Showtime!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jacob Yikes – Even in Darkness @ Fiksate Gallery

We were lucky enough to visit Jacob Yikes in advance of his new show, Even in Darkness, opening at Fiksate Gallery on April 1st, 2022. We talked about the inspiration and genesis of the show; a body of work begun in the first nationwide lockdown of 2020. Rather than an interview, we were inspired to write about the show and the questions that arise from a deeply personal yet incredibly complex and psychological series of paintings… 

The paintings of Even in Darkness are not easy to grasp. They are mysterious, evocative, and unsettling. They are filled with complexities. They are chaotic and dizzying while eerily still and quiet. They feel deeply personal and somehow universal and ultimately, not of this world. They are confident and assured, and yet they give little away, meaning must be teased out. There are familiar, recognisable elements, but the wider scenarios, and the juxtaposition of the disparate parts, proves beguiling and elusive. They reach for something unknown; they require surrender.

A Temple Full of Chemicals, mixed media on hardboard, 2022

Yet this dilemma is not solely faced by the audience. The artist has navigated a darkened path through the genesis of these paintings, at times guided by an unseen hand, understanding only the need for the paintings to emerge. Even in Darkness represents the artist’s journey, not answers.

Even in Darkness is a direct result of Yikes’ experimentation with the spiritual and medicinal potential of psychedelics. Researching the use of plant-based medicines, Yikes explored strong doses of mushrooms as a way to unlock experiences and in particular to question his own understanding of ego, consciousness and reality. In a darkened bedroom, Yikes underwent a life-changing experience, communing with other-worldly forms. The intense experimentation allowed Yikes to break himself down and piece everything back together; a new, clean version of himself reborn in the aftermath.

Drag ‘Em Between Worlds, mixed media on hardboard, 2022

Powered by an energy beyond himself, painting became the process for Yikes to attempt to explore and decipher these essentially indescribable experiences. Painted through intuition and feeling rather than deep, focused thought, the paintings have guided Yikes, speaking to him and telling him when to work and when to step away, the artist willingly surrendering control.

Each painting in Even in Darkness has undergone the same process, beginning with the painstaking preparation of a pristine, smooth surface, layers of sanded gesso and paint creating a tabula rasa from which the image to spring forth. The blank slate a microcosm of the artist’s internal journey. With the artist working on multiple pieces simultaneously, each painting began to take shape, elements constantly built upon each other. There is a greater sense of spontaneity and fluidity in these works, an instability that suggests that these images are actively seeking form, attempting to piece themselves together, stewing, pulsing, growing and changing. This quality is evident in the lack of defined line work, the impulsive qualities of the materials and their application left to breathe and form, like smoke.

Even in Darkness, mixed media on hardboard, 2022

While less interested in representation, there are still recognizable elements across the paintings. In A Temple Full of Chemicals, a rooster serves to evoke ego, while in Death Came to Dinner, a black raven signifies death, both speaking to Yikes’ own experience of ego death. Grotesque faces and hands and beams of celestial light reaching across and through the scenes highlight the ethereal presence felt by the artist throughout his experience. Yet, other elements merely hint at something familiar; architectural and organic forms (notably mushrooms, the conduit that unlocked the artist’s access to these strange realms) amidst strange terrains provide a tether between the known and the unknowable. Similarly, the horizontal strips that occur across the works serve as a grounding device between this world and the domains beyond.

These paintings are challenging. They represent a challenge willingly taken on by an artist constantly pushing himself, both creatively and experientially. While they capture something beyond explanation, these paintings are also inviting. So, step into them, gaze deeply and explore, because even in darkness, there is light to be known.

Even in Darkness runs from April 1st, 2022 to April 30th, 2022 at Fiksate Gallery, 54 Hawdon Street, Sydenham

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Tune! with Jacob Yikes

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

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

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Mara TK –Highly Medicated

Blockhead – Give Them Their Flowers

Khruangbin X Knxwledge – Dearest Alfred (My Joy)

Blu – amnesia

Skyzoo – Free Jewelry

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

Ivan Ave –Phone Won’t Charge

eLZhi, feat. Royce da 5’9 – Motown 25

Oh No- Elegant Smoke

@peace –Fine Night

The Doppelgängaz –Boston Beard

Miles Davis – Blue in Green

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

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And That Was… February 2022

February 2022 might prove to be the calm before the storm, with several exciting events set for March. But there were still some great things that happened in those 28 days, even with the weather proving particularly temperamental! The weather has ensured a disjointed sense of summer, and coupled with the ongoing disruptions of Covid (not to mention the protests occurring across the country), it would be fair to say that February was not firing on all cylinders. With a swathe of events cancelled, the visual arts proved somewhat more durable, with projects still forging ahead, albeit under different conditions. With a palpable energy that Ōtautahi is about to reclaim it’s place as Aotearoa’s leading urban art destination, it was good to see momentum building…

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The DTR Crew’s Ernest Rutherford mural

A precursor to the Flare Festival, this impressive mural along the west-facing wall of the Team Hutchinson Ford building on St Asaph Street, was designed by Jacob Yikes and produced alongside crew-mates Dcypher and Ikarus. The image shows the iconic physicist and the old university building (now the Arts Centre) while a crackling energy is depicted in atoms and currents to bring a dynamic quality.

PIM’s This was the year that was… @ The Art Hole

PIM (aka Lost Boy) produced a charming wee show at The Art Hole on St Asaph Street at the end of February. Built around a drawing for every day of 2021, the bright digital drawings (postcard sized) were filled with humour, earnestness, bewilderment, pathos and everything in between, allowing the viewer to construct and reconstruct stories as they scan the large block of images. Definitely a favourite show of 2022!

Bloom takes over The Paste-Up Project

Bloom n Grow Gal became the second artist to take over the Watch This Space X Phantom Billstickers Paste-Up Project bollard on Manchester Street, working in between downpours to create a fresh blossoming of flowers. Drawing on a range of her familiar images, the work has also allowed for change over its life span, with new aspects added already. Following in the footsteps of teethlikescrewdrivers, Bloom’s addition continues the momentum of The Paste-Up Project

Xoë Hall @ Te Puna O Waiwhetū

Wellington artist Xoë Hall has taken over the Te Puna O Waiwhetū Christchurch Art Gallery’s famous bunker with Kuīni of the Worlds, a bright, bold and wild mural that celebrates atua wāhine through references to figures such as Hine-tītama, Hine-nui-te-pō, and Mahuika.

