use the dreaded word “collective”) of like-minded artist friends with a passion for street art. Some artists focus on sticker making, some on paper paste-ups, some on graffiti writing, some on drawing – but honestly any medium is welcomed. We get together every Wednesday evening to chat and do a little bit of work on whatever we feel like really, usually with a beer or cold beverage in hand.
So September was for the most part spent preoccupied with the move, but by no means all that I got up to…
Danny Knight-Baréat PB & JAM
Something that’s been preoccupying me throughout September is Slapcity member Danny Knight-Baré’s stunningly intricate multi-layered screen-printed pieces I saw at the PB & Jam show in mid-August. At first glance you would mistake the abstract colour-blocked pieces for digital prints, but once you realise that each line and dot have actually been screen-printed onto the surface, sometimes in up to 23 layers you truly realise their genius. I could stare at those textures and colours for hours. PB & Jam was an awesome group art and music show put together by the gorgeous Lydia Thomas (another Slapcity member!).
Level 3 saw us getting together via Zoom calls, but a return to Level 2 meant face to face meet-ups again! The pleasant sound of scissors snipping, vinyl cutting, the heavy smell of marker pen ink hanging in the air, good tunes playing in the background and our inane and random chatter is the definition of my happy place. It’s a totally relaxed and free environment, and I just feel so recharged and energised after every session. We alternate between the workspace at Fiksate Gallery and a few other locations around Christchurch central. New members are always welcome. Check out the Insta page for more info.
Mine and my partner’s favourite brunch spot on St Asaph Street in the central city. Excellent coffee and yummy fresh food (especially in the cabinet), all in all a beautifully decorated hanging plant-filled space. The hanging plant jungle that covers the entire ceiling of the café has Millenials and Gen Zs frothing at the mouth, but looking beyond this #hashtag nirvana, the food, coffee and service is really amazing. Our favourites are the Eggs Benedict, the Salad bowl with halloumi and the Florentines from the cabinet.
Aussie art rock and my trusty Blundies
I’ve had Twilight Driving by Methyl Ethel on repeat on a daily basis. I just can’t get enough of Jake Well’s gender-bendingly unique voice and the haunting lyrics. I’ve been listening to a lot of Holy Holy as well. Coupled with the fact that I have been wearing my beloved brown Blundstone boots so much that I’ve had to introduce “rest days” for them is making me question my loyalty to this Antipodean island in favour of the other, larger, hotter one. But then I think of those poor sods in Melbourne and happily return to sipping my flat white and dunking my ginger slice. Also, Blundstones are actually made in Vietnam now…
Trawling op shops for old textiles. Saturday morning hours lost inside the labyrinth of Creative Junk. Clandestine printing missions at my office photocopier. Gluing things to other things. Figuring out how to paint and paste onto old biscuit tins and suit cases. All in preparation for Even More The Show, opening Thursday, 14th October (and running through the 15th and 16th) at Club House Creative on Southwark Street. Even More The Show is yet another group show organised by the charming Irish creative dynamo Lydia Thomas. I was so stoked to be invited to take part, and it is made all the more special by the fact that proceeds made from the show will go to Youthline. Quite a few of my local female artist friends will also be taking part, its going to be a hell of a lot of fun!
When we asked DJ DREAM.R to compile our And That Was… for June, we knew she would have plenty of rad things to talk about – the flip side of that is it becomes a tough task for someone who is constantly juggling projects and events to find time! Like the champion DREAM.R is though, she made time and came back to us with an amazing list of things she has loved from the last month – from creative workshops to morning raves and bubbling plans for murals in Wellington, this is most definitely the list of a true creative who spreads across the realms of making, doing and thriving! From choice-cuts that get the crowds dancing to funky pots and earrings as well as a surrounding circle of friends that guarantee wicked plans, DREAM.R was a perfect choice to recap June 2021…
Jess Johnson and M/K Press Workshops at the Christchurch Art Gallery
I recently attended a few workshops at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, including a session with artist Jess Johnson, who creates intricate otherworldly pieces that I have been drawn to for their pastel colours, symmetry and sci-fi strangeness. She does most excellent collaborations with Simon Ward and together they make their worlds come to life with virtual reality. If you ever get a chance to check this out, don’t sit on it – get involved! It was insightful to learn her techniques and inspirations and I got to play around with my own piece on the day.
I also attended another great workshop with Jane Maloney from M/K Press who brought in her risograph and showed us how it all worked. I got to create a few fun prints working in with some backgrounds she had already printed. Using the risograph was magic, and so satisfying to watch. I had no idea how it worked and now that I have had a play, I am itching for more! M/K Press’s 12-month collaboration with Fiksate Gallery, of a limited run of prints each month with a new urban artist is amazing!
I was recently asked to play an event called Morning People, which happened to be on a Thursday morning at 6:30am! Now, when I first heard about Morning People I was skeptical because, quite frankly, I am far from a morning person (more like a night owl). However, I went to the first show they did in Christchurch a while back and was surprised at how much fun I had and how refreshing it was. Leaving the club at 8am is a memory of the distant past …ye old Christchurch city life…out ze club and onto the first bus home no more!
The morning is designed to offer an early, clean one-and-a-half hour, one-DJ rave for people before they start their day. They serve coffee, fruit, protein bars, and my fav drink ‘Club Matè’ (an epic caffeinated beverage from South America). This is a recipe for the best start to the day I have experienced yet. I was buzzing all day from the energy the crowd gave me. Watching everyone just get into it and dance their lil’ butts off was so magical. From a DJ’s perspective, it was a totally nervous lead up (feeling the pressure of delivering a solid performance of dancey tuneage to full-on sober punters!) with an exciting and fun outcome where I really just had a fully focused and dedicated crowd of beautiful people who were there to move their bodies! What more could we ask for?!
