Josh Bradshaw – Things I Thought You’d Say or Don’t @ Absolution

Josh Bradshaw has undergone a significant creative transformation over the last few years, leaving behind a recognisable and popular aesthetic in favour of a style that feels both more honest and meaningful – gone is the pop and in is a punk-infused, re-worked and confrontational body of work. This approach, drawn on the experience of the urban environment, manifests in techniques from collage and printmaking to three-dimensional constructions and spaces in between, reflecting a creative freedom and palpable physicality. His latest show, Things I Thought You’d Say or Don’t, at Absolution, is the first chance for him to present a cohesive collection under this new direction. We took the opportunity to catch up with the artist and find out more…
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How did this show come about? It has been a while since your last solo show and your work has undergone some significant changes, what has been the internal process to make work that is perhaps a better reflection of you?

I got lucky with Absolution having their planned exhibition for June/July fall through last minute so with short notice I put my hand up to fill that slot. It’s been three years since my last show I’m pretty sure. Funnily enough, the last one was at Absolution too, so having my first show under my real name, making work in a completely different style, it feels right to have it in that space. I think most of the internal processes in the early stages of the research, developing concepts, mapping out ideas and weaving the work together to create a full show haven’t changed for me at all, it’s when I start physically making the work that the differences start to show up. I don’t have to do any mental gymnastics or justify to myself any compromises of my original ideas or warp any of the work to fit a particular style that I used to feel trapped by. Now it’s a much more free flowing and natural process. I’m not limiting myself and the work can go wherever it wants and needs to, I’m just along for the ride.

What was the genesis this specific body of work?

This body of work, which is still ongoing, came about because of the perfect storm of how much time I’ve spent living and walking around the city over the last however many years, how my brain works when I’m falling down the rabbit hole of over thinking about how much of a backstory and future a padlock or brick or window of a construction site that I’ve just walked past could possibly have. The curiosities, attitudes, mysteries and visual elements that come from all of my interests that I’ve had my whole life, like skateboarding, punk music and compulsively having to make stuff, added in the mix is how you get to this latest body of work.

You are adopting a range of techniques, is that about seeking something, or just a reflection of creative freedom?

Both for sure, I really enjoy the act of the reveal of printmaking and repeatedly trashing and scanning things and all of the not knowing what’s going to show up when printed or not. The element of surprise often determines what techniques need to be applied or removed on the next layer. With this loose approach comes that sense of freedom which in turn encourages even more experimentation. It’s a fun, self-feeding cycle. The themes that run through the show itself are based off a wide range of scenarios and materials from the city, which lends itself well to using a bunch of different techniques also.

Josh Bradshaw, Collage #3, mixed media collage, 2022

Tell me about the title for the show, it is evocative, but when you think about it, it doesn’t quite make sense, or at least, it doesn’t read quite right…

I made a lot of this work in reference to not only how we view things ideologically but also physically. Down to that moment of hesitation where stop and go back for that little look through the fence or broken window. The title of the show is an example of that little double take you have to do to see what’s going on. Things I Thought You’d Say Or Don’t is the awkward, only partially seen, peer through the fence version of “The things I thought that the city was saying/showing to me or maybe what it wasn’t actually saying”.

Black and white is predominant, is that intentional symbolically or a result of the techniques?

The lack of colour is a bit of the result of some of the techniques, like flattening out a collage with a black and white scan but I use it mostly to intentionally remove any of the context of the elements I use from the city. I feel that it encourages people to see something in a new light. Once you remove something from its intended purpose you can run wild creating a new life for that thing.

Do you make these works with the idea of exhibiting? I feel like they have a sense of fitting in various spaces/sites, like they don’t need white walls to exist, they have the practicality of punk in a way…

With the work being based on how we view our city and things from it, I think it would be just as interesting to see the work on a gallery wall as it would be to have it put up on a street wall or construction fence. There’s something satisfying about the idea of all the references and elements being taken and given new context and then being put back up in the city. I did however feel that it was about time to have a show again and as long as I got to present the work as a collection I was going to be happy. The black walls of Absolution is just the added bonus, I’m stoked they had the space open up for me.

Lastly, when and where do people need to be for the show?

The people need to be at Absolution on Friday the 3rd of June at 6-8pm to see the opening of the show. If you can’t make that date, the show is up for a few weeks and if you can’t make that either then feel free to just open your eyes the next time you are walking through the city, the exhibition has been on for the last 10 plus years…

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Things I Thought You’d Say Or Don’t opens 6pm, Friday, June 3rd at Absolution in The Arts Centre

For more of Josh’s work follow him on Instagram

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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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Burn So Bright – Flare Street Art Festival Recap

Almost five years since Street Prints Ōtautahi, Christchurch’s last significant street art mural festival, Flare Street Art Festival provided a welcome shot in the arm for a city with an established reputation as an urban art destination. The brainchild of ARCC, a urban activation collective of local business people and place makers, Flare burst into life with a roster of seven headline artists painting huge murals and a flurry of additional activities.