Holly Zandbergen on Walker Street
We were on our way to Walker Street’s Ally & Sid cafe a week ago when we were pleasantly surprised to see a new mural work in progress. when we called back past, artist Holly Zandbergen was there, brush-in-hand and happy to chat about her work, a beautiful painterly abstract work that was both energetic and restrained, a breath of fresh air for a mural scene that often favours pristine illusions…
What did we miss? What would you add to our list? Let us know in the comments!
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And That Was… 2021

I think we all expected to be able to look back at 2021 and say, well at least it was better than 2020, but let’s be honest, it was pretty much a replay: more viruses, more lockdowns, more political shenanigans, and a heap of new entries into the encyclopaedia of frustrating human experiences. This year, when we reached out to our favourite artists, some familiar, others new friends, we wanted to keep the questions a little more open-ended than previous years, recognition of the challenging times and also giving more room for reflection. The responses echoed that intent, with a wide-ranging focus, lots of shout-outs and importantly, acknowledgements that even through all the stress and chaos of 2021, Ōtautahi’s urban creative community continues to grow, thrive and evolve… So, even if it is through gritted teeth, here’s to 2021, a year of resilience…

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Dcypher (@dcypher_dtrcbs)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

My kids have been super influential in my general outlook on things over the past year, but as far as painting is concerned I’m constantly influenced by everything I see. Obviously the pandemic has had a massive influence on people from all walks of life on an international scale and has given artists time to hone in on particular aspects of their process during lock down. I’ve been lucky enough to have spent some time in my studio over the past 12 months.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Internationally, I’m constantly finding new artists doing incredible work and taking their art in different directions. Bond has been doing amazing wall paintings with the integration of various outcomes in VR augmented reality, RFID devices and experimenting with crazy tools and paint contraptions, it definitely makes him one of the most interesting artists of 2021 in my opinion. Locally, Ghostcat’s work is top notch! He’s constantly stepping it up.

What would you say had been your personal highlight in 2021?

One of Dcypher’s paintings at South Sea Spray in early 2021

My personal highlight of 2021 was South Sea Spray by a long shot. It was the best festival I’ve ever had the honor to attend! There were highlights within the highlight; awesome line-up, the hospitality, the sights, and plenty of hyped locals!

Teethlikescrewdrivers (@teethlikescrewdrivers)

teethlikescrewdrivers takes stock of his Paste-Up Project installation in early October…

What has been the biggest influence on you in 2021?

The collective minds of SlapCity continue to be a huge influence on me personally. It has been amazing to see this random group of people hang out and support each other in so many ways. Our original intention was to push sticker and paste-ups as a legitimate artistic medium here in Aotearoa and abroad, and I feel we are doing just that. Collectively we have had members run their own independent art shows as well as feature in them. We have been part of organising and collaborating in paste-up and sticker shows across the globe. We have seen our work on public installations, featured on blogs and have been interviewed by The Press about what we do.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Interesting is an interesting word! I am a huge fan of subversive stuff, so @fokawolf will always reign supreme there. I have continued to be in love with @eter_91’s typography and have a special place in my heart for @mambotattooer’s line work. Cannot forget our Ghostcat. His Welcome to Christchurch – The Garden City sign is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. Stoked to see his book project get the funding it rightly deserves.

Ghostcat’s miniature Welcome to Christchurch sign was a favorite of teethlikescrewdrivers in 2021…

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Just being able to see my stuff up and about. Having the opportunity to take over one of Phantom Billstickers’ bollards on Manchester Street as part of #thepasteupproject was right up there. It was so great to upscale my work and think of it as a whole piece rather than just individual pencils. I was really stoked with how it came out. Being part of @helloiamtheshow‘s PB n Jam was amazing. I never thought that people would want to buy stuff with my pencil on it. Who knew?

teethlikescrewdrivers’ work at PB n Jam at The BOXed Quarter in August featured found objects adorned with his iconic pencils…

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Gigs. I wish I could have seen more gigs.

Vesil

What has been the biggest influence on you in 2021?

I’d say the obvious one would be Covid, being in and out of lockdowns. It definitely has given time to reassess what’s important and what I’m striving for as I’m sure it has with others. Friends have also influenced me over this year, watching them succeed and accomplish their goals has been a real incentive to get off my ass and do the same. Getting out of the city which is something I’ve tried to do a bit over the year. The exploring of different spots, catching up with old and new friends and coming back with a new insight than the one you left with, as well as at least one good story to go with it.

A fresh perspective, 2021

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Harry King would definitely be someone who springs to mind. I’m always really impressed by the sheer volume of work he consistently produces that’s always at a high standard. The same can be said for Tepid who too is pumping out a lot, across a variety of mediums. A couple of other honourable mentions go out to PK, Revos and Fiasko.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

My personal highlight would be, aside from the freezing cold and running out of beer, freight hopping up the country.

Travelling the country freight-hopping was a highlight for Vesil in 2021…

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Worry less and explore more.

Ghostcat (@ghostcat_mb)

Image from Fiksate Gallery

What has been the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Christchurch. The city has had the biggest influence on me as I’ve seen it from a different perspective with regard to my journey this year. Learning about people’s connections to places that are no longer there, exploring places I’d never been. There’s so much to take in.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Jacob Yikes continues to blow my melon year in year out. His work is always so insanely good! The details and the way it takes you on a trip to another place.

Jacob Yikes’ Only here to pay some bills and maybe fill a cart with cat food

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

My highlight was without a doubt was Shadowtown, my first ever solo show at Fiksate earlier this year. That was one of my highlights of my entire life! Putting my work out there and getting the response I did was amazing, so much love!

Ghostcat at his show Shadowtown in early 2021 [Photo credit Charlie Rose Creative]
What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I wouldn’t have changed a thing as every action throughout 2021 has led me here. It’s had its challenges, but it all comes to together.

Jessie Rawcliffe (@jessie.er)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

The fact that you’ve sent these questions means it’s been an entire year since the last time. Once again, I initially struggled to remember anything definitive from the last 12 months, then it slowly came back. Your yearly questionnaire is strangely therapeutic as it’s a great reminder that I have in fact made and seen some shit…But to answer the question, being employed. The flexibility and time I thought I’d be giving up, that I assumed would be detrimental to my creativity, never came to fruition. Or at least it was completely counterbalanced by the reduced anxiety of finally having some financial stability. Realising that I don’t thrive being my own boss was a huge influence on my painting. Not needing to sell work to live has made me more selective about being in shows and I’ve been able to make whatever I want with less parameters. The irony being that when you make stuff for yourself without caring about how it will be received by others, people tend to respond positively, or at least the people whose opinions you actually care about do.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I’ve gotten a bit obsessed with @post_vandalism on Instagram. It’s a collection of works curated by Stefano Bardsley, thematically linked by their connection to graffiti, vandalism and their removal. I almost thought that the whole intersection between graff and fine art had been done to death, but I keep seeing stuff that holds my attention.

Ed Bats’ Italio OD, 2021 [Photo from Ed Bats’ Instagram]
Honorable mention to Ghostcat Mike Beer as well. His solo show was an amazing reflection of his obsession for detail, and the little collaborations within it made it extra special.

Jessie Rawcliffe’s collaboration with Ghostcat for Shadowtown in early 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Getting to paint a couple of walls this year was a huge step and something I’ve wanted to do for ages. I’m at that point where I’m pretty certain about what I’m capable of, but during both the Berlin Wall and NZ Opera pieces I had moments of ‘ah this looks like shit wtf am I doing’. Me, up a ladder, with a too small paint brush, rookie.

The Marriage of Figaro mural Jessie Rawcliffe painted in mid 2021 in collaboration with the NZ Opera

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I lost momentum in the middle of the year and took on miscellaneous freelance design projects (because if you stop moving you die right?) when I should have just kept painting.