Morning people are based in Auckland and they do early morning raves in Auckland, Christchurch and sometimes Wellington. Check them out and if you can do it, do it! I recommend trying it at least once to see if it’s for you!
As the Operations and Project Manager for Cosmic, I am working on a project for our Wellington store where we will be doing some murals on the store frontages. I have approached an artist for one, but they haven’t confirmed yet, so I won’t divulge (but I will say that they are one of my most favourite artists on the scene today and the work she creates is magic!). This would be for a roller door and a feature wall inside the new café/vape store. For the other roller door, I will be doing a piece with my lil’ babe of a friend Lil’ Ems, who is the heart of ‘Cute Gang’ (a worldwide gang of cute artists who share the love of street art and connections). I have no idea what we will come up with, so I cannot wait to get drawing! Ems just did a wee sign on our frontage to show we are still open throughout the renovations. We have already been tagged with ‘F**k the Police’, which we assumed would happen and may end up being a funny week of bomb tags, although I do hope the final images are respected and left as is. Wellington has some real beautiful wall coverings and it is always such a trip walking the streets and taking in the talented creations. This is less of a did-do… and more of a watch-this-space!
If anyone is interested in showing me their work and could see themselves doing a mural, please flick me some details and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org – we haven’t locked anyone in yet and it could still be up for grabs if it’s a fun and suitable match (Wellington-based ideally for ease of logistics!).
Warehouse fun and Shes.cutting.shapes!
A bunch of my crew just signed a short-term lease on a warehouse right in the centre of town. We have intentions to use this space as storage for our many behind-the-scene ventures and to make a studio where we can create new works while hanging with friends. We are called ‘Clubhouse Creative’ and while I am not sure where this new venture will take us, it is super exciting to think of the possibilities! I look forward to playing around with more painting and doing some bigger murals (practice for the Welly mission – I will attempt to paint a mural on the front roller door… I’m not sure who painted the one that is on there now, but I think it’s time for a refresh…), and to make space for my Shes.cuttin.shapes projects. I have been painting pots for all of my plant friends for a few years now. I use test pots from Resene and never plan them before I put brush to pot, I trust the process and enjoy the moment! I also make earrings from molding clay and have fun with my hands making cool patterns and shapes. I haven’t quite got them to the stage of selling, most of my creations are for me and my friends… I am hoping that this space will give me the creative space to share my love of these things!
Lots of creations on the horizon!
RDU’s Slaps Collection
I play with some good friends of mine on the Rhythm Zone show on RDU 98.5FM every second Friday from 6pm to 8pm. Being in the RDU studio, I have always spent any downtime in between mixes looking deeply into their slap sticker collections from over the years. It has been built up over years and shows a long history of the humans who have passed through and/or contributed their time to the station from all walks of life within the music industry. Each individual sticker represents a gig or a musician or a label or a brand – spanning many years of goodness!
Opening June 4th, Elliot ‘Askew’ O’Donnell and Jasmine Gonzalez present their first collaborative show Continuum at Fiksate Gallery. Based on a series of Gonzalez’s photographs interwoven with O’Donnell’s painterly investigations of digital and analogue abstraction, the show is a reflective rumination on the travails of the last year, the couple based largely in the US during the Covid-19 pandemic and the broader civil unrest that also flared during 2020. Continuum reflects the philosophy adopted by the duo as coping mechanisms throughout those challenging times. Viewing history and the contemporary experience as part of a continuum, the artists have created a body of work that is both beautiful and unsettling, as well as highly collaborative – working with O’Donnell’s florist mother Meghan Humphries and Wellington-based dancer, poet and performance artist Jahra Wasasala. The sequence of large canvasses suggest the interconnection of experiences and the cyclical pattern of history, even as hopelessness and isolation abounds.
Continuum opens June 4th at Fiksate Gallery (54 Hawdon Street, Sydenham), and runs until July 3rd.
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April has come and gone and while the year moves at a steady pace, there has been plenty to keep us entertained. Although the weather is getting a little less predictable, it is providing a late flurry of sunshine (at least after the inevitable chilly mornings), extending the window for outdoor activities like painting murals! While there have been a number of new outdoor works to explore, there have also been some very cool things going on indoors as well. Exhibitions like Ghostcat’s Shadow Town at Fiksate Gallery and the Canterbury Museum’s Hakē: Street Art Revealed, have provided popular experiences. As always, we have a recap of what tickled our fancy, compiled as an easy-to-follow list! So, without further ado, here is our And That Was… April 2021…
Ghost’s Shadow Town @ Fiksate
Ghostcat’sShadow Town was highly anticipated and the crowd that showed up for the opening night at Fiksate were not disappointed. The collection of miniatures drawn from Christchurch’s urban environment were hot tickets, with people drawn to the beautiful intricate details and the associated nostalgia. With just a few days left at the time of writing, if you haven’t made it to Shadow Town, hurry!
Benjamin Work @ The Canterbury Museum
When the Canterbury Museum were presented with a window to reveal the legacy works from the massively successful Rise exhibition, they also wanted to add a new work to the main exhibition hall. Enter Auckland artist Benjamin Work, whose massive, striking floor mural Motutapu II draws from the iconography found on the Tongan ‘Akau Tau (war clubs) in the Museum’s collection. The work adds a new element to the surrounding wall paintings from Rise, highlighting the diverse trajectories of urban artists over the last decade.
TMD x DTR x Ysek X Chile One in New Brighton
On a cold Saturday morning (the night after the Shadow Town opening), a heavyweight collection of artists got together in New Brighton for a painting jam. Local artists Dcypher and Ikarus of the DTR crew, Christchurch-based Chilean artists YSEK and Chile One, and Auckland’s Phat1, Diva and Dyle of the legendary TMD crew, freshened up a popular New Brighton wall with traditional graffiti pieces and characters, creating a legacy of the meeting of some of New Zealand’s biggest talent.
