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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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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!

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

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

The wall gets underway…

Dcypher at work…

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

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

 

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And That Was… April 2021

April has come and gone and while the year moves at a steady pace, there has been plenty to keep us entertained. Although the weather is getting a little less predictable, it is providing a late flurry of sunshine (at least after the inevitable chilly mornings), extending the window for outdoor activities like painting murals! While there have been a number of new outdoor works to explore, there have also been some very cool things going on indoors as well. Exhibitions like Ghostcat’s Shadow Town at Fiksate Gallery and the Canterbury Museum’s Hakē: Street Art Revealed, have provided popular experiences. As always, we have a recap of what tickled our fancy, compiled as an easy-to-follow list! So, without further ado, here is our And That Was… April 2021

Ghost’s Shadow Town @ Fiksate

Ghostcat’s Shadow Town was packed for opening night… Photo credit: Charlie Rose Creative

Ghostcat’s Shadow Town was highly anticipated and the crowd that showed up for the opening night at Fiksate were not disappointed. The collection of miniatures drawn from Christchurch’s urban environment were hot tickets, with people drawn to the beautiful intricate details and the associated nostalgia. With just a few days left at the time of writing, if you haven’t made it to Shadow Town, hurry!

Benjamin Work @ The Canterbury Museum

Benjamin Work’s Motutapu II was produced for the Hakē: Street Art Revealed exhibition at the Canterbury Museum

When the Canterbury Museum were presented with a window to reveal the legacy works from the massively successful Rise exhibition, they also wanted to add a new work to the main exhibition hall. Enter Auckland artist Benjamin Work, whose massive, striking floor mural Motutapu II draws from the iconography  found on the Tongan ‘Akau Tau (war clubs) in the Museum’s collection. The work adds a new element to the surrounding wall paintings from Rise, highlighting the diverse trajectories of urban artists over the last decade.

TMD x DTR x Ysek X Chile One in New Brighton

A collaborative jam with members of TMD, DTR along with YSEK and Chile One in New Brighton

On a cold Saturday morning (the night after the Shadow Town opening), a heavyweight collection of artists got together in New Brighton for a painting jam. Local artists Dcypher and Ikarus of the DTR crew, Christchurch-based Chilean artists YSEK and Chile One, and Auckland’s Phat1, Diva and Dyle of the legendary TMD crew, freshened up a popular New Brighton wall with traditional graffiti pieces and characters, creating a legacy of the meeting of some of New Zealand’s biggest talent.

Charles Williams and Benjamin Work @ Etu Pasifika Health

The mural on the side of the Etu Pasifika Health Centre. painted by Charles Williams and Benjamin Work

In the wake of the launch of the TMD: An Aotearoa Graffiti Story at The Dowse in Lower Hutt, crew members Benjamin Work and Charles Williams arrived in Christchurch to paint a mural on the new Etu Pasifika Health Centre. The work combines the signature styles of the two artists with a design conceived by fellow TMD member Janine Williams. The background is coloured in a bright blue, black, yellow and white pattern, with Work’s Tongan warrior chief figure on the left couched within the architectural framework, while Williams’ depiction of a Red-tailed Tropicbird soars upwards from the bottom right. The harmonious combination of styles creating an impressive new work for Christchurch.

TMD: An Aotearoa Graffiti Story @ The Dowse

A straight letter roll-call on the wall of the flat recreated in the TMD exhibition at Lower Hutt museum The Dowse

It may not have been in Christchurch, but I couldn’t leave out my trip to Wellington for the opening of the TMD: An Aotearoa Graffiti Story at Lower Hutt’s The Dowse Museum. Combining history and installations that spoke to the culture and roots of New Zealand’s most iconic graffiti crew with a group show of crew members’ contemporary practice, the exhibition struck all the right chords. The additional benefits of seeing the crew members painting murals around Lower Hutt and then as part of a panel discussion topped off the weekend. I highly recommend – go see it!

And That Was… April 2021 – what would you add to the list? Comment below to let us know!