Bloom n Grow Gal (@bloomngrowgal)

Bloom n Grow Gal painting in the BOXed Quarter to close out 2021

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

A huge influence on me this year would have to be the Green Lane community. I was so lucky that this was the first group of people I met when I came to Ōtautahi. Hanging out and drawing during the markets inspired me to start my pop-up art shows. Something I had enjoyed doing at university, I then had the opportunity and support to start it again here! I’ve made some truly amazing friends, found my creative drive and flare thanks to these guys. There will always be a big spot in my heart for Green Lane.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I have been so incredibly lucky to work and meet with extremely talented artists this year. To just pick one is hard! I have really loved what Harry King has been doing. I only met him and discovered his work this year at one of the Art Walls shows at The Welder. King did a series of four paintings for the show, one in particular really caught my eye. I honestly think my Grizzly’s bread intake increased over the period of time King’s work featured there. I had to get it, the painting of the cowgirl now hangs in my room, alongside a load of other epic pieces of work I have collected this year. King is also an amazing tattoo artist at Absolution in the Art Centre. I’ve loved seeing him develop this art of his work too.

One of Harry King’s works from Art Walls at The Welder, 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

These are the hardest questions ever, so mean! Haha… it’s so hard to just pick one. I think it’s going to have to be the three shows I put on this year, More the Show, PB n Jam the Show & Even More the Show (I know that’s technically three, I loved them all equally and can’t pick) All those emails, all the organising, all the art hanging into the early hours of the next day. Working and discovering all these incredible people in Ōtautahi. As well as having made some amazing friendships through the process I have an incredibly amazing art wall now at home full of pieces I have brought from the shows. It also really pushed me to discover something I was really passionate about.

Even More the Show at Clubhouse Creative, one of three shows Bloom n Grow Gal opened in 2021…

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I would change being on my phone just as much as I have been this year…even the past two years. Ever since this global pandemic started I have realised my screen time has increased by an embarrassing amount. I noticed after doing this my mood would be low and my desire to create minimal. Although I feel like some of my work produced was slightly fuelled by the pandemic, I definitely want to go into 2022 with less screen time… Live Laugh Love and all that.

Ikarus (@highdoctornick)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

I don’t know if I’m heavily influenced by outside factors tbh. I try to just do what I do. My crew, DTR, inspire me n so do the super active graffiti guys

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Ghostcat has definitely been on his grind, seeing his energy towards pursuing art full time is infectious and it’s hard not to love the builds he does. Vesal FOK owned the streets in Christchurch this year, hands down nobody put in more work than him.

Vesal was one of Ikarus’ favourites for 2021

The big TMD show up north looked awesome too. Special mentions to Race n Hoaks from A2D crew, they aren’t Christchurch guys but the work I’ve seen of theirs is super cool n I’ve definitely been interested in seeing what those guys come up with week to week.

The TMD crew roll call from the TMD: An Aotearoa Graffiti Story at the Dowse Gallery in Lower Hutt

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

It’s hard to beat South Sea Spray, even though that was all the way at the start of the year. Everything about it was just too next level. Also organising the wall n line up for the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit n getting a nice line up of different generations of Christchurch graffiti guys together.

The DTR Crew collab at South Sea Spray in early 2021, featuring Yikes, Dcypher and Ikarus [photo supplied by Brian ‘Rowee’ Rowe]
What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

The mandate. Fuck that shit. I’m not against vaccines but I am against the way this whole shit is unravelling.

Jacob Yikes (@jacobyikes)

A Pool Full of Deep Ends, a new work from Jacob Yikes in 2021

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

I’m not really sure to be honest, the last 2 years have been pretty chaotic and I’ve yet to really reflect on all of it but yeah, I struggle to narrow it down as I think everything good and bad influences everything I do in terms of my art.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I think I would have to say that Ghostcat takes the prize for that one this year, he’s on another level with his miniature works, some really impressive stuff for sure.

Ghostcat’s Volcano and Lava Bar build from Shadowtown [Photo credit Charlie Rose Creative]
What would you say has been your personal highlight?

In terms of personal highlights relating to painting I would say that some of the projects that myself and my crew have been a part of this year have been a lot of fun and we have some pretty rad projects lined up for early 2022 And yeah another would be the fact that I’m nearing completion on a large body of work that I have been working on for the last few years and I’m pretty excited to exhibit those paintings middle of next year.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Haha, I’m not sure if I would change anything. That probably seems kind of weird and yeah obviously Covid is a pain, but yeah, I’m not one to get strung out on shit I can’t change

Jonny Waters (@jonnywatersart)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Finding someone I truly love and adore. Art wise – Probably shedding a few more layers of caring about what others think about what I make and abstraction.

DOOR/SCOPE was part of Jonny Water’s push into abstraction in 2021

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Vesil, OXY and the FOK crew & Fiasko

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Producing Ōtepoti Hip-Hop Hustle and organising another banger Graff Jam for Ombrellos in Dunedin.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Painted more with the TiC homies.

Jenna Ingram (@jen_heads)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

The people. The Christchurch crews – music, art, hospo, retail. We are very lucky here! Some are artists I’ve admired and looked up to since 2006/7 and now work with, some I am now great friends with, some who have inspired me and some who have helped me out a lot. Some are amazing Fiksate supporters that we are honored to know and call friends too. It’s all about the people for me.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Lots of great art this year. Ghostcat. Jessie Rawcliffe. SlapCity Crew. Misery. Jess Johnson. Dr. Suits. Chimp. Askew One. Jasmine Gonzalez. Pener. The Dreamgirls (Xoë Hall, Gina Keil, Miriama Grace-Smith). Studio Soph. Laurie Steer. The DTR Riverside mural is pretty outstanding!

Birds of a Feather, one of the works from Chimp’s show Social Woes at Fiksate in October 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight? 

Ghostcat‘s ‘Shadow Town’ exhibition, Askew One & Jasmine Gonzalez‘s ‘Continuum’ exhibition, Askew One‘s mural that Nath organised. Chimp‘s ‘Social Woes’ exhibition. Ghostcat’s miniature Fiksate Gallery. Dr. Suits and Porta completing an amazing mural for Graffiato in Taupo. Getting a kitten. 

Dr Suits and Porta add some detail to Dr Suits’ mural at Graffiato (Image via Graffiato Taupo Street Art)

What one thing would you have changed from 2021? 

Can’t change the past man! So nothing! What’s done is done. Learn from it and move on.

Jacob Root/Distranged Design (@distrangeddesign)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021? 

I think the way the world currently is has given me a greater influence to become the best version of myself, not only in art but in all areas of my life. But yeah, I think it’s pushed my work more because I want to constantly be creating and it puts me in my own wee world.

A Thorn in the Roses was released as a fundraiser for Movember by Distranged Design

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

In my opinion I’ve loved seeing the work Daniel Arsham has been creating, it’s all just so different and the collaborations he’s been a part of have been insane!

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

I think the collaborations I’ve done, and those I have also organized that are in the pipeline are my proudest moments, it makes this career even more fun when you can work with others and bounce off ideas with like-minded creatives.

United, a Distranged Design collaboration with Hannah Jensen (@hannahjensenart) from 2021

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I’d love to have been able to travel, but that wasn’t possible! I’ve got something cool planned next year which I can’t wait for though!

Meep (@kophie_loaf)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Probably living through heaps of major world events at once, haha! Also seeing how much online and social media has played a part during these times and making people nuts.