Charles Williams and Benjamin Work @ Etu Pasifika Health
In the wake of the launch of the TMD: An Aotearoa Graffiti Story at The Dowse in Lower Hutt, crew members Benjamin Work and Charles Williams arrived in Christchurch to paint a mural on the new Etu Pasifika Health Centre. The work combines the signature styles of the two artists with a design conceived by fellow TMD member Janine Williams. The background is coloured in a bright blue, black, yellow and white pattern, with Work’s Tongan warrior chief figure on the left couched within the architectural framework, while Williams’ depiction of a Red-tailed Tropicbird soars upwards from the bottom right. The harmonious combination of styles creating an impressive new work for Christchurch.
TMD: An Aotearoa Graffiti Story @ The Dowse
It may not have been in Christchurch, but I couldn’t leave out my trip to Wellington for the opening of the TMD: An Aotearoa Graffiti Story at Lower Hutt’s The Dowse Museum. Combining history and installations that spoke to the culture and roots of New Zealand’s most iconic graffiti crew with a group show of crew members’ contemporary practice, the exhibition struck all the right chords. The additional benefits of seeing the crew members painting murals around Lower Hutt and then as part of a panel discussion topped off the weekend. I highly recommend – go see it!
And That Was… April 2021 – what would you add to the list? Comment below to let us know!
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Ghostcat is set for his first solo show, with Shadow Town confirmed as Fiksate’s first exhibition at their new Hawdon Street location in Sydenham. Opening Friday April 9th, Shadow Town will present a selection of Ghostcat’s fascinating scratch-built urban miniatures, including the detailed recreation of local spots, from the grimy and overlooked to the iconic and vanished.
Originally from Birmingham in the UK, Ghostcat has found a new home in Otautahi, and his work is both a celebration of the physical sites he has explored and the stories of the changing city recounted via friends, adding an emotional resonance to the works beyond nostalgia and visual detail. The artist’s infectious sense of humour, laced with a healthy dose of body horror-influence, will also be on full display, with the grimy elements of our urban environment celebrated over the picturesque; from dirty toilets and graffiti-ed alleyways to dumpsters and sticker-laden street signs.
Many of the works also feature collaborative contributions from local artists, from Fiksate’s own Dr Suits to members of the DTR Crew and the Slap City collective. This has proven an important aspect of the artist’s process, adding authenticity and collectivism to a concept already driven by real experiences and a sense of connection.
Ghostcat’s star has quickly risen as his creations have caught the attention of Instagram scrollers, with interviews and media coverage ensuring Shadow Town will surely be a popular occasion with a hum of excitement already buzzing…
Shadow Town opens 5pm, Friday 9th April at Fiksate Gallery, 54 Hawdon Street, Sydenham.
Ghostcat’s first ever solo show Shadow Town opens at Fiksate’s Sydenham gallery space on Friday, April 9th. While we figured March would have been a busy month for him, we thought it was worth checking in to see what kept him going throughout this hectic period as he prepared for the exhibition. Ghostcat’s exquisite scratch-built miniatures are intertwined with our surrounding spaces, inspired by our personal and communal experiences, so sharing a list of what he has doing seemed a fitting exercise. Knowing Ghostcat’s love for the quirky and grimy things of life, we were also aware it would likely be an eclectic list, surely infused with his love of schlock horror movies, quirky discoveries and of course, as a man after my own heart, pizza… We weren’t disappointed. So, here are the five things that helped Ghostcat along the road to Shadow Town and made his March more colourful…
Alligator the Movie:
I love eighties horror movies and this month I saw Alligator for the first time, its about a baby alligator that gets thrown down the sewer and feeds on dead dogs and rats that have been biffed down there by a lab. It grows about 60 feet long and fucks everyone up in town, it was incredible! I love how everything is handmade in that era of movies, from the posters to the effects…
Alligator the Pizza:
This is pure coincidence, but I also had Alligator Pizza for the first time from Riccarton this month. Pizza is life for me, I love it. Sal’s is normally my go to, but Alligator’s pizza’s are massive, like truly they are ginormous man! I had a whole cheese pie, it was the biggest thing I’ve ever seen!
Radiohead – How to Disappear Completely:
I started listening to Radiohead’s Kid A again this month and I had forgotten how beautiful the track How to Disappear Completely was… It is Thom Yorke’s favourite, I think. It reminded me of how we all feel at some point in our lives. Shit, that sounded really depressing, haha. But music takes you places though, eh? It evokes all sorts of wondrous things. Its an incredible song.
Edward Gorey – The Gashly Crumb Tinnies:
I had a conversation with Bongo the other day and he showed me some art from someone that jogged my memory of an artist I love so much, Edward Gorey. I have been meaning to get his book The Gashlycrumb Tinies. Its such a sinister and macabre illustrated book showing the running alphabet alongside the strange deaths of children, like, “E is for Ernest who choked on a peach.” Its delightfully twisted. Check it out, it is a stellar coffee table book. I love the scratchy heavy dark use of colour and the depiction of death is wonderful. Death should always wear a top hat and carry an umbrella. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but by nature it is pretty twisted. It’s fascinating, I recommend checking it out.
Preparing for Shadow Town:
Collectively working and collaborating with Bols, Teeth Like Screwdrivers, Ikarus, Vez, Tepid, Dr Suits, Bongo, Rubble City and Dcypher has been such an all encompassing experience, from seeing a vast range of styles of art to all having the same goal, which is to be part of anything that represents who you are as an artist. It’s been amazing and I am truly honoured to have had so many interesting and talented people get on board with what I’ve been doing. I’m really excited about this show, it can’t come soon enough!
