And That Was… October 2022

October is a month that keeps you guessing. The weather is still likely to throw a few curve balls, and people tend to not know if they are still in a mid-year blitz or are creeping towards the end of the year wind-down. It feels like this unpredictable manner extends to the art in the streets, with surprises popping up in the form of both small additions and large projects. October 2022 kicked off with the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit, saw a refresh for the Berlin Wall, and provided a range of little surprises in between. So, let’s have a look at what we loved in October…

The Dance-O-Mat gets a facelift…

Gap Filler’s iconic Dance-O-Mat had already made itself known in it’s new home on Manchester Street, but in October, it got a brighter spruce-up when the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit Graffiti Jam painted the walls of the site with traditional pieces and characters by Tepid, YSEK, Meep, Drows, Xact and APEK. Additionally, the temporary wall was unveiled as a paste-up site, with the wood covered by the Slap City collective.

DTR X FILTH Crews Collab

In addition to the Dance-O-Mat Graffiti Jam, the Cathedral Square section of Spark Lane also got some new art courtesy of a collaborative production between the FILTH crew and DTR. Coordinated by Ikarus as an additional element of the Hip Hop Summit, the jam featured some Christchurch graffiti royalty in a Simpsons/Masters of the Universe mash-up themed production. With the site now opened and more visible, the painting is a timely addition and reminder of the talented local scene.


Now What Belongs Together, Will Grow Together, Bols on the Berlin Wall

Local stencil artist Bols refreshed the west-facing side of the Berlin Wall in Rauora Park. The text-based painting, based on a quote from German politician Willy Brandt, continues the artist’s investigation of words as image. The layered text in reds, orange, yellow and white, echo not only the German flag, but also the flames of protest, a reminder of what it takes to break down walls.

Complementary Summoning Spot

Right next to the Berlin Wall, we also found one of our favourite pieces of street art, if it can be called as such – perhaps it is more aptly described as an activation – of the dead! Cinder’s Complementary Summoning Spot, seeingly installed by Archfiend, is an urban ouija board, adding a spiritual twist to the streets, and daring passers-by to scratch that supernatural itch!

Sam and Sandra…

To sign off on October, we take a very different direction, a much more wholesome example of urban inscription. Is there anything more heart-warming than a declaration of friendship inscribed for posterity? Sam and Sandra are BFF’s and they have committed that to the world, in fact, the world would be that much better if we all displayed that kind of earnestness…

They were our favourite things from October, what were yours? Let us know in the comments!

The Christchurch Hip Hop Summit 2022 – The DTR Graffiti Showcase

The Christchurch Hip Hop Summit kicked off for 2022 with a day of painting and tunes as the oldest of the four elements took centre stage. Organised and curated by Ikarus of the DTR Crew, the Summit’s Graffiti Jam featured two productions; one by a collection of local artists at the re-activated Dance-O-Mat site on Manchester Street and the other, a collaboration between the DTR and FILTH crews, along Spark Laneway between Hereford Street and Cathedral Square. While the two jams had starkly different atmospheres; DJs played music as crowds gathered at the Dance-O-Mat, the DTR and FILTH jam more low-key, they both celebrated the traditions of graffiti and resulted in impressive productions.

Making a Place of Play

Gapfiller’s Dance-O-Mat, a relocatable urban dance floor, is one of the city’s most enduring post-quake place-making icons – a status cemented when the now King and Queen Consort, Charles and Camilla, cut some shapes on the floor when they visited the city in 2012. When the Dance-O-Mat needed a new home, GapFiller found the vacant space next to Paddy McNaughton’s Irish Pub on Manchester Street. The process of installing the dance floor was undertaken and soon, the washing machine discotheque was sending rhythms out across the city and limbs were moving (some more elegantly than others).

The Dance-O-Mat’s new setting was a typical Ōtautahi lot, vacant but for rocky shingle, weeds and bright graffiti painted on the surrounding walls. Now with support from GapFiller, Resene Paints, the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit and a range of artists, the paint covered walls have been given a facelift to match the Dance-O-Mat’s activation. The first addition was a simple black and white declaration of the site as a Gapfiller ‘Place of Play’ – part of the urban play initiative. The mural, completed by Nick Lowry and Bols, simply deploys the graphic Place of Play logo, designed by Ariki Creative, running along the upper section of the Northern wall, boldly declaring the site as a destination. The painting spanning 18 metres in length and starting more than three metres up the wall, was completed in just two days, and set the tone for further activations.