Meeps work confronted the issues facing us all through 2021

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I follow so many different areas of art, fashion, graffiti, fine art, illustration etc., so I can’t really pin-point anything. But I will say that I am so proud of my friend McChesney (@mkaartist) for finally getting a tattoo apprenticeship, she has wanted it for the longest time, and I am sooo happy for her, she’s going to be so famous one day.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Probably the anti-racism Stand Up Event I organised alongside The Conscious Club and getting to be a part of the Hip Hop Summit was a great way to end the year. I have also had a lot of opportunities this year that I am very grateful for.

Meep takes stock of her character for the Christchurch Hip Hop Summit graffiti event

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I have had a lot of ups and downs the past 2 years, losing two of my family members and dealing with heaps of other life stuff while simultaneously living through huge world events. It’s been the hardest couple years of my life, so it can only go up from here hopefully! Haha!

Harry King (@atribecalledhaz)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Liv O’Callaghan (@livocallaghan) – she’s taken me under her wing and is showing me the ropes of the tattoo ship.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I’d have to say Josh Bradshaw’s barbed wire roses for the last Art Walls of the year.

Josh Bradshaw’s tiny roses made from recovered barbed wire were some of Harry King’s favourite pieces from 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Starting my tattoo apprenticeship.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

More Memphis Meltdowns!

Josh Bradshaw (@joshbradshaw_art_)

Photo credit: Mitch Barnard

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Biggest influence on me in 2021 has been my new job that I started working at in April. They have all sorts of woodworking machinery, laser cutters, sand blasting and metal engraving machines as well as a spray booth. It’s basically a McDonald’s playground for anyone that likes to make stuff. Being able to use all the gear for my own artwork unlocks a whole other realm of works that weren’t possible for me before.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Not me that’s for damn sure. Probs some random person overseas that has been shadow banned by the Zuck man on Instagram for no reason so that no one even sees their work anymore anyway.  But Levi Hawken and Dr Suits are steady favourites of mine locally speaking.

One of Levi Hawken’s concrete casts. Hawken is a favourite of Josh Bradshaw.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

A personal highlight was finally making my little barbed wire rose series (I picked a dozen but not for you) that I thought of ages ago but couldn’t get around to making it for most of the year. Felt good to not have that idea in my brain anymore. Also bought myself a sick old book press which is cool.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I dunno, maybe something about not making NFT’s trendy/ a hype beast, wait in line for an ugly cartoon of a monkey that matches your limited edition dunks so you can get into a club in Hollywood type of deal this year. It’s just not it.

Sofiya Romanenko (@chchasti)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

The Instagram’s tight grip on me has been as strong as ever this year, but in a far more productive way than before. I love to hate it and hate to love it, the broken window into the world of great talent from all of the corners of the world the tendrils of the internet can reach, which inspires me to degrade my artistic abilities on the daily, whilst simultaneously lighting enough fire under my ass to produce my own work.

Another thing, the influence of which this year cannot be understated, is skateboarding. Delving into the thick of it and finding how closely it is intertwined with everything I loved for years made it feel like I found the missing link between my long line of interests and helped me gain a whole new perspective on them, contributing greatly to my work.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I feel that with me being very new to the art scene I’m just barely scratching the surface of what this country has to offer, especially given a bit of stagnancy brought upon us all due to the pandemic, but among the many local artists I’ve been following this year my two favourites are: Miiekes, whose wild trash art lies near and dear to my rotten heart – I’ve been a fan of pretty much every piece she put out in 2021; and Cammy (@__cammy_h__), whose photography evokes just the right level of discomfort in its lonesome stillness – something I very much enjoy to channel through my own art as well.

Image from @__cammy_h__

Among foreign names I can mention Jerry Hsu, Trevor Hernandez, Kludge, Jason Gringler, and pretty much everyone in the post_vandalism Instagram account.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

It’s pretty tough to pin-point a particular highlight in a year that has become my life’s highlight in itself. I’ve gone through a lot of exciting and important changes in 2021, which finally made me feel like I’m exactly where I need to be, but I guess the common thread among all of these changes is finding the path to “myself”. Or rather, whatever I want this mysterious self to be.

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

The only change I would’ve made is started taking antidepressants sooner – could’ve saved myself a lot of miserable days.

 

Lost Boy (@lostboy_chch)

Image from @lostboy_chch

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

In one word the biggest influence on me in 2021 has been: Life. My normal everyday life that occurs between wake and sleep. The people I meet, things I do, words I speak. Sometimes ideas enter into my mind and swim. I try to fish them, but can only catch so much in a day.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I have found throughout 2021 the works by the following humans have caused interest to pique in my mushy ape brain: JR, Banksy, beeple, Ron Hauge.

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Personal highlight of this year… Becoming a regular member of SlapCity. Having a space to come together and splurge onto paper, stickers, and anything else, this is good. Creativity is shared by osmosis in them.

The Slap City crew on a mission. Image from @slapcity_chch

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

Throughout 2021 I should have had more fruit.

Phew. The questions have been answered. Made my brain whirl for a while, now its stopped. I can finally rest.

Mark Catley (@mark_catley)

Bloom n Grow Gal and Mark Catley’s Three-Eyed Freaky Girl

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

Covid and my little one, Alba. I had a lot of ideas and WIP’s this year, but with the whole Covid cloud over everything I’ve really just felt drained. So I’ve just tried to hang out with my 2 year old Alba and enjoy life.

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

I really love Askew One’s Innovate mural. It’s the most different thing I’ve seen around the streets this year. But everyone’s work is just getting better and better. All the new 3D / 2D art works are super cool and even my mum likes them, lol. I’m also amazed by the talent of Jessie Rawcliffe.

Askews Innovate mural at ARA

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

I had a lot of fun working with Rollickin Gelato at the start of the year…and it’s cool to see giant action figures up on the walls inside a shop.

Mark Catleys Wampa at Rollickin Gelato, one of several paste-up additions he made to the beloved gelato store

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

That Covid was gone for good… and that I could get my head around NFT’s and start selling them for bitcoin.

Bols (@bolsamatic)

What has had the biggest influence on you in 2021?

There have been a few key influences this year, even if I take the obvious pandemic-sized elephant out of the room. Getting older and taking on certain responsibilities as a father and a partner has been a big thing. There have also been so many people who have been influential, spending time with talented artists and rad folks has been undeniably impactful…

Who do you think has been making the most interesting art this year?

Seeing Askew One paint his mural at ARA and working with Benjamin Work when he painted the floor work at the Canterbury Museum were highlights in terms of process and conceptualisation. Locally, Ghostcat has had an amazing year, the guy is always buzzing with ideas and to top it off he is just one of the best humans alive!

Ghostcat and Bols Soggy City Ciggies from mid 2021

What would you say has been your personal highlight?

Working on the Paste-Up Project and seeing the first installation by teethlikescrewdrivers was awesome, working on Benjamin‘s project was a highlight as well, observing someone I have admired for a long time in a celebrated location was pretty neat. The TMD show at the Dowse was phenomenal (writing a review of the show for Art New Zealand was fantastic as well). In terms of my own art, it is fresh, but I really liked the piece I painted at the Boxed Quarter right at the end of the year.

The floor-to-wall mural has become a striking element inside the Museum, while also adding a range of fascinating discourses.
Benjamin Works Motutapu II inside the Canterbury Museum

What one thing would you have changed from 2021?