Shadow Town opens 5pm, Friday April 9th at Fiksate, 54 Hawdon Street, Sydenham
Jessie Rawcliffe seems like the perfect fit for this month’s And That Was…, having just completed a stunning piece on one side of the Berlin Wall installation at the start of the month. Of course, typically laid back, Jessie is also not the type to wax lyrical about her own work, so don’t expect any mention of her own work (although you can check it out here). Instead, her February recap is filled with her favourite things, from British electro post punk albums, to photographic exhibitions, and as she promised me, the ‘goodest boy’ she could muster. So here is Jessie Rawcliffe’s February 2021 recap…
Shit. Reuben asked me to do this at the beginning of February – now that the month is over I can’t seem to remember a single thing that I did, but I know it flew past in a blur of hectic energy.
I’m terrible at picking my favourite anything (afraid of commitment much?), but here we go…
Album pick – Sleaford Mods – Spare Ribs
Categorised as ‘electro post punk’, I found these guys through Idles and Fontaines D.C. on YouTube. They’re a two piece featuring sparse beats, vocalist Jason Williamson talk-raps about middle class struggles and British culture with an abrasive English accent that I can’t get enough of.
Mork n Mindy is an absolute banger.
Opening / Monthly social gathering highlight – Fiksate’s new digs
It has to be Fiksate opening their new spot in Sydenham. Hawdon Street is in a great part of town, I’m about it.
Best good boy
This is Honey. We met at the beginning of the month, none surpassed. 11/10. Would pat again.
This guy’s been on fire this last month. His collage-style paintings have a cut and paste effect, mixing broad loose brush strokes with smaller detailed imagery that he always manages to balance. Objects are superimposed and float in space, you can read each thing or just enjoy the overall effect.
Also, dude has a cute dog, which is ultimately the content we all want.
Favourite exhibition – Larence Shustak: air gun? at Te Puna o Waiwhetu
He has a really interesting career going from New York where he took some of the most universally recognisable images of jazz legends, to Christchurch, where he photographed punks, and working with Flying Nun.
While we were there a gallery tour was on; the person taking it pointed out their all time favourite Shustak photograph, which is part landscape part portrait and probably the most quintessential ‘kiwi’ image on show; and I thought “fuck, really? That one!?”
Actually, 2020 has been such a surreal and, truthfully, emotional year that it almost seems insensitive to joke about it. Between the Covid-19 pandemic, the loss of lives and livelihoods, the Black Lives Matter movement, the farcical post-election shenanigans in the U.S. and more, there has been real and wide-spread heartbreak and tragedy. While some developments will stretch beyond the 12 months of 2020, in part due to their enormity and the necessary concentration to effect meaningful change, it is still necessary to take stock of the good things in a year we mostly just want to be over. The And That Was… series has always been about those things that bring joy, from the seemingly incidental, to the showstoppers, so let’s finish 2020 with a recap of some good stuff from December. With the end of the year approaching and a flurry of projects and events taking place, thankfully there has been a fair bit to consider… (This month we took the reigns, but don’t worry, we are working on something with a whole bunch of friends for the coming days, so keep your eyes peeled!)
Mike Beer goes to the dogs…
You probably all know sculptor David Marshall’s three bronze corgis on High Street, right? I mean, they have been there for over a decade now. What you may not have noticed was that a few weeks ago, the dropped ice cream cone one pup inquisitively sniffed disappeared. Sniffing an opportunity himself, our new favourite scratch builder Mike Beer decided to create and install something a playful replacement, drawing on the influence of subversive guerrilla street sculptors. You may just need to check it out for yourself, but perhaps don’t get too close…
Dcypher dropping science…
With a massive wall exposed by the demolition of a section of the Ara campus on Madras Street, which incidentally also meant the eradication of the Vans the Omega mural produced back in 2013 to announce the coming Rise festival, a new mural seemed an obvious requirement. Into that void stepped Dcypher, filling the gap with a striking anamorphic mural. A giant hand reaches towards a silver key, suggesting the importance of the search for knowledge, all within a disintegrating framework that dissolves the built environment. It has already gained international attention on Global Street Art.
Glass Vaults at Space Academy
The return of live music must be one of the best things about the second half of 2020! Space Academy hosted Christchurch-based Glass Vaults in early December, the group touring their new Sounds That Sound Like Music album. Their unique psychedelic-pop is heading towards dreamy disco funk, and the live show was definitely a winner, culminating with the infectious 2017 track Brooklyn. Also, is the pocket of St Asaph Street now home to the Darkroom, Space Academy now the live music district of the city?
Distranged Design goes big…
Jacob Root (a.k.a. Distranged Design) has generally worked to a scale that reflects his stencil-based approach. But with a new technique that still allows his stencil aesthetic, the artist produced his biggest work yet in December. The work, visible from Manchester Street and Tuam Street, was commissioned by a local property developer and seemingly pays tribute to the lost churches around the city, titled Christ Church Restoration City and featuring an angel figure flanked by two crosses.
Fiksate find a new home
Fittingly, the last And That Was… of 2020 (kind of, you’ll see…) ends with the beginning of a new chapter for a local institution. After two years and plenty of memorable exhibitions, Fiksate will close the doors at Gloucester Street, relocating to a new base in Sydenham (details to come!). With a new home and surely a dash of revitalising energy, it will be exciting to see what Jen, Dr Suits present in 2021…
Well 2020, what else can I say but, see you, wouldn’t want to be you! We do however, look forward to what 2021 brings, so stay tuned for future installments of And That Was…
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Teeth Like Screwdrivers is one of those people who radiates enthusiasm. Not in the cheesy, annoying way, but simply through a desire to bring people together and to see things happen. I came across his pencil stickers before I met the man himself. They were the type of sticker I love, although simple, they pulled you in through a spark of the familiar that made you ponder, is that what I think it is? Since finally meeting the artist, I have followed Teeth Like Screwdrivers’ busy trajectory, his own prolific and expansive output, his global network of contacts and collaborators, and the formation of Slap City, a sticker and paste up club that that has brought together a diverse roster of artists. When we caught up, all of these factors became apparent both in the scope of our conversation, but also in the way Teeth Like Screwdrivers spoke, excitedly, almost breathlessly darting back and forth through topics. From his early days in Christchurch after arriving from the UK, to the formation of Slap City and his lock down sticker collab project, we covered a lot of ground, fitting for an artist who thrives on activity…
We first met at the giant spray cans, where you were part of a DTR crew workshop. I remember you just had this massive grin on your face enjoying the experience. Is a sense of community and participation a central concern for you? It seems that Slap City is very much about forming a community.
