I’ve always looked for the beauty in dereliction. Decaying, abandoned buildings, peeling walls, rusted artifacts and long discarded objects all hold a visual fascination for me. I spend time searching out and photographing these places – both in their own right and as a backdrop for my environmental portraits.
Recently I stumbled across an old abandoned ‘finca’ with an amazing series of graffiti artworks decorating its walls and inhabiting its spaces. It was a gallery of work – years in the making, that nobody had ever seen. Through each room you could see the development of the artist as they fueled the need to paint these crumbling walls. I was intrigued by this ‘unknown’ artist and what inspired them to paint a building that would soon be demolished. Most of all I was overwhelmed by the respect the ‘unknown’ artist showed this devastated house and how the graffiti complimented, rather than detracted from, its environment.
I posted a photo of the ‘artwork by unknown artist’ on Instagram but nobody knew more of this mystery creator.
I was left with nothing but questions. What drives an artist to produce art that may never be seen, let alone bought, by anyone? When the building is demolished and the artwork reduced to dust – where does that leave the artist?
I can relate to the physical need to make images – to take photos or paint pictures, because it is compulsion, obsession, vocation and from the day I left the ‘finca’ I was determined to find this fellow artist.
I did that yesterday. His name is Mangüe López. He’s just 17 years old. If he had a website to link to I would but he’s an original talent and he’s not doing it for the fame or the gain – he’s just doing it because he is.
on a recent trip to New Zealand I discovered that it’s cities have a rich and vibrant history of graffiti and street art.
Sadly most of the public spray paint art in Auckland had been erased in preparation for the Rugby World Cup 2012
so I missed out on seeing some its most iconic pieces but I did get a chance to meet up with many of the artists driving the regeneration and appreciation of this evolving art form.
Thanks to all those who took part and to the hugely talented aerosol artists I missed meeting up with – I hope to catch
up with you all further down the road to continue this project.
For more information on each featured artist – just click the images below…
Although I have no tattoos myself I’m fascinated by the characters that cover their bodies with them and the artists that create them. Traditional Maori tattoo or Tā Moko are representations of bloodlines etched onto the skin – inked stories of genealogy, history and ancestry that are crafted specifically for the person who wears them.
Since 1990 there has been a huge resurgence in the practice of Tā Moko for both men and women – as a sign of cultural identity and a reflection of the general revival of the Maori language and culture.
In a suburb of south Auckland I recently met up with Gordon Toi who greets me with an easy smile and a bone crushing handshake. Gordon is a prolific artist who trained as a traditional carver before exploring other forms of Maori art such as Ta Moko, painting, and stone sculpture.
His philosophy and craft remain true to his teachings to preserve the integrity of his culture, and this is reflected in his workspace which is a far cry from the commercial tattoo studios of the High Street. Filled with artifacts from his travels, books, pictures, paintings and a shrine in one corner – He Tohu O Te Wa has a intimate and spiritual feel.
It’s a moving experience to witness the Maori prayer that Gordon delivers before he begins the tattoo and a privilege to be invited into his world to photograph him at work….
In a quiet leafy suburb a lone figure walks through a park, crosses a stream, and enters a storm drain.
He walks through the ankle deep water and I follow as a feeling of claustrophobia creeps into me. I try to keep up but slip on some slime and water splashes my face in the darkness.
Paul Walsh is an artist who is totally at home in this subterranean world and as he walks he shines the torch on his phone into the void and gives me a running commentary of the graffiti artists who have tagged down there.
Finally we emerge into the light, at the end of the tunnel, as we reach the spot where Paul will do his piece.
It’s a fairytale world where tropical plants hang down graffiti clad walls and birds bathe in the water that runs through the storm drain while, bizarrely, bright orange goldfish swim in the pools that are cut off from the main flow.
All is silent apart from the birdsong, the sound of an occasional inner city train as it thunders overhead and the rattle of spray cans as Paul gets to work….This is not commercial art produced to sell but something crafted for the pure love of it and the need to create and be creative. A few hours pass by like seconds and then Paul is finished.
As we trudge back through the darkness shafts of light illuminate urban artworks rarely seen by the public walking above us. We say our goodbyes and I make my way back through the city watching commuters in suits hurry across town and teenage kids, still in their school uniforms, smoking on swings in the park.
Alone in the darkness of the tunnel the black and white face of Charles Bukowski stares out and his words echo eerily
“some people never go crazy, What truly horrible lives they must lead.”