I would have liked it to have felt longer, which sounds strange in hindsight, but the reality is that so much of the year was lost that it almost seems like we deserve some extra time…

Thanks to all the artists who contributed to this recap – as a city with so much talent, 2022 is sure to be exciting! Let us know what you loved from 2021 and what you are looking forward to in 2022 in the comments!

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Postcard from Bluff – South Sea Spray edition with Brian ‘Rowee’ Rowe

Back in February, South Sea Spray saw a collection of Aotearoa’s finest urban artists congregate in Bluff. As one might expect, the outcome was an array of stunning works produced around the Southern town. We were lucky enough to get our hands on pictures courtesy of photographer Brian ‘Rowee’ Rowe, with permission from the festival organisers – so, in case you can’t make it down to the glorious South, here is our latest postcard…

for more about South Sea Spray, including future festival information, follow them on Facebook and Instagram

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Street Treats, Vol. 3

The concept behind the Street Treats series is to reflect the diverse expressions on the walls of the city beyond the large scale permissioned murals, reaching into the traditions of urban art culture’s roots as a subversive, rebellious and independent art movement. Of course, it gets tiresome to use terms like rebellious for an artistic culture that is thoroughly mainstream now, but it is important to remember the potential of these types of expressions as both visual messages and tactical invasions of our heavily designed environments. Commentators (often those attempting to defend the ‘art world’ by dismissing street art, as if they are actually in competition) can often charge street art with a vacuity, and as such a lack of conceptual heft and valid commentary. However, the point is as much about the manner of expression as the content – the act is the message. There are of course exceptions, explicitly political messages that favour bludgeoning bluntness over sophisticated subtlety. The reason for such a decision is another aspect of street art’s aesthetic – the audience must be commandeered – they are not arriving inside a white cube with an idea they will be confronted, but instead engaged in their daily activities, necessitating an immediacy. Of course, in this type of situation, even a lack of message can impact a viewer, by simply adding an air of uncertainty and inquisitiveness to a stroll through a city. To that end, the selections in this volume run from wide-ranging political commentaries to nostalgic popular culture references, and importantly, the intervention into our surrounding environments, making use of the spaces and fixtures that we often take for granted, revealing the potential for transformation…

Don’t forget to share your own pictures from the streets by tagging us in your social media posts with #watchthisspace or #streettreats…

 

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And That Was… October 2020

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

DTR Re-Paint the Giant Cans

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

The Beths

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

Slap City Crew Get Paste-y

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

Dcypher, Yikes and OiYOU! Go Big!

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

Bols’ Retro Wrestlers

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

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

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Street Lights – The Street Art Lighting Project

It seems like an age ago that we were introduced to Brendan Stafford and Greg Dirkzwager from local sustainable tech company Gen Green. The guys from Gen Green had the idea of lighting up some of Christchurch’s beloved street art murals using sustainable solar lighting, not only exposing the art in a (literal) new light, but also activating spaces in the city that often feel dead after dark. When they asked Watch This Space to help them realise the project, we were excited to join forces…

While such a plan seems straightforward enough, the reality is more challenging (even more so when you throw in a global pandemic). The first step was to select the works, looking at those pieces that would be practical and impactful, a difficult task in a city with so much urban art to choose from! We narrowed down the list to ten murals, although as time passed that list changed. The works formed a sort of trail to wander, spanning a section of the central city.

The next phase was to consider how to light the works, both from a design standpoint and more practically in terms of installation. Our imperative was always to ensure the works were not altered, the lighting instead simply highlighting or echoing the existing visual effects of the works. While the lights and charging panels are relatively small, finding solutions to avoid detracting from the works and to ensure safe and secure application was an important task. This was were Guy Archibald and George Clifford and the team at Living Space Group, a local contracting company, joined the project, contributing their skills to ensure all the requirements around installation were met.

With the lights installed, ten works of street art are now illuminated, creating an urban loop to explore the city, and just in time for the summer sun to play its part! And even if we do say so ourselves, they are looking pretty amazing!

Locate the lit up murals on the map below, and for more about each work, click onto our online map:

  1. Kevin Ledo’s Whero O Te Rangi Bailey on the Crowne Plaza, 764 Colombo Street
  2.  Berst’s Sea Monsters on the Isaac Theatre Royal, 143 Gloucester Street
  3.  Askew’s Kristen at 160 Gloucester Street
  4.  Rone on the Quest Hotel in Cathedral Square (107 Worcester Street)
  5.  Cracked Ink, Spark Square, 91 Hereford Street
  6.  Numskull’s I Always Knew You Would Come Back, 605 Colombo Street
  7.  Jacob Yikes’ Alice in Videoland on Alice Cinema, 209 Tuam Street 
  8.  Dcypher’s Kodak mural in Collett’s Lane, SALT Square (between Tuam Street and St Asaph Street)
  9.  Elliot Francis Stewart’s Peering Out, 173 Madras Street
  10.  Erika Pearce on Goose’s Screen Design, 10 Allen Street

Thanks to Gen Green, Living Space Group and the Christchurch City Council’s Enliven Spaces Fund for bringing this project to life!

 

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Tributes to a King – R.I.P Jungle (Part Two)

Our tribute to Christchurch graffiti legend Jungle continues here in Tributes to a King – R.I.P Jungle (Part Two). In our discussion with Jungle’s friend and DTR crewmate Ikarus, we continue to dive into what made Jungle the figure he is in the local scene and what he would think of the many tributes that have been painted. We also hear more from those influenced by Jungle over many years…

In case you haven’t, please read Part One here…

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I remember Jungle’s roll call in the alleyway space in Rise, you guys made it clear to people not to paint over that, which highlighted his importance to local graffiti history. I also remember the opening night of Spectrum in 2015, walking from the YMCA to the afterparty and Jungle standing next to Tilt and looking at the piece Tilt and Tober had painted on the old Police station, just buzzing on it, and there was a sense of respect on Tilt’s part for Jungle, like real respecting real. Having him be part of those things must have added an authenticity for you…

Jungle's THC roll call in the Rise exhibition alleyway space curated by Wongi and Ikarus in 2013. (Photo provided by Dcypher)
Jungle’s THC roll call in the Rise exhibition alleyway space curated by Wongi and Ikarus in 2013. (Photo provided by Dcypher)

Ikarus: Yeah, one hundred per cent. He had an unbridled enthusiasm about shit. If he was enthusiastic about something, you would feel the love for it. He was never too cool for the room, never too aloof to just be like, that shit is amazing! When we started painting for Rise in the Canterbury Museum, that was one of the most fun days ever. The theme of that alleyway, in a nutshell, was a visual timeline of Christchurch graffiti, but instead of being linear, it went over itself like graffiti would. So, the first layers were pre-tagging stuff like band slogans, political sayings or toilet graffiti, and then after that was the era of tagging. Getting Jungle and Lurq and a couple of the other old school dudes to go nuts and tag up the museum was crazy. I never thought we’d be able to paint in the museum and if we did, it would have to be top-notch stuff. Wongi and I did end up doing a big production, but the fact that we had this whole concept and we got to involve a shitload of the Christchurch graffiti scene, from the active kids all the way back to the originators, was amazing. Having Jungle bust out the roll calls and do a bunch of tags and stuff was fucking cool, there’s dudes in that roll call who are in their forties now, some were gangster teenagers, some are gangster adults, and they were in the museum grinning and cracking up, saying ‘what the fuck are our names doing in this museum!’ Nobody saw any of this coming back when we all started out, so that was a fucking awesome day.