I’ve always organized stuff. When I first moved here, I started the Garden City Session [a Christchurch longboarding group], which I’m no longer doing but has now got like a thousand members. Within the first week of arriving in Christchurch, I got hold of Cheapskates and was like, right, who’s organizing something for skaters? They hit me up with Scotty who was doing Skate School and we did a couple of longboard ones and then it spiraled and spiraled and spiraled. We used to do pub crawls on skateboards. So, I was always the one organizing events, rocking up and being the hype man.
Christchurch’s Flavor Flav!
If I’m really interested in something, it is really easy to do. As a schoolteacher, if I’m doing a lesson I’m not into, it then it’s probably going to be shit, but if I’m into it, it’s going to be brilliant! So, with the sticker stuff, the same thing happened. Stickers were happening, of course they were, but I enjoy the hanging out and someone else going: ‘You could do this…’ It was the same with that DTR workshop last year. I don’t use spray cans, I’m not a graffiti artist. I’m as far from your stereotypical graffiti guy as you can get, but I wanted to see how it’s done. In my head I wanted to make my work look like a marker pen. I love markers, I’m a little bit OCD and I love the different thicknesses. So, I was like, how can I make spray paint look the same? I went and watched them and I realised you could put one line there, then you can do another line there and it cuts that first one back. That was all that was about. But I was loving it because I was surrounded by people who just knew their fucking trade, who were really good and they were just like: ‘You could do this, you could do this…’ I was like, this is brilliant! But I also realised there are lots of ways to do things. There was a really good Safe Kasper artwork on the cans a while back, he’d sprayed the bulk of it and then used a marker for the details, I was like, what the fuck? I can just paint the outline and marker the details which is essentially what I’m doing with a sticker, doing the background and then the marker over the top, so it made sense. But running shit is fun, that’s the joy for me. I like sitting at home and spending an hour just cranking out stickers, but I also like having other people around and bouncing ideas off each other.
Obviously within graffiti culture there has been this history of mentorship and camaraderie in terms of crews.
Skateboarding is similar, you learn, not from the masters directly, but an older person will go: ‘Actually mate, it will be way easier if you just pop your foot off the left and put pressure on there…’ It’s the same thing. I remember I went down to the cans the other day, the DTR crew were doing a big paint jam. I’m an outsider, like I said, I’m about as far away as you can imagine from graffiti writers, but they’re like: ‘Get in bro, grab a can, give it a go…’ I was like, really? It was wonderful.
I feel like when we talk about post-graffiti or street art, it can be more isolated, because you tend to be making something in advance, it doesn’t necessarily have the same sense of community or camaraderie, but undeniably the potential’s there.
Yeah, most people want to be nice, most people are good people, you go up to them and say I really love what you’re doing, can we do something together? They are probably going to say yes, just get in there and see what happens. The worst that can happen is they say no, in which case OK, cool. Christchurch is small enough that you will bump into the same people. If you’re doing something similar, chances are you’re going to bump into me, so that connection may as well be as easy as possible. I don’t know those DTR guys from jot, but they all remembered me from a year and a half ago.
Because Christchurch is small, the competitive element isn’t necessarily as strong as it might be in bigger cities where street cultures have diverged.
Vez is a great example. I saw her stuff all over the place before I met her, and she sent me a message saying: ‘I’m moving from England to Christchurch.’ I told her that I’d started this sticker thing and that she should come along, thinking she’s had artwork everywhere in the world, she won’t want to come! But she rocked up and was just like ‘Hi!’ Now I see her work everywhere and I know who she is and what her stuff is about, and that’s what it should be really.
The fact that Slap City is held at Fiksate is another example of that sense of community in the local scene.
There are lots of examples of it in other cities where people meet at a pub or somewhere where they’ve just got a big old table and they all sit around and just pass some shit around and share. I was like, why don’t I do that here? Then we just kept doing it, then we made it every two weeks rather than once a month. But again, it fits nicely at Fiksate. We go in, it’s super chill, we set the tables up and it’s just like a second wee family. We just chat, talk about what we’ve been up to the last couple of weeks. Someone will have some new things that they want to share, or they have worked on a whole bunch of new stickers and we all kind of pass judgment on them, in a good way!
In addition to that sense of community, has Slap City allowed you to do things artistically that maybe you wouldn’t have done by yourself?
I think I’m keener to get up in the streets. I mean I’m not your typical person who goes and puts things in the street, but you know, we go out and half of us go and have a beer afterwards. It’s all about walking around. People will rock up with some paste and we just go for it. So, I guess it’s not a solo sport anymore. I mean it is, it can be. I’ve spent many evenings just putting stickers up by myself, but there’s something more fun about there being a whole bunch of you. Someone will put one up and you try to put one higher, it’s just that kind of thing. But it could be anything, it could be a bike gang, it could be a record collecting crew. It’s having that little group around you who are just as enthusiastic as you.