If the Place of Play mural served a practical purpose, the next wave of creative work was brighter and exemplified the Place of Play intentions. On the first weekend of October, the 2022 Christchurch Hip Hop Summit kicked off with graffiti jams – including at the Dance-O-Mat site, where a selection of local graffiti artists refreshed the walls with characters and pieces. The activity, bolstered by DJs playing music, drew sizeable crowds (and dancers), making the most of the (almost) summery weather. Across from the graffiti artists, members of Slap City decorated the dedicated paste-up wall (which already featured a bold ‘Dance-O-Mat’ painting in red and yellow by teethlikescrewdrivers) with paper-based additions big, small and everywhere in between.

The flurry of activity was a perfect introduction for a site that now celebrates various creative outlets, a new must-see destination in the heart of Ōtautahi. The Dance-O-Mat is back and it looks fantastic!

TUNE! with PK

One of the best things about the TUNE! project is seeing the diverse range of influences different artists reveal. The spectrum of musical collections is a great reminder that nothing is monolithic. It is easy to assume graffiti writers and street artists are all simple stereotypes (hooded vandals or hipster artists), the reality is, of course, not so monochromatic. For this edition of TUNE!, we talk to enigmatic local graffiti writer, photographer and urban explorer PK, who drops an eclectic mix of tunes, from Grace Jones and The Brian Jonestown Massacre to Dam Native and The Birthday Party, a perfect example of spiraling influences…

PK: Music is my second biggest obsession (the first isn’t hard to guess!). I think music is definitely the cooler of the two. I don’t often listen to stuff while I’m painting or going about my day now, but I have fun memories of boosting around on all night missions as a teenager listening to my punk cassettes and BBC One In The Jungle mixes. I wanted this list to have a bit of everything I enjoy but it got to like 50 songs so I cut it down to a lucky 13 that I think represents most of what I’ve been listening to recently…

Burning Witch – Stillborn

Lydia Lunch – Friday Afternoon

Joanne Robertson – Hi Watt

The Brian Jonestown Massacre – E to G

Flipper – Shed No Tears

Townes Van Zandt – White Freight Liner Blues

Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence – Grey/Afro

Scraps – Baby Baby

Grace Jones – Me! I Disconnect From You

Strawberry Switchblade – Trees and Flowers

The Birthday Party – Sonny’s Burning

Dam Native – Battle Styles

Marilao – F*@k Me Moon [Morph]

TUNE! is an ever-growing playlist of the music that inspires our favourite creatives – stay tuned for our next edition!

Tune! with Peaz

The next entry in our ever-growing playlist of music that inspires our favourite creatives comes from graffiti artist Peaz. With a mix of hip-hop, low-fi, pysch and blues, these cuts are a perfect blend and reflection of the artist’s tastes and a world view that is about the present and the importance of expression and experiences…

Peaz: I love all kinds of music, especially depending on which part of my life journey is being experienced. Everything from early psychedelic rock to the newer styles, doom, hip hop, blues, jazz and metal. Much like graffiti, I especially value artists with a message, who have a story to tell. There is a lot to be said for music and art that makes us look a little deeper and think a little differently. Most of the artists listed here constantly remind me of what’s really important in life and existing, much like being active as a writer. It’s about looking at the bigger picture and being here, now; living in every moment and expressing oneself as authentically as possible. It’s almost impossible to sweat the small stuff when creating and experiencing, so I suppose that’s what makes music more meaningful to me.

Horrorshow – Waiting for the 5.04


All Day – Wasting Time

Mac Miller – Ascension

@peace – Nothing

Avantdale Bowling Club – Home

All Them Witches – Effervescent

Dead Meadow – The Light

The Doors – Been Down So Long

Kid Cudi – Solo Dolo

David Dallas – Til Tomorrow

Follow Peaz on Instagram

Pener – Vacation from Reality

Pener arrived in Ōtautahi following a 30-hour flight from his hometown of Olsztyn, Poland. Since 2020, such long haul flights have become a rarity for many of us, the world seeming a more distant proposition, despite our enduring digital connections. Here in Aotearoa, our geographical isolation has provided a protective barrier as we have viewed the rest of the world from afar. Across the globe, our shared challenges have been experienced through distinctly different lenses.

