Postcard from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland is a strange beast. It is the only mega-city in Aotearoa,  and when you touch down from Ōtautahi it is hard to comprehend the sheer spread of the northern metropolis. While you can easily navigate Christchurch’s inner city in 15 minutes, Auckland’s urban centre seemingly sprawls on forever, with each area displaying a distinct identity. Our quick trip to Tāmaki meant we didn’t get to endlessly explore the diversity of the city, but we did get to see a fair bit of art. Of course, there is no chance we could have achieved a full coverage of the city, but what we saw, we loved. Auckland has the longest and largest history of Aotearoa graffiti and street art, so spotting a legendary figure’s name or character, whether fresh or faded, is always a possibility, but still exciting for a nerd like me, while you can always find a new name that is on the come up as well. It also has a truly urban feel, where you can get lost down alleyways, led by the trace of some preceding presence who was compelled to leave their mark. It is a real city, and it’s streets are always talking…

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Where should our next postcard cover? Let us know at hello@watchthisspace.org.nz

 

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Showtime!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flare Festival- A Photo Essay by Centuri Chan

Flare Festival may have come and gone, but it’s legacy lives on – an array of amazing new murals and a bolt of energy in the local urban art scene putting graffiti and street art back in the limelight. The flurry of activity that saw a pop-up gallery, guided tours, panel talks, mural painting, graffiti jams and live painting sessions was a lot to take in – luckily we had our man, Centuri Chan, on hand to capture some of the magic…

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Centuri Chan is an Otautahi-based creative, photographer, tour guide, designer and LEGO builder…

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Tune! with Jacob Yikes

In preparation for his upcoming exhibition Even in Darkness (opening at Fiksate on April 1st, 2022), I was lucky enough to sit down with Jacob Yikes and chew the fat over not just the new work he was getting ready to present, but a range of topics. Music was inevitably on the table, and it has long been known how central music is to Yikes’ creative practice (from song titles used for shows and works, to his choice of accompanying soundtracks for exhibitions), serving as a constant companion to his work.

When I asked him to put together a playlist for Tune! he jumped at the chance and sent me a list of a dozen songs within a day. Then he sent me a new list the following day. It was clear how much of a role music plays in his process and life. The music is, much like his art, evocative and transcendental, smooth and yet dark. From Miles Davis to Mara TK and a choice cut of independent hip hop and jazzy down beats, this is a truly killer playlist that needs no lengthy introduction…

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Mara TK –Highly Medicated

Blockhead – Give Them Their Flowers

Khruangbin X Knxwledge – Dearest Alfred (My Joy)

Blu – amnesia

Skyzoo – Free Jewelry

Med, Blu, Madlib, feat. Anderson Paak – The Strip

Ivan Ave –Phone Won’t Charge

eLZhi, feat. Royce da 5’9 – Motown 25

Oh No- Elegant Smoke

@peace –Fine Night

The Doppelgängaz –Boston Beard

Miles Davis – Blue in Green

Even in Darkness, a selection of paintings by Jacob Yikes will run from April 1 to April 30 at Fiksate Gallery, 54 Hawdon Street, Sydenham

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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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Hands Up – A Photo Essay

The tag. Who would think that a name written on a wall could draw so much anger and vitriol? While we might romanticise lovers names carved into trees or those historical inscriptions that capture a certain time or event, contemporary tags are rarely given such status, viewed almost primarily as an affront to order and ownership and a symbol of wasted youth.

The tag is the basis of graffiti culture, the building block on which all else follows and evolves. For many traditionalists a solid tag outweighs all, a good hand-style is a necessity. Rendered in marker or spray paint, with clean lines or messy drips, appearing legible or incomprehensible, the humble tag can be as complicated and complex as the people executing them.

Yet, the beauty of a tag is often overlooked. In their various states tags can exhibit chaos, urgency, care, thoughtfulness, anger, humour, defiance, opportunism, and immediacy; a carefully planned dance or an impulsive act of disruption. But, beyond these readings, a tag is importantly a reflection of action, even when the writer has vanished, the legacy of their stealth movement remains, evident in the little details. The sense of flow and energy reveal the dance-like performance. Unlike more developed designs, a linear tag is about efficient movement and a familiarity with the required physical exertion. Watching a sweetly executed tag come to life can be enthralling as it unfolds.