That energy and excitement feeds everyone, and opens the gateway just enough for people to come through…
I mean we’ve got it all now. Suddenly it’s gone from me saying I can get a few people and we can do some drawing, to having this crew. People come and go but there’s probably six or seven regulars. Three of them are part of an exhibition at Fiksate [Vez, Bexie Lady and Cape of Storms are all featured in the show Perspective: Women in Urban Art], which is crazy! Bongo’s screen printing now, so he offered to do a run of a hundred stickers for this amount of money, and everyone was chucking money at him and that comes from just talking to people, getting shit done, you know? It is almost self-fulfilling. If I want to go and do some stuff on the street, then I can probably find someone keen to come along. Even if it is just wandering around and putting stupid stickers of pencils up, it doesn’t matter, that’s the fun of it. We are all very different, some crews have a particular style, especially with graffiti, but we’re drawing pictures on paper and sticking them up, it is different. One week a guy came and just did smiley faces, which was great!
People sometimes assume that there’s a right way to do street art.
Right, a particular highbrow view that you have to do this or that. I’m sure in the graffiti world there are styles and techniques that are passed on, but with stickers the joy is that they are literally just a marker pen and sticky paper. You could draw a picture of your own bum and it would count. Anyone can come along and draw funny little things on a piece of paper, and it counts. It doesn’t have to be ginormous.
Touching on that idea of size, there has been a tendency in urban art towards placemaking and an increasingly big scale, and yet really placemaking is also about the small stuff.
I’m a big fan of the little things that are hidden away, the things that you don’t notice at first, but then you do and it makes them even more rad. Paste ups are fun because they let you work on a bigger scale than stickers. You can literally put up any size, but it’s still a smaller scale in terms of just drawing on a piece of paper and sticking it up on a wall. It’s generally never going to be higher than you can physically do it. I guess that’s why making stupid machines to put stickers higher up a wall amuses the shit out of me. There are a few that are up there and I’m just like, it’s so high off the ground! That’s pure amusement for me.
That idea of simply playing in the streets…
I did some pastes in Lyttelton with a mate of mine recently. So, Lyttelton has an issue with peacocks. Someone I might know really closely released a bunch of peacocks into the hills and the farmer on the top of the hill kicked off and started cooking them and eating them! So, me and said friend, we had a few beers and started pasting a whole bunch of peacocks around the port. One day I got a text message from him, he was at work and he said: ‘I think I’ve gone too big!’ He sent me a picture of a massive peacock poster coming out of a large format printer. There’s a spot above the tunnel and we pasted this huge thing up. I woke up the next morning and I’m a long way from the tunnel, my mate’s even further, but I could fucking see it! Everybody in port would be able to see it! It was like a big white postage stamp of a huge peacock head. We were just pissing ourselves because of the stupidity of it! I’m not trying to be artistic, it’s just genuinely hilarious, you paste a huge peacock so this woman who’s been killing them and eating them, every time she leaves port she sees a massive fucking peacock! We are still pasting little ones everywhere; we must have put fifty up throughout Lyttelton. They only lasted a wee while because it was shit paste, but I laughed so much.
Speaking of repetition, how did your pencils come about?
For my art A Level in the UK I made a bunch of skateboards and they had scratched up backgrounds painted to look like they had been skated on and then I added a white silhouette of different pieces of furniture. One of the silhouettes was a classic UK school chair, an orange pre-formed plastic chair with black skinny metal legs and a hole in the back. I realized I could tag it in one hit, and it was identifiable as a chair really quickly. So, for years I wrote FURNITURE, which is a lovely word to write by hand, it’s really gorgeous. I was tagging it and at the end of the E I would then move in and join the chair onto it, so that’s where I started. I realised it’s obviously a school chair, I’m a schoolteacher, it ties in, so what else could I tie in? I went to a compass, and actually I’ve got photos of doing quite big ones on the side of The Drawing Room in town, I even went on a bit of a tiki tour all over Melbourne and Sydney, just sticking stuff up. I did the compasses for a wee while and they were really simple, inspired by a particular genre of stickers at that time. Then one day I put a pencil in the compass, and I was like, oh, I really like that! So, I drew a few more pencils. They were square, so they had the rubber bit at the end with the metal, then they were triangular, pointed as if they had been sharpened by a sharpener. I got a whole bunch of small stickers, but I couldn’t draw the whole pencil on that size, so I just did the nib. But it didn’t really look like a pencil, it just looked like a triangle with the square side. But then when I scalloped it, suddenly it looked like my pencil, and then I thinned the lines. The first ones I did, there’s a few around still, they look like pencils, shaded and with straight lines, but you know, they looked too much like pencils, and it was taking me forty minutes to draw one because my inner OCD kicked in. I needed to make it quicker, so I dropped the end off, scalloped it, and put in the wee dots to make it look like it had been cut by a knife. There’s a book I’ve got called How to Sharpen a Pencil. It’s well worth finding because the boy’s a genius, he literally wrote a book about the different ways to sharpen a pencil. It has all these different pencils and who they are used for, there was this perfect one he called ‘The Architectural’ for architects. It’s really ironic but really funny. One of them was a really long-nibbed, scalloped version and I was just like, that is how I love my pencils! I just copied that and put in a few dots to show that it had been sharpened and now I just draw them non-stop. It’s just gone from there really.
Was there an element of the phenomenology that Shepard Fairey talks about, taking something that might be meaningless but repeating it enough to make it meaningful?
Fucking over and over and over again… I’m a huge fan of The Toasters, a crew from the UK who just did outlines of toasters. I remember first seeing one of them in the mid-nineties and being like, why the hell would you make a sticker with a toaster on it? But also, why not? I wasn’t really into Obey, but there were The London Police, D-Face and a whole bunch of those guys around that time that were doing thick-lined icons on white backgrounds, repeating them so they became like a signature. I’m a handwriting nerd, I love a good-looking tag that’s really been thought out. I like drawing pencils; the lines work really well for me. I love the straight lines, and there’s enough individuality that you can make each one different. You can make them short, long, you can put stupid little rubbers on the bottom if you want to, you can write words on the side, there are lots of options. But it’s still always the same identifiable thing – everyone has seen a pencil. Even with the silhouette stuff, if you’ve seen the pencil and then you see the silhouette, you can see those two are related and maybe there will be a little link in your brain, like, I’ve seen that somewhere before… That is not my idea, I got that from The Toasters, doing the outline and people thinking what the fuck is that? It’s a fucking toaster! That sense of wonderment. People are like I’ve seen your sticker things everywhere, and I’m like great! That’s the point! There isn’t a purpose behind them, there is not some subliminal message, I’m not trying to alter what you’re thinking, I’m literally just drawing a stupid pencil!
