I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas and New Years! I’m still on holiday in South Otago but thought that I’d catch you up on my initial visit to my hometown of Christchurch. I’ve only been back to the city a couple of times since the 2011 quake, but it’s fantastic to see some great things happening down there. If you’re heading to Christchurch and haven’t seen it already, it’s worthwhile checking out RISE at The Canterbury Museum. The exhibition of street art is on until March and includes works from; UK’s Banksy, Australia’s Anthony Lister, Belgium’s ROA and New York-based Australian artist–Ian Strange A.K.A Kid Zoom.
Also in the mix are a number of New Zealand’s best street artists who are making names for themselves both here and abroad. Auckland’s Askew One has painted a large, striking image of a young woman’s face in a parking lot which we happened to see as we were driving around town (images of this feature in my next post). Other commissioned pieces by international and local artists are also located around the city. Beastman’s illustrative style has a definitive Pacifika feel, Wongi (Christchurch) specialises in photo-realism and characters, whilst Milton Springsteen’s ‘Corrupt Kiwi Classics’ includes a series of reworked iconic New Zealand paintings; one of his most popular works (below) was a take on Rita Angus’ ‘Cass,’ and we were informed by the Museum that the first 50 prints of the original painting sold out in the first 12-minutes of the exhibition’s opening.
I’ve been a long-time fan of street art. I love that gritty, bold form of expression that’s so raw and immediate as a means of communication. Large scale works are always impressive, but also more discreet works make themselves known when you least expect to find them.
As an exhibition, RISE offers engagement and surprise. It breaks down the barrier between high and low culture, offering viewers the opportunity to literally sit with the works, as if you’re hanging out in an urban street environment. Conversely, some works are placed in ‘staged’ domestic environments. Though the Banksy collection was perhaps used as a draw-card to attract visitors, I wasn’t overly moved by the collection of prints and ‘rare memorabilia’ and felt that this part of the exhibition made no real impact. I’d prefer to see Banksy’s work in-situ rather than in print form hanging on a wallpapered domestic set. The off-site work is definitely a highlight of the exhibition, and hopefully the works remain permanent. Another highlight was Ian Strange’s series of cinematic images entitled ‘Final Act.’ Here, the artist takes some of Christchurch’s abandoned, earthquake stricken homes and reconstructs them. Large cut-out holes let us see inside the homes from an ‘alien spaceship kind of perspective’ (at least in my mind). There’s something futuristic about the shots. One can’t help but feel in awe of the images which look digitally created. They are masterfully constructed, magical and intriguing; real homes have been staged and lit to create striking images which hint at the promise of a brighter future.
What’s exciting about exhibitions like this is that it gives profile to street art as an art form. New Zealand has been relatively slow off the mark in readily acknowledging its local talent in this area. It’s nice to finally see New Zealand street artists being brought into the fold to sit alongside their more traditional contemporaries, albeit, in a slightly more controlled setting. I even overheard a visitor remark how his toddler was acting all ‘cultured’ as he propped himself up against a graffiti background for an i-phone photo opportunity. Attitudes to street art are beginning to change, and rightly so. It’s also a bold move for The Canterbury Museum to open its doors to an exhibition such as this– it’s a positive breakthrough for Christchurch and its conservative identity. In fact, I was stunned that RISE was held at the museum — home to Christchurch’s rich colonial past. It is clear that it’s an exciting time for the city, and it says a lot about the direction that Christchurch is heading– open to new ideas and moving away from the staid traditions and roots of yesteryear.
More on Christchurch and my South Otago adventures to come…
Photography by Sonia and Howard Sly
Thanks for dropping by!