Flare was built around the selection of massive new murals that would transform the SALT District and surrounding environs, landmarks that showed an impressive diversity, each artist flexing their unique styles, interests and intentions with creative freedom.

Koryu’s massive mural

The largest mural, on the side of the newly renovated Cotters Lane building, was completed by Koryu, a Japanese artist who has been based in Aotearoa since the 2020 lockdown, living in Geraldine but travelling across the country to paint murals. While relatively new to urban art, picking up a spray can just three years ago after visiting Melbourne, Koryu’s impressive depiction of fierce Niō warriors, guardian statues of Buddhist temples in Japan shows his quick development. The circular motif in the middle of the image suggesting the infinite quality of existence, the warriors themselves representing the beginning and end of all things (the open and closed mouths symbolic of the in and out breath, the first and last characters of the alphabet). The huge work, over 160 square metres, was a massive undertaking, filled with detailed musculature and gestural painting and aware of the shared experiences of Christchurch earthquakes and the Tohuku earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 when both regions were struck by devastating natural disasters, making this work, a gift of guardians, even more resonant.

Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson

Nearby, overlooking Manchester Street, local artist Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson displayed his technical skill with a vibrant depiction of a woman wearing rose-tinted glasses and chewing bubble gum. The pink gum exploding into a cloud of pop culture references, a baseball cap, a paint roller, headphones and more bursting out of the cloud. The combination of realism and pop-esque cartoon work a summation of Wongi’s style. The upbeat energy of the work infecting an area that still bares the scars of the city’s ongoing .

Detail of Kell Sunshine’s mural

Tucked down Memory Lane, behind the imposing SALT Mural by Paul Walters and Dcypher in Evolution Square, Gisborne artist Kell Sunshine added a rolling, lyrical mural, a beautiful contrast to the architectural and pared-back piece around the corner. Floral forms blooming and unfurling around the phrase ‘Take a walk on the wild side’, Sunshine’s mural reminds us of the need to break from convention and embrace our ‘wild side’ – a literal depiction of nature amidst the urban jungle. The 70s vibe is relaxed and the somewhat secluded placement allows for the viewer to stop and absorb the message before returning to the bustle of the city.

Meep on St Asaph Street

On St Asaph Street, homegrown talent Meep produced the largest work of her career, with a stylised self-portrait against a bright orange backdrop. The massive image shows the artist, with a backpack filled with paint, a roller and a blackbook, walking along the tracks (a traditional graffiti hot-spot and suggested by the large roller piece behind the artist), headphones plugged into a television-headed representation of hip-hop music – her constant companion (the homage to hip-hop cemented with the Kangol bucket hat and the MF Doom and Wu Tang Clan t-shirts). The strong representation of a female graffiti writer illuminating an often marginalised presence in a predominantly male sub-culture.

Ikarus on Manchester Street

On the corner of Manchester and Welles Street, local legend Ikarus of the DTR Crew recounted his own experiences in graffiti through the lens of an AR video game (a cartoon version of the artist shown in full AR goggle mode in the corner). The levels of the game move through the stages of graffiti, from tags to throw-ups and finally ascending to masterpieces, the obstacles and intricacies thrown in as well. The shout-out to traditional graffiti an important inclusion in a forum where the culture is often excluded in favour of birds and buildings. The shout out to the legendary Jungle acknowledging the legacy of those who have come before and the important role of mentorship through example.

Olive by Swiftmantis

In the rear of the Little High car park on St Asaph Street, Palmerston North artist Swiftmantis continued his series of ‘Stray Stories’ with a huge depiction of black cat Olive, her green eyes surveying the surrounding area. The amazing detail reveals the feline’s character, her tattered ear a sign of her survival. Currently with the Cats Protection League of Christchurch. Olive, perhaps now the city’s most famous cat, is still looking for her forever home, the work serving to highlight her situation and to celebrate the work done by the Protection League. The image has already stopped hundreds in their tracks, wowed at the production and enamoured with the beautiful, majestic animal.

Elliot Francis Stewart’s mural closed the festival

The final work, located on Manchester Street, was delayed when Elliot Francis Stewart was unable to make his way to Ōtautahi until the final (or at least the final official) day of the festival. Renowned as a supremely talented illustrator, Stewart drew inspiration from Christchurch’s ‘Garden City’ moniker to depict a sweetly nostalgic scene of a shovel and bucket in a garden. The electric colour scheme of blue, yellow and magenta highlights the intricate detail, the leaves, bark and even tiny lizards occupying the serene setting. It is a show stopper that draws you in, your eyes led across the incredible detail of the wall.