Yet even without that intent, they do change the way people think because they are becoming more aware of their surrounding environment.
I think it was Erosie in a video about The Toasters, he says: ‘This is city glitter’, you know? It’s little sparkles that might brighten someone’s day and if it just does that once, if someone says: ‘I fucking know them! I’ve seen them!’ Then great, that’s all I need to do!
When you talk about the silhouette pencils, you are referring to your ‘bluff buff’ pieces, they remind me that the buff itself is essentially a bluff. We can look out and see the way that buff jobs just block out graffiti, they echo the shapes. I mean the most ridiculous buff jobs are the ones where you can still read the graffiti.
Yeah, they have just outlined it, you could go over it with a pen and it would fill in the gap perfectly. There are some great ones around!
No one is ever going to say that the buff itself is an act of beautification.
It’s like that PEEEP Trust, they are actually stencilling their logo onto the walls they buff! At first, I thought it was an artist signing their work. It’s like the classic ‘official’ graffiti walls, with a spray can and it just gets filled. But I googled PEEEP and it’s an actual fucking thing! They are paid, or at least they raise money to do that shit.
It speaks more to masking than improvement.
It is deliberate censorship rather than enhancement.
The pencil bluffs play on that…
I don’t have roots in this. But it creates a grey area. If I’m painting on the wall and someone pulls up, I just say someone wrote the word fuck on it and I’m covering it up, and they go, ‘oh shit, that’s OK mate, see you’. No street artist is going to be using a tub of grey paint and a paintbrush, so the moment they pull up, because it’s essentially a rectangle with a bit on the bottom and a bit on the top, I can square it off and be like someone drew a dick and I’m covering it up. So, it’s making it safer for me because I’m that person.
You mentioned your love of skateboarding, was that the gateway to sticker culture and graffiti?
Skateboarding came first. I had stickers on skateboards first. There is an art form to putting a sticker on a skateboard, there is a certain way you do it. You put it in a certain place because you know that it’s going to get fucked if you put it in a different place. There is also the branding. I’m not going to put any old sticker on my stuff, it’s going to be representing me and therefore that’s important. So, I guess the placement, the branding, it has all led to where it is today. I am still like, why the fuck would you put a sticker there!? You could have moved it four inches and overlapped that one and it would have looked brilliant! That’s my inner nerdiness coming out, but there is a certain way to do it. In Lyttelton, one of Bongo’s pastes was coming off, and I wanted to put my one up, so I took his off and re-pasted it just a bit to the right and put mine so they overlapped nicely. He was like: ‘Did you move my piece a bit?’ Well, I had to because mine overlapping yours makes both of them look better, if i hadn’t it would have fucked up both of our work!
That’s the thing about urban art, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it doesn’t exist in a white cube. The surrounding context of space gives it meaning, but also is part of the aesthetic. A mural on a wall has to work with whatever is going on there and it’s the same with a sticker. There’s a subtlety in terms of placement, and there’s also a mindfulness, right?
That’s trial and error too. The amount of times I’ve stuck a sticker up and it’s just slipped off. It’s all covered in dust and grime! But again, the buffs are a great example. You posted a picture of an alleyway somewhere, and instantly, I knew what had to happen! There’s a light grey, a dark grey, there’s an overlap, there is an obvious point for me to put a buff pencil. Again, it comes back to skateboarding. Skateboarders look at the world in a different way than most others, they will go past a spot and to anyone else it’s not a spot, but a skateboarder recognizes the fact that you could do a trick there, or you know, that curb’s looking really rad. It can be anything and the same thing applies to stickers and paste ups and graffiti, you see a spot and you’re like, ohhh, hello, that will work well…
It’s like those movie scenes where a character’s thought process is visualised and you see diagrammatic lines and mathematical equations in space.
Yeah skateboarders have that in spades! If you watch a skateboarder walking around town, you can just see the way they are trialing shit in their head. It’s just instinctive. I’m finding it’s the same with stickers, I’ve got a pile in my car and when I’m driving, I’m looking and thinking that spot would be perfect… Even colour is a part of it now, I never used colours in the past, I used white and black, now I’ve got all this colored vinyl. I’ve got this bright green, and I’m like, that will look so good on that wall, you know? It’s madness, it’s actual madness!
Urban art, graffiti, skateboarding, parkour, they are all tactical, they are always a response, and that’s the thing, they are constantly evolving. You can’t eradicate something that is not rigidly defined, things that can grow and evolve…
Certain styles of skating have come out of different cities because of the way that councils have tried to stop skaters. When rumble strips first came out in the UK, they were stated to be for blind people, so they can feel them when they are walking. But no, they are not, that’s bullshit. They were put there to stop me hitting it on a skateboard. But people were quickly figuring out how to go over them, doing tricks, and I fucking love that, it’s great.
It’s the same with graffiti, attempts to stop it are just going to change the way it occurs.
It’s just misdirection. I guess it is how cities get their style; if you’re in a city that’s heavy on trains, then a lot of train bombing is going to go down. In the UK, we didn’t have the train thing, so it was always on the buses, which is why stickers came about. You could get on the bus and just slap. If you lived in a city where there weren’t any trains coming through, you did the buses, because that was the next best thing.
And those different vessels mean different styles and techniques evolve in response.