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“I feel bad for visiting painters coming to Christchurch they will not experience the unofficial Jungle powhiri.” – Fiasko

“When you would talk to him, he had the coolest vibe. that natural way that made you feel good about yourself. He would shake your hand way too tight while he was doing it though.” – Jay Roacher/Wyns

“I remember a few years back now, Freak and Ikarus painted the open black book [wall] in the city and Jungle did a charo. He was walking around all the homies with his cell phone and was so buzzed out by the Sofles clip [Limitless]. He was the first person to ever tell me about Sofles…” – Omes

“He was just always happy for you, without a doubt, he was always stoked as shit for people, he loved to be there, and he expressed himself so freely and fluidly, no shame or anything, just whatever he had to say, he would say it, you know not in in any aggressive way, or negative way, he’d just say it…” – Freak

“He would always be stoked for you, or to see things, [he would be] mad enthusiastic and shit, [he] expressed himself heavily, from the hand crushing handshakes to the air crushing bearhugs…”  – Freak

“The one thing I will remember him by was that infectious smile, he was always stoked to see a bro.” – Flex

“He used to tell me how much he loved my song ‘ChCh Chillin’ whenever I would bump into him. I can’t remember how I found out, Ikarus probably messaged me and told me that Jungle had got ‘ChCh Chillin’ tattooed on his arm, but I clearly remember the next time I saw him and he showed me, large as fuck on his arm! That shit blew my mind then, and still does now. It’s one of the fondest memories I have from rap music.” – Jay Roacher/Wyns 

The 'Black Book' production co-ordinated by Ikarus and Freak for Rise in 2013. Located on the corner of Colombo and Hereford Streets, the wall featured the work of a number of artists, including Jungle's character and piece at the bottom centre.
The ‘Black Book’ production co-ordinated by Ikarus and Freak for Rise in 2013. Located on the corner of Colombo and Hereford Streets, the wall featured the work of a number of artists, including Jungle’s character and piece at the bottom centre.

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Last year Dcypher said that Jungle is a good example of someone embodying their graffiti. There was obviously the iconic Jungle character, but I think Dcypher’s sentiment was as much about his style as well. Do you think he grasped that concept of how graffiti isn’t just an identity, it’s also an embodiment of that identity…

Ikarus: Yeah, but I think without any self-awareness. The reason he embodies the spirit of graffiti is because it was all coming from a pure place, where you do graffiti for the love of graffiti. I’ve said so many times that vandalism and bombing is the realest form of graffiti because there’s no fucking positive, there’s no good side. The only thing you can hope to get out of it is the admiration and respect of a bunch of other dirtbags, and I say that with the utmost respect. I definitely think Jungle embodied that, but I don’t think he ever really picked it apart. Guys like us, we pick it apart, intellectualize it and look at the motives and the reasoning and what makes something iconic and successful. I’ve thought a lot about the idea of keeping things really simple, having things that are easily identifiable as your own, whether it’s your style, an iconic image or logo or symbol, but I don’t think that’s something he ever would have put a crazy amount of thought into. I think he was just like; ‘I love writing my name’.

He was always drawing his characters, from the time I met him to the day he passed. It was just a straight up need inside to draw and express those things. I’ve had to intellectualize and think about graffiti a lot, why I do it, my motives for it, the line between painting what I want to paint and doing what I want to do, and actually being an adult and turning it into a viable option for the future and something to make money from, which is a big conflict for me, because my original reasons and love for graffiti clash with that really hard. I think Jungle never really had to compromise that. With all the things we tried to get him involved in, he would be like: ‘Nah I don’t want to do it, it’s too stressful to try and keep up with you guys.’

So, I think all the things he ever did were purely for the love. He just did it because he wanted to, he wouldn’t paint for a bunch of time and then suddenly, he’s gone and painted a character in like a super visible spot in the city. It would just be random spurts where he’d go out and just paint a bunch of stuff and I don’t think it was to get fame like the graffiti junkies out bombing every night to be seen. I really feel like he just did this because he wanted to do it, not super concerned who sees it, who thinks it’s dope or who thinks this and that. He was a dude that was pretty comfortable in who he was, what he was about and the people that were around him and I don’t think a lot of that extra bullshit ever really became a factor for him.

A 'Jungle Juice' character by Jungle from the mid-2000s. (Photo supplied by Dcypher)
A ‘Jungle Juice’ character by Jungle from the mid-2000s. (Photo supplied by Dcypher)

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“Everybody embodies their graffiti, it’s impossible not to, [but] it’s almost like all of his characters were him, but in his mind I don’t think [he thought] they were. I’m not 100% sure about that, but you could just tell it was a Jungle character because it looked like he was standing there looking at you, this mean mug, hard looking motherfucker, just everything that he did had this, yeah that’s fucking Jungle for sure [quality]…” – Dcypher

A Jungle character homage, painted on the giant cans on Lichfield Street, 2019.
A Jungle character homage, painted on the giant cans on Lichfield Street, 2019.

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I guess that’s what made him such a revered figure in some ways, right? That compromise confronts so many people now, so those who avoid it, or stay true to the pure form of the culture, are respected…

 Ikarus: He painted a bunch of canvases and found objects, a bunch of different stuff, but never tried to sell them. He was never involved in any of our exhibitions. We were like, you have dope shit, put it in the exhibition, make some money! I think that’s one of the reasons that he never had to compromise, because he never tried to monetize what he was doing, he just did it. If you said something was dope and you wanted to buy it, he would just give it to you because you fucking liked it. I don’t think it ever became about money for him.

He was a cool looking dude, and then you met him, and he was a fucking cool guy. I think a lot of people expected him not to be, but he’s like the nicest guy in our crew, the truest heart. But yeah, he was uncompromising. When you haven’t made those compromises, you don’t get jaded. That’s not to say he didn’t have a jaded edge or depressed side to his personality. A lot of the work that he did was quite emotionally expressive. I didn’t necessarily even think of it because that’s just sort of the attitude we had, but when I look back at some of it, it just looks more grave now. There was an era where we would just write ‘deadbeats’ and ‘dirtbags’ and ‘trash’ and all that sort of stuff. Now it seems like a really negative headspace, but it never seemed like that it in person, it was just because we were broke depressed kids with a self-deprecating sense of humor. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal, but now, I’m like, how much of that is a window into a mind state?

A Jungle tribute by Ikarus, Southshore, Christchurch, 2019. (Photo supplied by Ikarus)
A Jungle tribute by Ikarus, Southshore, Christchurch, 2019. (Photo supplied by Ikarus)

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“I thought it was over for Jungle and his graffiti. Then around mid-2000, Ikarus and I took him out to bomb some trucks and this is when I think he painted his first filled graffiti. He started drawing and painting a lot. He had such a natural style. It was easy for him. The thing is, he was only ever putting in 25% effort.” – Fiasko

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Did you ever talk to him about the post-quake scene in the city? What did he make of the younger generation and did he take interest in that?