FUEGOS joined the Graffiti Jam

While these murals were the central focus of Flare, there was plenty more going on across the extended two week programme. Just prior to the official launch, Dcypher, Ghostcat and Dr Suits installed an anti-war 3D mural – an oversized Molotow pen fixed to the wall appearing to be the tool used to scrawl over the image of a tank in bright pink – a peace sign and the declaration ‘Make Art Not War’ defacing the symbol of military force. Just around the corner, Flare made use of a High Street shop as a pop-up gallery, featuring local and visiting artists, an array of art and apparel available.  The pop-up served as the central hub for the festival, with artists hanging out and passers-by drawn in (our Watch This Space guided tours also departed from the pop-up space, while the Watch This Space Artist Panel was held at 12 Bar on St Asaph Street). An unassuming High Street space hosting a projection work, a collaboration between Fiksate Gallery and the Offline Collective, added a dynamic night-time presence to the festival. The BOXed Quarter’s collection grew with the ‘Wahine Takeover’; Jessie Rawcliffe, Jen-Heads, Berlin and MKA adding fresh paintings to the panels. The final Saturday of the festival saw over two dozen artists take over the lane ways surrounding popular bar Smash Palace with a graffiti jam, artists from different cities and generations lifting the veil from graffiti’s often mysterious presence as visitors could watch the paint being sprayed on the wall. Finally, on the last weekend, Billens Lane, next to Little High, received a make-over with fresh hoardings painted by Jacob Yikes, Dcypher, YSEK, Chile One, Ikarus, Tepid and Bols, adding further diversity to the collection of Flare works.

YSEK and Chile One on Billens Lane

With over 40 new works of art painted across the city, and over 30 artists involved across the festival, Flare served to connect the dots as an event that was for the city and the culture. This is an important element of such an event, recognising the need to support local talent and provide opportunities of varying scales, to raise the profile of urban art and foster the seeds of the city’s creative foundations. Of course, with new incarnations will come new challenges, from finding fresh walls to the massive task of finding money, but Flare has made a promising start, and we are already looking forward to 2023!

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Showtime!

Friday the 4th of March was a busy night, with two events marking the opening of significant urban art events in Ōtautahi, signalling an exploding energy in the local scene. First up was the opening event for the Flare Street Art Festival, held at the pop-up exhibition space on High Street, which is host for all the information you will need about the festival and a collection of work by Flare artists and a number of local stars. Across town at TyanHAUS, Slap City’s International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival was also celebrating it’s opening night, with the interior exhibition of work from across the globe completely taking over the space. We were lucky enough to make it along to both events, with a palpable sense of excitement permeating both spaces…

With both events taking place in the red traffic light setting, it was great to see the organisers ensuring people were masked up (except for a quick photo here and there!) and that group sizes were kept appropriate!

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Flare Street Art Festival opening event @ Flare Central, Friday, 4th March, 2022

Beginning with a opening address by Mayor Liane Dalziel, the Flare Festival launched on Friday (although artists had been at work on their walls since Wednesday the 2nd) at the Flare Central pop-up. The exhibited works ranged from Flare headline artists to a roster of local talent such as Chile One, Nick Lowry, Jacob Yikes, Ghostcat, Jen Heads and more. A relaxed vibe highlighted the feeling that such festivals bring, with new friendships and old connections re-established. Check out flare.nz for the festival’s full programme

Slap City presents The International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival @ TyanHAUS, Friday, 4th March, 2022

The Slap City collective have been an unmissable presence in the local scene over the last two years, their widespread community ensuring Ōtautahi has a thriving and diverse array of art in the streets. The International Paste-Up and Sticker Festival harnesses that diversity and community into an impressive exhibition and programme. Completely taking over the TyanHAUS space, the challenge proved to be where to start! Diving into the cacophonous selection of paste-ups, examing the sticker bombs or considering the Hello We Are exhibition, there was no shortage of attention grabbing activity! Follow the event on Facebook for more of the festival’s programme…

 

 

 

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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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Dr Suits goes to Akaroa…

Back in November, we caught up with our good friend Dr Suits to chat about his experience at Taupo’s Graffiato festival, Aotearoa’s longest running street art festival, what he didn’t let us know at that time was he was in talks about a massive mural on the grounds of Akaroa Area School. Akaroa, the picturesque waterside township south east of Christchurch on Banks Peninsula, is not an expected location for such a project – but word of Dr Suits’ ability to produce bold, striking mural works had obviously spread. In January 2022, Dr Suits and Porta loaded up and headed to Akaroa to spend a week transforming the junior school with colour and the result, Polymorph, is stunning. When he got back we sat down to talk about the project and the technical process…

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How on earth did you find yourself painting such a massive ground mural in Akaroa?

It’s funny, the last thing I talked to you about was Graffiato (the street art festival in Taupo). As soon as I got off the plane in Rotorua after leaving Taupo, I checked my emails, and I had a message from Ross, the principal of Akaroa Area School asking if I would be interested in painting the junior area of their school. He didn’t really give away too much in terms of what he wanted, but it was quite exciting, especially having just painted at Graffiato

You must have felt like you were on a roll! How did you get on their radar?