Which is interesting for Christchurch because we are a city of concrete tilt slab buildings. I mean there are some fucking wonderful huge murals, and they are street art, it is definitely art on the street, but it’s also blocked off and lit and fucking ginormous, you know, and I feel that maybe there’s more to it all. I mean, I look at that [gestures to a nearby decorated window] and I don’t know whether someone’s done that themselves or someone’s been paid to do that, and I think that’s a really nice balance. We are so full of the big mural stuff that you can get away with putting a big paste up and no one questions it.
With the breakneck change that the city’s gone through, it’s going to change the responses. So, it’s not just the eradication methods, it’s also the physical make-up. We had broken abandoned buildings that were perfect for graffiti writers to commandeer and then we had lots of exposed walls from buildings coming down which were perfect for murals, now we’re going to find more of these spaces that are more traditional spots, liminal spaces.
But weirdly they will be new! They will be sharp and fucking clean, perfect spaces, which for me, as someone who puts stickers up, I love that! The smoother the surface, the easier it is! I don’t want to deal with bricks and shit, I just want nice, clean walls. Also, the up and the down of this city, you know, there’s stuff on the floor, there’s stuff up high. We don’t have many high-rise buildings, so things stand out more. It’s got a sense of panorama.
Even from here, we can see the lay out of the city. There’s an expansiveness which is kind of inspiring in a way, because you don’t feel smothered or captured.
Or penned in. It also means that you’re not cliquing it, you know? I drive from Lyttelton to here, that’s the whole city, and it takes me fifteen minutes. So, there isn’t anywhere you can’t hit, which is fucking brilliant.
Which gives a real sense of possibility. Speaking of expansive, I really enjoyed watching your lock down collaboration project.
That came about as a lock down version of Inktober. Their first theme was like ‘green’ and then the next one was something else, and I couldn’t think of anything to do with my pencils for it. The collab thing is big in sticker culture anyway, so I just decided to write a list of twenty people I wanted do it with and I just put it out there. Then it became forty and then sixty and it just kept going. The concept is more of a mashup than a collab I guess, taking someone else’s art and doing it yourself in your way or blending your styles together.
You often use other people’s stickers to adorn things anyway, even if you’re not street slapping.
Yeah, exactly, so the mashup is just taking it to this next degree, I guess. MarxOne from up in Nelson, he is the fucking king, he has sheets and sheets and sheets of collabs with different people. As an artist, if someone does a picture of a pencil and they tag me in it, I’m not going to be like, that’s my pencil, don’t do that! That’s bollocks. But everyone has a style. I’ve tried characters and I’ve got a big fucking ginger beard character with a stupid bald head, who is basically me, and people now recognize that and that’s what it should be about and that’s the family thing again. No-one’s going to get pissed off, there’s no reason to, because someone’s literally saying: ‘I really like your shit, can I do my own version of it?’ You just go OK, send me a sticker when you’re done. I did one with Ocky Bop, one of his skulls with pencil’s for teeth. I just drew it and took a picture, and he’s like, I’m printing that shit! Now I keep getting tagged in all these pictures all over the world! It’s not complicated, I literally drew my pencils as his teeth on a sticker and now it’s gone everywhere!
At the end of the day, that’s the beauty of sticker culture, it’s global nature. The internet has changed some of the ways we think about graffiti because now influence can be much wider, but graffiti still has an immediate localism to it. With stickers the mobility is unlimited, as you say, you’ve got pencils in cities all around the world and other people are doing it for you.
My favorite thing is that you send a pack to someone and they go: ‘Well I’m going to keep some for myself and put them in my black book because that’s cool, and I’ve got another fifteen, so I’ll put fucking five of them out in the street and I’m going to send ten to another five people…’
There’s a viral quality.
Yeah, for instance, my pencils, and my gnomes as well, they’re all over the UK and I haven’t sent a single one there. There is a guy called Spirit of Mongoose who is just printing a shit load. Which makes my job way easier. Of course, it’s not even my art, I just scanned a picture, but it’s the thought that this would happen.
The nomination is the act, and then as you say, someone else becomes part of it, and that comes back to family and community, this community is just much bigger than you ever realize until you start to make those connections and networks.
And it’s there all the time, it’s there and it’s getting bigger and bigger and more fun…
Urban art, and graffiti in particular, are viewed by many as masculine realms, physical, aggressive and competitive. But, the reality is that women have long had a vital role in the history of wall writing and street art, from subway graffiti writers like Lady Pink, to post-graffiti icons like Swoon, and leading members of the contemporary mural movement like Maya Hayuk. In Aotearoa, the female presence in urban art has also been notable, and Fiksate’s Perspective exhibition, opening on November 6th, brings together an array of artists to share their diverse experiences and reveal the myriad stories and pathways of women in urban art.
Organised by Fiksate owner Jenna Lynn Ingram (Jen_Heads), Perspective brings together established and emerging female artists from around New Zealand (and further afield), with a diverse range of practices, from typography-focussed graffiti writers to spoon-loving street artists, collagists, paste-up artists, photographers, videographers, traditional painters and mural artists. This diversity reveals the approach of Perspective, less concerned with an explicit historical narrative or thematic or stylistic similarities, the show primarily explores the scope of work of the collected artists, from Flox’s beautiful stencils to Kophie Su’a-Hulsbosch’s empowered portraits or Befaaany’s striking urban photography. In doing so, notions of the female urban artist are both celebrated and challenged.
Accompanying the exhibition will be a limited-edition risograph zine, produced by Jane Maloney of M/K Press, providing additional insights into each artist’s background and further highlighting their varied experiences, from the challenges they have faced to the different environments that have fostered their approaches and nurtured their talent. While more fluid and non-binary gender identities may render gender specific exhibitions less necessary in the future, Perspective is an important moment in Aotearoa urban art, a celebration of some amazing talent.
Perspective opens 5:00pm, Friday November 6th at Fiksate Studio and Gallery, 165 Gloucester Street.