Ikarus: Yeah of course man, of course. All of us are always interested, that’s the thing, there’s no disconnect from being involved in commercial work and doing big stuff for festivals and that sort of stuff. My heart at the end of the day is still firmly tied to the streets. There is a bunch of dudes I talk to now that are like I can’t wait to do this, and I’m just like enjoy the shit you do! That’s one of the reasons I think the younger generations identified with Jungle because he was a dude that was out there still doing tags in the street, still doing characters, not monetizing it. Once money gets involved people’s opinion of where and when or why or what motivates you to do graffiti changes. But he was always interested in the new dudes. We are always looking at the streets and when we catch up, he would be: ‘What about this kid?’ ‘Do we know this guy?’ ‘Who is this kid?’ ‘This kid’s up a crazy amount’… So yeah, he was always watching.

Sewer's Otautahi piece paid tribute to the city, those lost in the March 2019 Terror Attacks and Jungle.
Sewer’s Otautahi piece paid tribute to the city, those lost in the March 2019 Terror Attacks and Jungle.

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“Being a younger writer, I only became aware of who Jungle was and his influence as a teenager looking at photos and learning about our local history. But I remember his work, particularly his characters, catching my eye when I was a child. Seeing that stuff as a young person played a role in making me want to get involved with graffiti.” – PK (TBE)

“Jungle’s influence didn’t have a direct impact on me in the sense that I wasn’t around when he had the city crushed with tags. [Pre-quake] I think I can recall a few of those characters he painted standing out and a piece of his, I think on Bedford Street, although I had no clue who it was at the time, and at that age I never really paid much attention. I think [his] main impact has been indirect. He influenced people around him, who in turn influenced the people below them and so on, until it reached myself and the people I grew up with, a trickle-down effect, I guess. Of course, as I became more involved in graff, I became more aware of who he was and how much of a pivotal and influential person he was to the scene.” – Vesil (FOK, TBE)

A 2019 tribute to Jungle by Vesil in the popular Hereford Street space.
A 2019 tribute to Jungle by Vesil in the popular Hereford Street space.

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Even if it wasn’t a mentor role in the more hands-on way you guys do with workshops or the Black Book Sessions, was he the sort of guy to have conversations with or give advice to younger writers? Or was he just interested in what was going on?

Ikarus: I can’t say how much he was talking to some of these new writers in the last few years, but it’s not like he was a stand-offish guy at all, if people approached him to talk to him, he would have talked to them. I’m a bit of an old man about things now because I’ve done so much mentoring stuff, I definitely talk to some of these young dudes and I’ll be like, this part may not be good for you, or if there’s disagreements between some of the young dudes I’ll try and work that shit out because I know we’re all just trying to do our thing at the end of the day. But I think with Jungle it was more lead by example. I think even if he wasn’t saying anything to you, he was the kind of guy you would watch. His magnetic personality drew people to him.

After Leon passed, I got a message from a dude who now is in his thirties. He shared a memory from back in the early 2000s, when he was a teenager, we’d all been at this wild party in the hood. This kid and his friend had to walk home. We asked them where they were going and they said back to Waltham. Jungle was like, you two can’t fucking wander through the hood, you’re going to get jacked before you even get down the road, you guys just have to come to our house. I think we were flatting together at the time and we made them stay with us so that they wouldn’t just wander out in the hood and get jacked. I don’t remember it, but when he told me about it, I was like, well that sounds like something Leon would do. So, little things like that, not even necessarily any big life changing moments where Jungle would have sat a dude down and said look this is where you’re headed, because I think he would have felt that was corny and it was out of his jurisdiction to sit down and tell someone how they should do things. But he was just a dude that led by example and that little act of kindness was a big deal to that guy as a kid, he said it was really cool that these two dudes looked out for a couple of little tagger kids.

A Jungle tribute, Hereford Street, 2019.
A Jungle tribute, Hereford Street, 2019.

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“At the time, no we didn’t [think about influencing the next generations]. In hindsight… I’m quite surprised at how many different people were influenced by what we [had] done. [I]t’s awesome to see, especially with the progression of what [DTR] are doing. Legal pieces, [I] never thought that would happen…” – BlackE

“I didn’t really ask for advice in the traditional way, we would just be talking, conversating about things and I’d bring things up and he’d give me his perspective on it or what he thought about it, and I don’t know if he knew, but I’d just go off and do what he said or I’d take it on board and apply it in some way…” – Kurs/Horra

“He never treated me like he was above me or like it was some sort of a mentor thing. We were just mates, he liked me because at the time I was just the young gunner and [if] people fucked with me, I wouldn’t just cap them out, I’d fucking go knocking on their front doors, or would start burning their letter boxes, or tag on the front of their houses, you know, he loved that shit…” – Kurs/Horra

“I don’t know if he knew that he had influence on the people, the Jungle I knew he was just all about hanging out with the cuzzies, hanging out with the close ones, you know, the day ones. I’m not going to try and speak for him, but I just feel that he’d be like, meh, fuck, whatever you’re a bundy, what are you up to cuzzies? Because that’s the way he was, before he was a tagger, he was a Crip.” – Kurs/Horra

A TS crew tribute to Jungle, Wellington, 2019. (Photo supplied by Ikarus)
A TS crew tribute to Jungle, Wellington, 2019. (Photo supplied by Ikarus)

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Nothing exemplifies Jungle’s influence on Christchurch graffiti culture more than the number of tributes painted on walls around the city, from small tags to pieces and productions. Were you surprised though at how widespread those tributes were?

Ikarus: No, not really. I think he would have been pretty blown away by it, especially the different level of tributes, not just murals, but with younger dudes, probably some who didn’t even know him, painting as well. I mean there’s probably a certain amount of it being a little trending episode in Christchurch graffiti, catching a bit of clout for doing some RIP Jungle tags, but the fact is so many people over all these generations had been influenced by him in such a number of different ways, whether it’s tagging, graffiti, characters or just his general personality…

A tag paying tribute to Jungle in Christchurch, 2019.
A tag paying tribute to Jungle in Christchurch, 2019.
RIP Jungle graffiti, central Christchurch, 2019.
RIP Jungle graffiti, central Christchurch, 2019.

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“Leon would be both shocked and honoured with all the tributes. He always would say how proud [he was about how] graf has evolved… And he always showed gratitude for being a part of it.” – BlackE

“He’d be blown away… to just see that amount of love, because I don’t think the cuzzie felt loved outside of his tight ones. I get all emotional when I see it. [I]t’s like that fucking legendary shit, like that is what they did when Tupac or Biggie or Nipsey or some famous hip hop dude died, started doing murals of them, so he’d be rapt.”  – Kurs/Horra

“I think all the tributes are awesome and even young guys from younger generations have painted pieces for him, and he totally deserves that respect from everyone in this game.” – Lurq

“He would be stoked for sure [about all the tributes], but he was so humble that I feel like he’d probably be like, nah, you don’t need to go to that trouble! I wasn’t at his funeral but that said a lot about the culture that he was in and the amount of people that had the utmost respect for the dude, and that respect goes way beyond just him as a person in a lot of ways, it’s kind of like he really has become this crazy legend now, people would tell stories about him…” – Dcypher

“All the smaller [memorials and tributes] are just as important too, it’s just that sign of respect for somebody who birthed a lot of people’s styles and his influence, it’s a fitting way to show appreciation. Even though he didn’t paint in those last years of his life, it doesn’t matter, it didn’t take away from [the] status he had…” – Yikes

A Jungle tribute, Hereford Street, 2020
A Jungle tribute, Hereford Street, 2020

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Out of all those tributes, do you have a favorite?