One of the teachers showed Ross an article about Crossings, the red zone work we painted last year, and he must have thought, that looks good, this artist can paint a ground! I have a ground that needs some paint, so it’s perfect…

Did Crossings inspire the concept or were they already sold on the idea of painting the ground?

They wanted to paint the junior ground and after a conversation with them, they had some really clear ideas about what they wanted. When they asked me to quote the area, I was like, far out, how have this school got the money for this? To go through the design process with a school, I’d imagine it would be quite a long process…

I imagine there are a lot of stakeholders that must be consulted…

Yes. Their ideas were directed at traditional games and instructing children to play in a certain way and interact with the space in a very traditional way, like we probably would have interacted with spaces when we were kids…

You mean like hopscotch, that sort of thing?

Yeah, like Four Square, roads to follow, those types of things. I knew I wasn’t going to have a lot of creative freedom, so I just quoted the job. Anyway, Ross got back to me and said we can’t afford that, which I was expecting, so I called him back and I said, what is your priority? Is it to have those traditional elements, or is it to get a whole lot of color on the ground? He said if we can get that area covered, that’s the priority. So, I got talking to him about how we could make that happen, just using a more mathematical approach to working out surface areas and ordering smartly, basically designing according to how much material would be used…

So, you figured out a formula to achieve that? 

It was quite challenging. I hadn’t really approached the design process in that way before, I usually approach it more artistically. I’ve done it in fashion design, where you’re really conscious about material and how to maximize the design based on materials, so I kind of used that thinking. Basically, I tried to keep the design quite simple and geometric, because curves would slow me down, details would slow me down. I did a few concepts and gave them to my friend Roberto who put them into CAD, and he worked out their surface area, and then I calculated how much product I would need, and I tweaked it from there. I also had to consider the surface of the ground, because if it’s rougher, it’s going take more product, yellows and pinks will need more layers. So, I reduced the yellows and pinks and added more blues, because they cover the ground really well. It was all about efficiency, really.

You’re known for your color palette, particularly in your outdoor mural works and those pinks and yellows are pretty prominent. Was that a challenge to minimise those colors?

Yeah, it wasn’t a challenge as such, but I had to have some in there!

Did you use the paint product that you used for the basketball court in New Brighton?

A similar product.

Which is different to the standard paint that you used in the red zone. So, how did you go about sourcing the paint?

There were a few contenders, but it came down to durability and workability. I’d seen another company that used the same product, and I could see what it looked like in a similar context. I also had conversations with the sales rep. There are a few products within their range that are similar; some are acrylic, some are water-based, which is great, there were others that were chemical-based, which I wanted to avoid. I wanted to avoid playing around with solvents, which are unpleasant to work with and to clean up…

Particularly when you are doing such a massive job as well, that would have required a whole heap more gear just to get the job done…

Yeah. The paint company rep was great, he was really helpful. He probably got sick of me asking questions!

So, this product will be your go to from now on?

Absolutely, I got my head around how to use the product, putting the hardener in, laying it out. I had to get scales, a paint mixer and a few more things. The scales were a bit more expensive than I bargained for, but they came in extremely handy. I mean I couldn’t have done the job without either of those tools. There are different options for the application, the rep even recommended spraying it…

With a pressurized sprayer? Were you tempted? 

Spraying would be OK if you had a sprayer, but you’ve got to take into consideration masking, the wind, clean up and waste, and I wanted to reduce waste. Basically, once this product is mixed together, you have to use it within 40 minutes.

Was it a case of the old ‘measure twice, cut once’, or was there still a little bit of figuring out as you went?

I used a grid system, which meant I could get pretty accurate with the layout and composition, which kept me to plan, but when we were putting down the first coats, if there was half a bucket of product left, I’d improvise and chuck it in somewhere to break it up a bit…

How close was the original design to the finished piece?

I’d say 85 per cent. There are a few add-ons here and there…

That’s always good for the creative process, right?

When I was designing it, I was working on such a small scale and when I actually got into the space, it was so much bigger than the piece of paper or the screen that I was working on. It definitely changes the perception of it. I think one of the coolest parts about the project was being immersed in that color as you’re working on it, really experiencing how colors change when you put them next to each other.

What was the area in square metres?

360 square meters.

Did you look at any comparable mural works in Christchurch? Do you know of any other similarly scaled works?

I didn’t even think about that. I was just focused on the task at hand. But, just to give you an idea of what that looks like, the longest straight line on it was 28 meters.

Wow! On that first day when you started painting or even just gridding it out, did you have to stop and ask yourself: am I going to be able to do this?

No, I’d done all that after I took the job on and designed it and been paid the deposit, that’s when I was like, shit! Am I actually going to be able to do this? It wasn’t until I went out there and had a good look around that I was like, OK, it’s not as big as I’ve built it up in my head.

