And That Was… November 2021

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

Chimp – Social Woes @ Fiksate

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

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

Berlin Wall – Community Event @ Rauora Park

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

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

Farewell to The Giant Cans

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

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

Daken’s Emporium @ 413 Local

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

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

Arts Foundation State of the Arts Panel

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

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

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And That Was… October 2020

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

DTR Re-Paint the Giant Cans

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

The Beths

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

Slap City Crew Get Paste-y

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

Dcypher, Yikes and OiYOU! Go Big!

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

Bols’ Retro Wrestlers

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

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

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And that was… March 2019

When I started the ‘And that was…’ series, I didn’t expect this column to be as difficult as March proved. The month got off to a terrible start with the passing of a true graffiti king, the legendary Jungle. Then, on March 15th, the horrific terror attacks sent shock waves across the city, and indeed, the world. Even in these awful times, the art on the streets has played a role and performed acts of tribute, memorial and communication. And it has continued to do its own thing as well, providing distraction from difficult realities. So, although it is not really fitting to describe this list as a ‘best of’, here are five things that made March 2019 unforgettable…

Jungle – RIP to the King

Leon Te Karu, also known as Jungle, was an absolute legend of Christchurch graffiti, and without his presence, the city’s culture would not be what it is today. As Ikarus confided in me, without him, there would be no Freak, no Dcypher, no Lurq, no Pest5, and no Ikarus. His influence is that important. L.A.-based Dcypher noted that he had never met anyone who embodied their graffiti more than Jungle, an important acknowledgement in a culture built on a visual form becoming a signifier of one’s presence. It is little surprise then that tributes to Jungle have appeared across the city, the country, and indeed, the globe, from Christchurch to Chile, paying respect and honouring a massive influence.

Dcypher, Jungle tribute, Los Angeles (photo credit: Dcypher)
Dcypher, Jungle tribute, Los Angeles (photo credit: Dcypher)
Ikarus and Wongi 'Freak' Wilson, Jungle Tribute, Sydenham (photo credit: Millie Garrett-Peate)
Ikarus and Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson, Jungle Tribute, Sydenham (photo credit: Millie Garrett-Peate)

The Christchurch Terror Attacks

By the time of writing, the impact of the March 15th Terror Attacks had not manifested explicitly in the city’s urban art, but there were quickly messages of support, not just at memorial sites, but also as annotations of graffiti, highlighting the sense of solidarity the city was importantly trying to extend… The importance of public space as a site for communication was revealed once again. Will more responses appear as artists figure out the discussions these events have created? And importantly, what forms will they take?

Dmonk, This is Your Home..., Central City
Dmonk, This is Your Home…, Central City
We Stand As One poster, central city, Christchurch
We Stand As One poster, central city, Christchurch

Joel Hart – Dopamine

Another event impacted by the Terror Attacks, Joel Hart’s second ever solo show, Dopamine at Fiksate, was due to open that Friday. Understandably delayed, the show eventually opened a week later to a bumper crowd. Hart even ran a silent auction of a work on the night, with all proceeds going to a victim support charity. The show’s impressive collection of fascinating portraits and explorative use of materials such as copper and brass sheeting, mirror surfaces, light boxes and intricate hanging sculptural cut outs, as well as a diverse colour palette, have ensured its popularity, while also hinting at new directions for the artist.

Joel Hart, Hush, mixed media on brass panel, 2019
Joel Hart, Hush, mixed media on brass panel, 2019

Dead God

Although lower in profile than some other entries, I have been enjoying these Dead God stencils around the city. The intricate cellular cut-outs and overriding punk vibe catch my eye whenever I stumble upon them, often in spaces I probably shouldn’t be hanging out. With little information about the artist, it’s time for some research…

Dead God stencil, central city, Christchurch
Dead God stencil, central city, Christchurch

Edo Rath

So, technically it was the last couple of days of February, but it felt right to include visiting Dutch artist Edo Rath’s playful cartoon serpent on one of the Giant Cans amongst the darker tone of this month. The bright palette, sharp, crisp line work and fun use of patterns and shapes made this small addition stand out. Check out Edo on Instagram

Edo Rath, Manchester Street, Christchurch, 2019
Edo Rath, Manchester Street, Christchurch, 2019
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