For Pener (born Bartek Świątecki), this adventure to the bottom of the world provides an escape, a Vacation from Reality where he can explore a new landscape and find new inspirations away from his daily routines. As an abstract artist, Pener’s work is also an escape, his jagged, evocative compositions engaging the viewer in an internal exploration as they are immersed in a fragmented field of glass shards, shattering in our presence and suggesting some new path to follow.  A leading figure in an exciting generation of Polish abstract and non-figurative artists, Pener’s background in graffiti, and a longer lineage of the Polish avant-garde, inform his practice; the influence of geometric abstraction and deconstructed letter-forms are equally evident, deployed through sharp line work, overlapping forms and a sophisticated use of colour that is both intense and undeniably intriguing.

The ability of Pener’s paintings to speak to deeper, more purely emotional sensations does not mean they offer no reflection of our challenging contemporary environment. Indeed, these fractured compositions feel incredibly apt in light of our increasingly divided ideologies and vocal dissension and conflict. But Pener’s paintings do not agitate, they are reflective, ruminative, and ultimately they emanate a sense of the hopeful; as if after the break, piecing things back together is the necessary next step.

Before he crossed the tarmac and settled into the distraction of in-flight movies on his lengthy flight, I posed Pener a few questions about his hopes for Vacation from Reality, his experiences in Poland, the potential of abstract art, and why Poland has become a hotspot for non-figurative practice…

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With all of the turmoil of the last three years, what are your feelings as you embark on your first journey to Aotearoa New Zealand? 

Yes, this will be my first time in this part of the world. I am very excited and a little scared. The thirty-hour flight will be quite an experience!

What has life been like in Poland, and Europe more generally, throughout the Covid Pandemic?

It has been a strange time. It has been very difficult and emotionally complicated, probably the same for all of us. It’s hard to live in fear for such a long time and be constantly informed by the Government and television about more bad things. It has been a very strange time from a sociological point of view.

Has your art been an important coping mechanism? Have you found art as a vital part of your ability to make sense of all this?

You know, this is interesting because almost nothing has changed in my studio. For many years I have been trying to make painting a daily routine, make it something I have to do. I sometimes enter the studio just to clean it up. The studio is my asylum and my space. Throughout the entire period of lockdowns and online meetings, I worked in the studio and prepared new paintings.

Of course, there were no exhibitions and no trips to paint large walls, but it is only a matter of perspective. Last year I painted a few walls in my hometown. In the end, is it important that the wall is in Olsztyn or Dubai? I’m not so sure…

As an abstract artist, you have stated you start with an emotion and the process, and when I look at your work, I can’t help but feel it captures the anxiety and emotional fracture of contemporary society. Is that intentional or a result of our ability to read abstraction as we need to?

I often get the impression that the paintings are a bit like mirrors in which we can look at our emotions. My paintings calm me down and give me peace. Often, in the process of painting, I freeze in front of a painting. I look at it for so long that I stop thinking. It’s the same feeling as if you swim for a long time in the swimming pool or climb in the mountains and stop thinking about everyday problems. It takes you somewhere inside or outside.

Probably everyone has a slightly different interpretation of works of art – which is very interesting. Some people see specific shapes in them, others only feel emotions. I am very happy when someone interprets my paintings in a way that I did not know and did not notice.

How much does the process guide your end product? How do you understand when a painting is finished – or are they a constant work in progress?

It is very complicated and I don’t have a clear formula for it. I paint emotionally. I don’t really use a sketch, so I don’t know where the painting will lead me. Of course, after so many years of painting, I often know what will work or what I can do to close and finish a composition. But I prefer to be surprised by something new at the end.

Colour, in addition to line, is so important in giving your paintings their sense of space, energy and emotional qualities, how has your palette developed over time?

At the beginning I wanted to create the impression that the painting is not created by human hands, that it is mechanical, mathematical.

Over time, I have noticed my paintings become softer. Their structure is still geometric, but transparent layers penetrate each other differently. They have different feelings, they are softer, less dramatic.

The same thing happened with color. In the works for this show, the beginning was a grey composition on which I applied a color. It’s a bit like turning the whole painting process around. It is a very tight series of paintings, I think.

What is it with Poland that has ensured such a strong generation of non-figurative/abstract artists? Some from the world of graffiti, others from contemporary practice, what is the shared influence, if you can identify it?

It was probably influenced by many elements. Władysław Strzemiński’s Theories of Seeing or books by professor Stanisław Fijałkowski. In Poland after the war, the avant-garde painting groups referring to the works of Malevich or Kandinsky were very strong.