Did it help as well that you had your trusty compadre, Porta, there with you?

Oh yeah! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Porta’s the man!

There were certain restrictions based on the colour palette, and you had to encourage them to move away from including those ‘instructed play’ elements, but was the final design based on any particular concept or idea other than dynamic shapes and space for play?

That’s it, just dynamic shapes and spaces. I used my trusty collage technique. I cut out some shapes and piece them together, and just subconsciously come up with something.

Have you been able to get feedback yet?

I sent Ross a message on the first day back at school to ask about the big reveal on the first morning of school, his reply was: ‘Awesome!! Thumbs up’. So, I figured, it must have been a big day…

Was it disappointing that you didn’t get to see that first response of the kids yourself?

Yeah, I was a little bit, but as we were working on it, people would walk past daily and even when we had one or two blocks of color down, people were pretty excited. It really started coming together towards the end, I knew as soon as we got the yellow down it would really start to come to life, and then when we put the final blue down at the end, that just tied it all together.

You also added a little touch where you painted a pole bright yellow?

That pole’s funny because I’ve always wanted to do a sculpture exactly like that, with a just off axis yellow line…

You finally got to do it! I was going to say that one of the great aspects of projects like this, and we talked about this with your court in New Brighton, is the way they encourage movement of bodies through and across these spaces (which allows people to engage with and respond to abstract art, even unwittingly). It would be really cool to have a drone video that shows the students moving across the mural.

Ross got some drone footage, with his kids walking on it, not playing unfortunately, but it will be really cool to see. With the COVID situation, schools have been really encouraged to get kids outside, and this work will really help with that…

An unforeseen practicality! Doing something in a place the size of Akaroa, I guess the work would reach the whole township. You said some people came past and saw it, did you get a sense that people were hearing about it and the word was spreading?

I think so. I did have that realization that we could have quite an impactful reach. Basically, if you are a family in that town with kids, they go to that school, and if you grew up in that town, you went to that school. So, hopefully people will be really excited about what we added to the school. The school is a really amazing environment, it’s nestled next to a hillside, there are a lot of native trees and birds, it was really beautiful to just hang out there painting…

Now that you’ve done something to this scale, it sets the precedent. How do you go about finding some new places to paint?

The school got funding from the Ministry of Education for the project and a couple of other projects around the campus, so my next task is to put it all together in a nice little package and reach out to more schools, find out what the funding was and how to go about getting it. Then just push them to apply for the funding to get something like this…

You will be taking more notice of school grounds now I imagine!

There were a lot of restrictions around this project, which made it good for the first one of this scale. Those restrictions really helped make it achievable and set boundaries, so I couldn’t really go too crazy with the design and get in over my head, which could have easily happened. I was learning a new product, I was out of town, if I ran out of something it wasn’t like I could just nip down to buy something. The product had to be ordered in from Auckland. So, if I get another job, closer to home, I’ll be able to push it a bit further and explore the color palette…

Follow Dr Suits on Instagram to what he has in store next!

All images supplied by Dr Suits

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The Paste-Up Project – with Bloom n Grow Gal

The second artist presented with the opportunity to take over the Paste-Up Project bollard, our collaboration with Phantom Billstickers, is Bloom n Grow Gal – our favourite urban gardener! With teethlikescrewdrivers‘ layered pencils cleared off the bollard, it was time for Bloom to add her touch. Unfortunately, the weather decided not to play along, with rain delaying the installation for a few days. But once presented with a dry spell to get pasting, Bloom ensured the Paste-Up Project had a new lease of life.

Utilising the four sections of the bollard, Bloom’s installation plays with two distinct concepts. On alternating sides, a colourful patchwork of her signature A4 flyposter paste-ups declare ‘Not Street Art’, ‘Not An NFT’ or ‘I Can Parallel Park’ across a series of singular blooms, a nod to her works across the city. Interspersed among the blooms are collaborations with Slap City artists, but here, the alterations to the blooms are perhaps more subtle, the flowers maintain the central importance. The A4 posters are a mixture of fluorescent colours, hearkening to the lineage of posters as an effective media for messages, whether advertising for your band’s first gig, searching for a lost pet or making a political statement.

The other two sections are based on large scale white posters containing grainy photographs of dilapidated urban locations, with the white background providing plenty of space (this is important!). Over the top, Bloom has cultivated a range of flowers in bright colours, painted in her stylised line work. Larger than the buildings, they are an invasion – with the appearance of an unexpected addition to the ‘legitimate’ (but ultimately lifeless) posters, once more drawing on the urban theatre for inspiration.

