Christchurch & Canterbury
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Organic Matters, the work of Wellington-based artist Chimp, is one of the most striking features of Christchurch’s Justice and Emergency Services Precinct.
Given the history of street art and the law, did you think it ironic to be asked to paint on the side of the Justice and Emergency Services Precinct? Ha, yes, receiving the initial email was mildly concerning until I had taken in that it was about a potential commission. It was interesting talking to people while painting the mural, from people attending court, to police officers and lawyers and getting all their different perspectives on the project.
You seem to have a real thing for art featuring birds – can you tell us about that? Birds are so connected to our culture and Aotearoa, I think partially because they are our most notable life forms across the country other than us. Because of this they are a powerful subject to build a composition and artwork from.
What’s the significance of tūī and tītipounamu? I experimented with a few different species when creating concepts for Organic Matters but the tūī’s elegant elongated form complemented the long aspect ratio of the wall and its iridescent colours contrasted the rough concrete. I had never painted a tītipounamu prior to this, coming across the species while researching possible birds to include. The rounder form and more delicate feathers juxtaposed the tūī.
How did you get into creating street art? From making skateboard decks at about 13, I started painting graphics onto them. Lucky enough to have supportive parents, I started painting on the walls of the garage and I found that more satisfying than manufacturing the skateboards. At about 16 I put down the jigsaw and walked outside with spray cans.
Do you still paint skateboards? I just painted two Paper Rain Project decks – I believe they will be available online soon. Occasionally I produce a run of my own boards under my first project name Planetary Longboards.
What was the first bit of street art you created, and was it any good? The first paintings I did with spray paint on the street are long gone, thankfully, as they were terrible. But the important thing is to keep going.
Tell us about a piece of street art that’s inspired you. Seeing graffiti, everything from tags to well-executed detailed letters, I viewed these as abstractions of words into art forms, much harder to do well than you would think. I believe an appreciation for graffiti comes from trying to design and paint it yourself. BMD's work across Wellington city made me question everything, how did they get up there!? How did they think up these characters? Askew One's work has been an influence at different times from his graffiti to abstract portraits, and latest abstract form direction. A constant evolution, but all with hints of the same style.
How does your process work? Once a commission has begun my process is to design from the concept or idea and then develop that into the final. Usually, this takes about three rounds and then I can focus on the painting with a few visual decisions made during the installation.
Where’s your favourite place to go in Christchurch for a hit of creative inspiration? The various post-quake mural festivals and graffiti have made the streets an amazing source of inspiration to walk through, Fiksate gallery has work on show from great urban contemporary artists, and Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū always seems to have great shows - I’m gutted I missed the Bill Hammond exhibition last year.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? What's the harm in asking? Worst they can say is no.