Ikarus: Totally, one of my favorites was by our friend Kalis from DMN TNC crew in Auckland, he was in Chile at the time and he painted a beachside spot with a Jungle piece, so the far-reaching aspect of that is super dope. That one would blow Leon away, he would have been like, fuck yeah, this big dope big blue Jungle piece in the middle of Chile by the beach somewhere! I know when a few of his family saw that, they commented on how cool it was. Another friend of ours, Phome, an Aucklander who lives in New York, he just rocked a RIP Jungle tag on the street somewhere, he’s not involved in graffiti so much anymore, but he went out and did that. There were some of the freights and trains that Sewer painted, and some dope tributes including stylized versions of Jungle’s characters by Weks, there were crews around New Zealand, like Triple S crew all rocking a bunch of Jungle pieces and some hip-hop style characters representing Jungle, the TMD guys up in Auckland doing a tribute, those are some that stand out off the top of my head. There were a few internationally well-known dudes that did pieces as well and that was super dope. I was randomly watching a Sofles Instagram Live video, he was just rocking a bunch of different tags on Procreate or something, I didn’t know it was about to happen, but as I was watching, a RIP Jungle and a couple of Jungle tags came up, so that shit was super cool.

Kalis tribute to Jungle, Chile, 2019.
Kalis tribute to Jungle, Chile, 2019. (Photo supplied by Ikarus)
Phomes tribute to Jungle in New York, 2019. Photo supplied by Ikarus)
Phomes tribute to Jungle in New York, 2019. (Photo supplied by Ikarus)
Solfes pays tribute to Jungle on an Instagram Live video, 2019. Photo supplied by Ikarus)
Solfes pays tribute to Jungle on an Instagram Live video, 2019. (Photo supplied by Ikarus)

The biggest single tribute is the production that the DTR crew painted to mark the anniversary of Jungle’s passing. Obviously, you guys had painted numerous tribute pieces prior to that, but that one was massive…

Ikarus: It’s just something we wanted to do as a crew. It was along the same lines as all the stuff we had been doing for the year prior. The general thinking was that we’re here, we’re still thinking about you, we’re still keeping your legacy alive. But on a more meaningful level, the anniversary was coming up and I know that members of his family all appreciate it and appreciate having that place to go. They actually met up there on the morning of the anniversary, they took a photo of twenty-odd members of the family in front of it before they actually went out to the Marae. We started it a couple of weeks before the anniversary and I made sure we had it all done before the actual date. It was obviously such a big life event for a lot of us, we wanted to involve all four of the full main members of the DTR crew, painting in our various styles, writing Jungle’s name, or Autism, which is another one of his aliases, and obviously the character portrait by Wongi and the portrait of his dog by Dcypher. It was really just the same mentality of the smaller productions we had painted, but on a grander scale to mark the passing of that period of time in our life and again, just also for that aspect of having somewhere for the family realizing and seeing Leon’s impact.

The massive DTR JUngle tribute, featuring pieces Jungle and Autism pieces, a portrait of Jungle by Wongi and Jungles dog by Dcypher, 2020.
The massive DTR JUngle tribute, featuring Jungle and Autism pieces, a portrait of Jungle by Wongi and Jungles dog by Dcypher, 2020. (Photo supplied by Wongi Wilson)

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More than anything, it was really cool to do [the tribute wall] for his family in that [monumental] scale and to the extent that we went with it. I’m pretty sure he would have been pretty hyped on it, having his face up on a wall that’s pretty damn realistic. That’s not obviously the first one that we did, [we] did one as a crew behind Embassy as well, that was sort of the start of it, [but] we always wanted to do something way bigger, it was always the plan for around the anniversary of his passing, so to do it, to be able to get it done around that time was really good, it was fitting. It was a big project to do but it was cool. But most importantly it was for his family.” – Yikes

Ikarus and Yikes, Jungle NHC tribute, Christchurch, 2019. Photo supplied by Ikarus)
Ikarus and Yikes, Jungle NHC tribute, Christchurch, 2019. (Photo supplied by Ikarus)

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What would he have made of it?

Ikarus: He would have been super emotional about it. When we did the Hereford Street Colombo corner, Wongi painted a stylized portrait of Jungle, with the house he grew up in incorporated into it, and that was a super big deal to Leon, it definitely meant a lot to him, so all this shit would have blown him away, he would have been super amazed…

A second incarnation of Ikarus and Freaks Black Book wall, featuring a huge Jungle portrait, c.2016
A second incarnation of Ikarus and Freaks Black Book wall, featuring a huge Jungle portrait, c.2015

He is a central element of a real lineage. It isn’t copied online, his legacy gives the city a real history of this culture before it became what it is now, which obviously is amazing, but slowly there’s a distance between the roots and what’s happening as well. It doesn’t have to be reframed through some positive lens to be impactful, the reason people like Jungle are important is because they represent a different approach…

Ikarus: As much as we already know his impact, there are a bunch of people that don’t. The hardest part for a bunch of people to grasp is the idea that a teenage kid, thirty years ago, running around with his friends getting drunk, smoking weed, writing their names on the back of buses and spraying their names on a bunch of public surfaces, is directly and indirectly responsible for, at least in our little section of the world, a large amount of what happens in the city now. Christchurch has got a crazy amount of street art and murals now. Graffiti evolves anyway so I’m not saying that it wouldn’t have been something, it probably would have existed anyway, but if you look at even the smaller towns around New Zealand as an example, some of them are years behind because they had to wait for the Internet to catch up, even Auckland and Wellington had a ten year head start on us, but that’s the coolest part of it all, basically, the murals, the memorials, the tagging, the vandalism, and the article itself, the discussions, people talking about it, it keeps the memory alive…

Junglism piece by Ikarus and a portrait of Jungle by Freak, Christchurch, 2020.
Junglism piece by Ikarus and a portrait of Jungle by Freak, Christchurch, 2020.

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“It is what it is, there’s no shit being shined, he is what he is because he was who he was…” – Yikes

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Based on everything that has happened, what would you say to Leon now?

Ikarus: I fucking told you! I told you fifteen years ago before most of this shit existed anyway! When it was still really graffiti, not necessarily with this big new age street art link and everything that has led to all of this, but even back then the influence that he had on straight up graffiti, and just straight up people, he wouldn’t acknowledge that at the time that I told him. People’s essence and spirit and energy is still with you in the universe, so, I would tell him: I fucking told you!

A Jungle tribute sticker on Sumner Road, 2020.
A Jungle tribute sticker on Sumner Road, 2020.

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“If I was to ever to have a brother in my life, Leon Nga Miraka Hopa Te Karu is my brother. Love Jungle 4evaaa haaarrdd!” BlackE

“Long Live Jungle” – Kurs

“R.I.P. King Jungle THC” – Lurq

“RIP Jungle, King of Kings” Flex

“R.I.P. to a King.” – Omes

“I’m not really sure of the extent of his influence, I’m out of the loop, but he had a massive impact on me and my friends and he has left a massive void in people’s lives, I’d say.” – Fiasko

“Much respect due to the humble king with an unforgettable personality, a true pioneer of Christchurch urban culture.” – 4Higher/Pest5

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Thank you to all who contributed to this piece in tribute to Jungle.

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