A key part of Bloom’s concept was the ability to revisit the bollard throughout the installation, adding new blooms and allowing evolution. This theory was to come to the fore early when an expected addition of green spray paint was discovered just a day after completion. Not a typical tag or scrawling, it appeared to understand the concept but still threw a curveball for the artist. But, reconciling this occurrence with her intention made it easier and as such, the work is already a unique incarnation of the Paste-Up Project, embracing the potential for change as part of its inherent make-up.

We sat down to chat with Bloom once the paste was dry and talked about her idea, the process and how she has explored new ideas with this work…

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Finding your blooms around town over the last year has been one of my favourite discoveries, so it was an easy decision to get you on board as the second artist in the Paste-Up Project! What was your initial reaction to the invitation?

Wow! I was so privileged! I couldn’t believe that I’d been chosen to do this project, and when I found out people like teeth like screwdrivers and Cape of Storms were also getting on board, to put myself up against those guys, I was like, are you serious?! Yeah, it was kind of amazing!

What did you make of teeth’s installation? Did you take any inspiration from it, or did you already have an idea of what you wanted to do?

Even now I’m still getting all these ideas of what I could have done or what I should have done. My first idea was to do a grocery shop with flowers coming out of it, I mean it could still be an idea, but I remember when teeth’s work went up, I was like, OK, he’s done all these collabs with people, and I felt the pressure that I had to make mine look the same. But then I re-read the brief and realised that that’s not necessarily my kind of style. Reaching out to people, collaborating with people isn’t really what I do. That is very much a teeth like screwdrivers thing, so I focused on myself. My original design didn’t really match the brief and that’s why I took it back to the blocks with the individual blooms and the statements. They are something that I really enjoy and even today I get people sending me these photos of ones from lock down saying: ‘Spread Your Legs’, ‘I Can Dance’, ‘I Can Party’, even ones that have been slightly adjusted with random words written underneath like ‘Daddy’ – I just love that! So, to me it was important to include those after reading the brief. The photos were something that came from people sending me pictures of blooms from all over the world, saying they reminded them of my art, but also, just keeping an eye out for beautiful things in unexpected places.

You do have some Slap City collabs in there too, Cape of Storms, Lost Boy, teeth like screwdrivers and others have added their touch to some of the blooms, so that influence is still there a little bit…

Yeah, I’m quite a solo person, so when I realized that people wanted to join in with my blooms, it was really nice because I never thought it would be something that could be possible. How could you do anything with these? They are what they are. It was nice to find out that they were adaptable for people. The Slap City collabs were a last-minute thing and they actually worked! It was really warming.

I really liked your idea of an urban bloom just appearing in these unexpected places, something that some people might overlook and walk past, but that other people will see as a beautiful little bit of nature that has found a way to exist in an environment that tries not to let things like that exist. I think the contrast of the black and white photographs with the colored blooms painted over the top really brings that out. I really love that contrast of the color against the black and white, it’s a reminder that the world can be quite boring without letting nature have those little moments of revelation. The other thing I like is the nice lineage in all those A4 pieces, the slogan pieces with the individual blooms, that make me think of fly-postering, whether that is independent gig posters or political messages, there’s something nice about that repeated block. In the same vein, the larger posters almost seem like an interplay between what you’d expect to find on the bollards and an unexpected addition. There is a feeling they are supposed to be on the bollard, and then the flowers are kind of like this addition, this subversion. Are those references to the urban environment something that you were intending?

Yeah, for me, this graffiti part of my life is something I’m learning about myself over the last couple of years. It was never something I pictured myself doing. For me, graffiti was like this aggressive writing all over the walls around Derry [the town where Bloom grew up in Northern Ireland], but then I discovered that graffiti could be literally whatever you want it to be. I started looking at these plants and flowers growing out of buildings and seeing them as graffiti as well in a way; they’re not really supposed to be there, but they are there because they want to be there and nature gave them everything that they needed to grow there, which is what I really love. It gave me the confidence to start doing my own little blooms on buildings. I’ve always really been into design and color, I’m always wearing lots of little pops of color; I’ll wear an orange jumper and a pink pair of pants, blue shoes and a green coat or something. I love blocks of colour, so it’s important for them to be in my art, which is where the A4 posters come in. I guess the big black and white posters that Phantom helped with, that was me trying to bring my love of photography to the installation. I would never say I’m a photographer, but I just love taking photos of flowers growing out of places they’re not supposed to, because it’s beautiful. I love capturing the negative space around these flowers growing out of buildings, which is what the white spaces represent.

Are your blooms a reference to weeds? Weeds are kind of vilified, but they can still be so beautiful and intricate, aspects that are overlooked because of the way we are told to get rid of weeds…

I’m starting to not use the word weeds, I hate that word! It’s a word that I just can’t get out now because I’m like, they are not weeds! They are flowers! They are beautiful, I don’t want to pull them out!