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And That Was… June 2020

And that’s half of 2020 gone already. Although lets be honest, this year has seen a fair amount of activity, some shitty, but others important and long overdue. This month’s collection acknowledges these struggles, as well as looking to the past, the future and art as a gateway to explore and consider more than our immediate preoccupations. From Askew One’s haunting risograph print with MK Press and Fiksate, to our tribute to graffiti legend Jungle and the countless voices he inspired as a rebellious actor in the local urban landscape, here are our favourite things from the month of June…

 Askew One x MK Press x Fiksate collab

Askew One signs his MK Press x Fiksate collab risograph prints. (Photo credit: Elliot O'Donnell)
Askew One signs his MK Press x Fiksate collab risograph prints. (Photo credit: Elliot O’Donnell)

The month started on a high with the release of Askew One’s limited edition print as part of the MK Press/Fiksate artist collab risograph print series. Following Dr Suits’ initial release, Askew’s striking red and black abstraction continued the popularity of the concept, selling out in just hours. The work embraces and explores the qualities of risograph printing, while continuing his digital studies drawn from urban environments. The result is a twisting, jagged image filled with a sense of terror and dread due to the blood-like tone. Setting a benchmark for the series, you wouldn’t really expect anything less from Aotearoa’s finest, would you?

Graffiti jam for the New Brighton Outdoor Art Festival

YSEK's rhino character from the New Brighton Outdoor Art Festival traditional graffiti wall.
YSEK’s rhino character from the New Brighton Outdoor Art Festival traditional graffiti wall.

The delayed and reconfigured NBOAF signed off with a traditional graffiti jam wall, with a number of local talents transforming a wall in the middle of New Brighton Mall. The green and magenta colour scheme tied the various pieces together, while individual styles and characters by YSEK and Dove ensured variety as well. The wall was intended to represent and celebrate traditional graffiti art, and as such was always going to draw criticism from some corners. The online discussion about the wall’s appearance was interesting to say the least, highlighting the ongoing and deeply held misconceptions and prejudices around graffiti, even when produced legally…

Jungle Tribute

A Jungle tribute sticker on Summit Road, February 2020.
A Jungle tribute sticker on Summit Road, February 2020.

When local graffiti legend Jungle passed away in March of 2019, Christchurch’s graffiti culture spoke by painting tributes across the city’s walls. I had discussed with Ikarus the idea of a larger written tribute that explored Jungle’s legacy, however, by the time we got to sit down with an eye on the one-year anniversary, lock down struck. In addition, what started as an interview with Ikarus, developed into a multi-generational project, stretching the process out. However, by June, the lengthy tribute was finally online. Hearing stories of Jungle’s influence, it was quickly apparent how consistent his impression was, a man who the city’s graffiti culture was indebted to, but also a character who influenced people by his charismatic personality…

Black Lives Matter Protest Posters

June's issue of Art Beat included an A4 risograph poster from the Posters for BLM archive. Pictured is Roydon Misseldine's poster.
June’s issue of Art Beat included an A4 risograph poster from the Posters for BLM archive. Pictured is Roydon Misseldine’s poster.

The latest issue of Art Beat, the visual arts newspaper edited by Dr Warren Feeney, featured an insert of A4 posters drawn from the shared archive Posters for BLM (@posters_for_blm). The three variations, by Stephen Powers, Sara Froese and local designer Roydon Misseldine, were risograph printed by MK Press and included inside the free paper. Importantly, the posters ensure visibility to the cause and serve as a reminder of the potential to raise a voice about oppressive systemic issues. While a small gesture, it attempts to continue this vital narrative. More posters are available for free download (for non-commercial use) from the archive, with a link in their Instagram bio.

Porta x FOLT Skull Collab

The FOLT x Porta skull collab in Cathedral Square.
The FOLT x Porta skull collab in Cathedral Square.

The collection of FOLT skull cut-outs continues to grow around the city (although many have disappeared as well, seemingly too attractive to collectors), and this subtle variation by Porta is a personal favourite. Porta’s recent investigation of pixelated video game aesthetics is utilised here, but with an understated approach, the granite colouring giving a bare concrete appearance that only reveals the highlights, shadows and blocky shapes upon closer inspection.

And that was June 2020, for me at least, let us know what you enjoyed over the month in the comments…

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