This photo essay, compiled largely from Otautahi but also featuring some images from around Aotearoa, is not a collection of the best hand-styles or tags (it is not my place to determine anything other than knowing what I like), instead it attempts to capture this diversity and the way that in certain environments and frames, these forms can be beguiling and intriguing, aesthetic and appreciated…

Are you a photographer (or you know someone who is)? Do you have an idea for an urban photo essay? We would love to hear from you and potentially feature your work here! Email hello@watchthisspace.org.nz and let’s talk!

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Showtime!

Hard in the Paint – Part of the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit, December 10th, 2021

2021 saw the return of the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit, with a full programme representing the four elements of the culture, from workshops and demonstrations to performances. As the oldest element, graffiti was a vital inclusion, but as the ‘black sheep’ of the hip hop family (to borrow a phrase from an article I read in The Source years ago), it is not as natural a fit as the performative profiles of breaking, DJing and MCing. As the most outwardly anti-social, and manifesting a broader sense of identity, graffiti is an interesting proposition for the Summit, in many ways the best fit for hip hop’s changing scope. For the 2021 event, graffiti was represented by Hard in the Paint, a gathering of graffiti generations creating a traditional production balancing letter forms and characters in the Hereford Street car park (no, not that one). Co-ordinated by the DTR crew’s Ikarus and Dcypher, the line-up was varied and the local scene was well-represented, featuring Ikarus, Dcypher, Smeagol, Drows, Meep, YSEK, Fiasko and Vesil…

The wall gets underway…

Dcypher at work…

Meep takes stock…
Meep, Drows and Smeagol add touches…
YSEK and Fiasko
The finished production (and pesky cars)

If you have a show coming up – let us know by emailing the details to hello@watchthisspace.org.nz…

 

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Street Treats, Vol. 6

It has been a while since our last Street Treats edition, in part due to the lock-down situation, but even as we all play catch up on the livelihoods that were put on hold, the streets were a fascinating site to explore with the range of expressions and interventions to be found. This volume of Street Treats features a cacophony of diverse forms, and rather than dealing with explicitly political messaging, they are affirmative and declarative and playful, inherently meaningful concepts in a time where it is easy to feel invisible and somewhat powerless. Graffiti is a strong presence, bursts of colourful existential expression, bound by certain conventions but constantly searching for ways to stand out. The examples here run the gamut of styles and modes of production (some are legal, others not so much), but importantly they speak to the game and represent both a here and now and the countless numbers that have come before, a lineage of urban commentary. The repetition of other, non-signature forms lives up to the concept of post-graffiti, like characters, pencils, flowers and rocket ships, these symbols are both as mysterious as calligraphic tags, and yet also familiar and therefore more approachable. They share the idea of proclamation in the public realm, but are perhaps satisfied with intrigue rather than alienation. Why do so many find it more challenging when someone boldly writes their name than the positioning of an iconographic proxy to do the same job? Is a name a more confrontational and confident vessel for expression? Regardless of your take, the effect is the same; the city speaks, quietly, loudly, in whispers or in defiantly boisterous screams…

Stay tuned for more Street Treats soon!

If you have any corrections for the credits above, let us know in the comments!

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And That Was… May 2021

They say good things take time, and this edition of And That Was… is cutting it fine! It has been a busy few weeks with lots happening and as such it seemed like the months have melded into one. But when looking back over images from the month of May, it was quickly apparent that those four weeks had their own flavour, a flood of memories came rushing back…

For this recap, we run back some our favourite paste ups, wall paintings, slaps, shows and even a doorway! We have largely stuck to urban art this month, temporarily returning to our formative roots, but that doesn’t mean we have forgotten the fact that all of these things are also entangled with our broader experiences of Otautahi’s central city, and in particular the food, the bars, the music, the people and all the vibrant things on offer. All of these things make up our urban culture and it is vital we celebrate and support these events, occurrences and interventions to keep our city lively!