I love their durability and persistence, they can thrive in places where they are being set up to fail, they are still able to find the space to exist. The other thing I love about the photos with the flowers over the top is the way that scale is flipped, rather than a tiny growth or bloom at the bottom of the wall, they are bigger than the buildings, and there’s something really powerful about that. It reminds me of those science fiction movies where people go to some strange new world, where flowers and plants are the size of cars and buildings, it makes us aware that we aren’t above nature.

I’m really enjoying that there’s no limitations when you’re doing something like this. I can just get into this dream world, and I can go as big as I want with a flower or as tiny as I want with a flower at the side of the road.

What about the process? The bollard is a big proposition, and a lot of your blooms in the streets are relatively small, so how did you find the challenge of filling the bollard?

It took longer than I thought it would, that’s for sure! I’m so used to doing a lot of prep work at the house, sat drawing my flowers over and over again, but I don’t usually spend as much time at a wall pasting up. It is so important for me to individually draw every single flower, I don’t have it in me to photocopy multiples of the same flower because that would take away the point of what it is…

Because that doesn’t happen in nature, right? No flower is the same…

Yeah, you can’t just photocopy a flower, it’s got to be different, that’s something that I’ve really stuck by. So, there’s the prep work of doing all those flowers, which is fine, because I can do them sat on my sofa, but when I was out there doing the bollard to took much longer. It was nice, because it felt like I had a bit of importance, with the road cones, and just sat there just pottering away, so it didn’t feel like there was that pressure that you get when you’re out wheat pasting at night, looking over your shoulder. The bollard was an awesome experience and I enjoyed taking my time, but I think getting out there on the streets, doing it as quick as you can and then running away and doing another wall, I love that!

It is a very different process and energy to working on the streets without permission…

I think that’s why I got a little bit upset when someone spray painted on the bollard, because it wasn’t just street art, it was actually me being an artist. When I came back a couple of days later after I had spent the time painting onto the bollard and it had been sprayed over, it was like somebody had gone into an art gallery and sprayed over my work. It’s a reality when you’re doing it without permission and something that you just have to accept, but when you are putting that extra time into something that you are doing in a different way, it’s a bit more disheartening.

It is interesting because that addition wasn’t what you would normally expect. It was almost like someone came and added grass, they haven’t gone over the top of certain elements, it’s strangely respectful…

It took a took a moment for me to understand it, but then, looking back at my idea and why I did those two boards with the photos and the white negative space around them, it was because something was supposed to grow in those places. Something grew so much faster than I thought it would though! It must have been all the rain! But yeah, I think I just have to be accepting that it happened…

Your work in the streets has always been quite adventurous in terms of materials, you are willing to pick up new materials, from works on wood to little ceramic tiles to various paste up styles and stickers, you aren’t afraid to experiment. In this case, you will be revisiting the site throughout the time of the installation, which means it becomes a fun experiment where you have the space to evolve ideas, which could open new doors…

I have literally grown and bloomed during this process and that is the whole point of my art and my journey. This shit happened, what can I do about it? How is it going to grow and bloom into something else? Because it is forever changing, just like the blooms outside are forever changing. It’s nice, just because you thought something was finished doesn’t mean it is finished. Not that I’m encouraging it, but it would be interesting to see if anything else happens to it that’s not me…

Which means figuring out how you can embrace it and make it part of your own work. So lastly, who do you want to thank?

You for pretty much stripping the bollard! I turned up when there wasn’t that much left to do, but still whinged a lot! Phantom (especially Mike from Phantom for helping paste those big posters up, what a sweetie!) and the Christchurch City Council. The guy who didn’t give me a parking ticket! Ben for bringing me a cup of coffee and Jamie for bringing me some sugar. My dog Milk for keeping me company…

She was very good!

Watch This Space, and the sun for finally coming out so I could finish it!

Thank you for coming on board and adding your lovely blooms to the Paste-Up Project, we look forward to seeing how it’s going to evolve over the next couple of months! Is there anything else you want to say?

I‘m away to plant some seeds to grow some blooms so I can add them to them bollard!

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Follow Bloom n Grow Gal to see what she gets up to next, and keep your eyes and ears peeled for more about The Paste-Up Project on our channels!

Oh, and get down to the site on Manchester Street to see this amazing installation in the flesh!

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A Nice Trip to the Beach…

We are excited to announce a summer series of New Brighton guided street art tours! Watch This Space has already established central Christchurch street art tours, with hundreds of guests joining us to explore the art within the four avenues since 2019. Now, in conjunction with the New Brighton Outdoor Art Foundation, our tours will journey out to one of the city’s most vibrant suburban settings, the beautiful seaside village of New Brighton.