In my case, two things influenced me very strongly; my classic painting education at university, and the world of graffiti. Painting walls gave me a lot of freedom and confidence. The world of fine art gave me all the painting technology. I created a mix out of the two worlds, which is where I feel best, a world somewhere in between.

How enduring has graffiti been for you as an aesthetic influence? I can see some ideas of the dissolution of letterforms in your work, do you still feel like you are harnessing that influence, or is it more incidental now?

I am very strongly associated with graffiti, with the energy and aesthetics. My escape into abstraction happened very quickly, around 2003 or 2004. But all the time the base in all the walls from that period were letters, my name. I think they are somewhere all the time.

The transition from studio to mural practice seems quite fluid for you, but of course, it entails such different environments. How do you differentiate the two in your approach? Is the whole world a studio, or the studio an extension of the streets? Or do you recognise the difference?

It is one and the same, only the tools and the scale change. Sometimes a large wall requires a simplification of detail. On a large wall, I cannot achieve such a depth of color and saturation, but having such a huge space allows the gesture to look much better. I often repeat the composition that I paint on a wall on canvas in the studio and vice versa. At the moment, I see them as one and the same.

How did the decision, or opportunity to come to New Zealand originate? Obviously you have a luxury in Europe of relatively easy travel, New Zealand is quite a distance. What did you know of the country? Do you know much about our artistic cultures?

This is a huge logistical and financial challenge. Jenna and Nathan have done a lot of hard work for which I am very grateful. I have been working with Fiksate Gallery for several years and I do follow what is happening in New Zealand.

But I must admit that I don’t know much. I remember a few artists from my studies at university; Colin McCahon, Rita Angus and Ralph Hotere, who made a huge impression on me. Hotere’s work reminded me of the Spanish artist Antoni Tàpies, whom I love to this day. Last year I discovered Judy Millar, whose work I admire a lot. That’s about it, except of course, Flight of the Conchords and Taika Waititi!

To return to an earlier question, the title for the show Vacation From Reality can be understood in different ways, obviously referring to the experience of visiting New Zealand, but also due to the ability of abstraction to break from reality. But as I suggested, abstraction really allows reflection over a deeper sense of reality; emotional and visceral experiences. Do you reflect on that idea when you consider how your art affects and impacts people?

Communing with art makes us better, more sensitive, more delicate people. I have a lot of my friends’ work at home, and I am very connected with some of them. I have one painting by Krzysztof Syruć which I look at differently every time. At first it seemed terribly dark to me, now after a few years, it has given me so much good energy and became super colourful and positive. It’s amazing how we emotionally grow into certain colors and shapes.

What are your hopes for the way people will receive the show? What type of experience do you hope to create for people?

I am very curious about this exhibition and how it will be received. I hope the paintings will bring a lot of good energy and warmth in this rainy and cold time.

On a personal level, what do you hope to experience in Aotearoa New Zealand?

Rest and a lot of fun- that will charge my batteries!

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Vacation From Reality runs at Fiksate Gallery, 54 Hawdon Street, Sydenham until August 13th, 2022.

(The introduction to this text was re-produced in the catalogue for Vacation From Reality. Portions of the interview were re-produced on the Brooklyn Street Art website)

Gearing Up – Dcypher Apparel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Street Treats, Vol. 7

For the latest installment of Street Treats, we are serving up a selection of pieces, pastes, pixels, petals and beyond. From a reminder of an old pal’s legacy, to epic collaborations and tiny treats, the streets have provided a range of goodies. That is, of course, the joy of the urban environment as a setting for creative (and naughty) interventions, there is no curation. The result echoes the physical presence of our cities, where thousands, indeed millions of people interweave as they go about their own concerns, trials and aspirations. Any city is a collection of individual voices and the art of the streets reflects this diversity, each piece the compulsive expression of an individual that can be read in infinite ways by the passing audience. In a world where online communication has become increasingly toxic and antagonistic, the art in the streets provides something different, still capable of asserting beliefs and ideologies, but devoid of the escalating tensions or echo chambers of comment sections. Indeed, as one image attests, often the response to uninvited additions is not so much beautification as silencing, ensuring a monochromatic environment. So enjoy this platter of pictures and relax, our cities and our communities are not monolithic, and the streets provide the platform for that multiplicity…

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

 

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!