So, after much delay, here is your And That Was… for May 2021…

Gary Silipa’s UFO Slaps…

I have been a fan of Gary Silipa‘s work and simplified iconography for years, especially his skulls and spaceships, which I found all over Wellington’s streets on a trip to the capital in April. The orbiting red UFO’s then appeared here in Christchurch in May, a legacy of the artist’s brief trip here. The ubiquitous presence in spaces high and low suggest the idea of exploration and observation, our strange contemporary customs intriguing to these small visitors…

Mark Catley’s Ascending Freak Angel

Mark Catley added a couple of fresh paste ups to the Boxed Quarter‘s ever-expanding collection of urban art. Taking his poor sack girl toy (pasted on Manchester Street) and twisting the image into a strange new appearance, the girl becomes a three-eyed ‘freak angel’ as the artist described, her outstretched hand now seemingly elevating her into the sky. Lit by a coincidental spot light, the seemingly celestial being is a trippy sight!

Jessie Rawcliffe’s Marriage of Figaro Mural

Jessie Rawcliffe‘s mural for the NZ Opera’s production of The Marriage of Figaro (which will be staged at the Isaac Theatre Royal here in Christchurch as part of a national run) was completed in May, with the artist’s stunning dry brush style giving the piece a stunning beauty against the smartly used graffiti-ed wall on which it was painted.

More: The Show

Back to the Boxed Quarter for More: The Show, an exhibition and event featuring talented Otautahi wahine artists. With a slew of our favourites and some new talent to explore (such as Sofiya Romanenko, who recently produced a beautiful photo essay for us), the show was a convergence of amazing talent and featuring a range of activity – unfortunately we forgot to take quality pictures! It was a one-weekend show so you had to be in quick!

Our favourite doorway…

Last, but definitely not least, we just had to include this doorway. OK, so it technically isn’t something that ‘happened’ in May, but we took this photo then, so it counts! Just look at it, it is a thing of beauty and couldn’t be left out!

Let us know what would make you list in the comments and if you know someone who would be a great guest writer for And That Was… – drop you suggestions there too!

 

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The Diaries of the Mundane – A Photo Essay by Sofiya Romanenko

I first came across Sofiya Romanenko’s photography at the exhibition More – The Show, a group show of local female artists held at the Boxed Quarter. I was immediately struck by her recognition of the beauty found in the urban mundane; a bundle of stacked shopping trolleys forming a striking geometric huddle with horizontal and vertical lines transforming the everyday and overlooked into an object of interest. Having moved to Ōtautahi Christchurch from Moscow, Russia, Sofiya’s photographs are not simply a record of a universal urbanity, but a process of coming to know one’s surroundings, grappling with the unknown and jarring elements of a city that is constantly shifting as it sets about re-asserting its identity. The Diaries of the Mundane display an undefined poignancy, still moments of reflective observation, we stand on the threshold, looking in and yet a step away…  


The Diaries of the Mundane

I moved to Christchurch from Moscow, Russia almost five years ago, but until very recently our relationship could be described with a very specific image of a curtsy nod, accompanied by an awkward tight-lipped smile that strangers here give each other upon accidentally locking eyes in a public setting. Not that I knew Moscow any better, but that’s simply because I was acquainted with it just enough to not want to delve any deeper. Christchurch though – it has proved a whole other story.

It’s taken me a while to “get it”. To embrace the unsightly, the uncomfortable, the ugly. To recognize the potential behind each broken window, rusty fence, deformed road cone. To take in the rugged textures, clashing colours, confronting details. To finally start relating to it all. It happened at a time of great uncertainty in my life, when lone walks through dingy alleyways and railway tracks became a mental escape from the dreaded shadow of the future, side-eyeing me from each corner and gnashing its teeth in anticipation of swallowing me whole. It was around the same time I started revisiting my old hobbies, trying to reconnect with the “self” I had seemingly lost somewhere along the way of springing into adulthood, and a long-forgotten but quickly remembered skill in film photography came about as the perfect accompaniment to my wandering antics.

Christchurch and I still have a long way to go – for instance, I can’t learn its layout to save my life. But we get closer each time I capture yet another beautifully mundane part of its day-to-day as an ongoing diary of the city’s ever-changing nature. Eventually, all of what I photograph will disappear; replaced by shiny new malls, painted over for the sake of uniformity, gentrified to appease the upper class – all of it will be wiped out without a shred of doubt, the eyesores finally gone. But it will forever remain on film as a comforting reminder that nothing is ever truly gone as long as you’ve got some lonesome lunatics running around with old school cameras taking photos of literal trash.

To see more of Sofiya’s photography, follow her on Instagram: @chchasti

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