Ikarus and Ysek below Joel Hart

Although New Brighton has faced a litany of challenges over the years, from the economic downturn with the arrival of mega malls, to the damage of the Christchurch earthquakes, art has been an undeniable presence – brightening walls with evolving works that have often reflected the indomitable community spirit of the area! While today, the beautiful Pier is accompanied by the bustling children’s playground and the popular He Puna Taimoana hot pools (and a brand new surf life saving club to boot), since 2012, the dilapidated walls and empty spaces have been filled with art.  From the 2012 event Mural Madness to the 2020 New Brighton Outdoor Art Festival – art has been at the heart of so many aspects of the village’s revitalisation. The art found in New Brighton is not as pristine and curated as the central city, where there is an increasing sense of input from power brokers, instead it is more organic and experimental, and at times challenging, with traditional graffiti a prominent part of the artistic profile with legal walls and collaborative productions. But that makes it all the more interesting and authentic – it is the art of action!

Welcome to Orua Paeroa, by the Fiksate crew and the New Brighton Community

With free tours spread across January and February, now is the time to book in and explore New Brighton! Perfect for locals who want to celebrate their neighbourhood or for visitors who will find a ‘new’ New Brighton, our tours are available for all ages!

Email tours@watchthisspace.org.nz for booking options and we will see you at the beach!   

Tour dates:

12pm, Saturday, January 22nd (almost fill, less than 3 places available!)

6pm, Thursday, January 27th

12pm, Sunday, January 30th

6pm, Thursday, February 3rd

12pm, Saturday, February 5th

12pm, Sunday, February 20th

The New Brighton street art tours are an initiative between Watch This Space, the New Brighton Outdoor Art Foundation and ChristchurchNZ.

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Nick Lowry, teethlikescrewdrivers, Bloom n Grow Gal and Bols @ the BOXed Quarter

After a week of rain fall and grey skies, the sun returned just in time for a group of local artists to add to the already impressive collection of art on the many panels of the BOXed Quarter on St Asaph Street. Nick Lowry, teethlikescrewdrivers, Bloom n Grow Gal and Bols each brought their own styles to various panels throughout the complex, joining works by Wongi ‘Freak’ Wilson, Joel Hart, Meep, Chile One, Newen, YSEK, Mark Catley and more. Inside, Bols stencilled a multi-layered grey-scale text piece, reading ‘The kids round here live just like shadows’, a line taken from Bruce Springsteen’s epic Jungleland, while Bloom n Grow Gal’s flowers took root on nearby panels, boldly outlined and oversized. On Madras Street, teethlikescrewdrivers played off the existing buff patches to create a colourful swatch of squares and line-work pencils, bright colours buzzing against the rich ochre background. Around the corner, Nick Lowry went big, with a three-panel high piece featuring the evocative image of an eel wrapped around a bone, the background a shift of green tones. Reaching the top of the building, Lowry’s work is visible from far down Madras Street, a new beacon of the BOXed Quarter’s vibrant walls.

Let us know about your favourite new works around Otautahi by commenting on our social media, or send us an email at hello@watchthisspace.org.nz!

 

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Black and White – A Photo Essay by Graeme Russell

We first noticed Graeme Russell’s photography on Instagram, his striking black and white street imagery bringing to mind the observations of a flaneur, distanced yet right in the heart of the city. Street art has been a recurring subject of his photographs, often exploring close up details, re-framing larger works as disconnected and intriguing snippets. When we asked Graeme if he was interested in putting together a survey of his images as a photo essay, he revealed he was about to move to Oamaru. It therefore made this piece a fitting farewell to a city that the photographer has come to adore for the creativity on its streets…

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As a recent newcomer to Christchurch (I guess three years makes me a newcomer?), one of the things that I absolutely adore is the vast array of street art around town, it brings the city to life and adds a new perspective to the city. Those behind the art deserve a huge pat on the back. Almost daily I pop out with my camera to capture what is going on in town, what is new on the walls and, of course, on the lampposts.

Seeing something new around town brightens my day and gives me inspiration to shoot. Watching the looks on people’s faces when I’m taking pictures is interesting – they vary from smiles to a look of disgust, people commenting that I am encouraging graffiti.

For those not familiar with the Christchurch street art scene, it’s awesome. It brings the city to life, and every piece around town has a story to tell. So, if you’re in Christchurch or visiting from out of town (or when travel restrictions ease, from offshore), put on a good pair of walking shoes, wander around and take in the work of street artists. It is certainly worth your time!

People often comment about my photos on Instagram, saying that the content is great, and how they wish they had something similar in their town. I truly believe we need to get out there and encourage local artists to get to it and start producing art to liven up the streets of towns around the country.

So, what images have I taken that I want to share with this post? Yikes, I guess sharing 12,000 images isn’t possible, so here’s a small sample for your viewing pleasure…

P.S – Since being asked to contribute to this blog, I have moved to Oamaru, so I guess this is both a welcome and a farewell post. Thank you for the opportunity and an even bigger thank you to all the street artists who have enriched my viewing pleasure around Christchurch.

Follow Graeme on Instagram and keep an eye out for more photo essays!

If you would like to contribute a photo essay, drop us a message on social media or email hello@watchthisspace.org.nz 

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