Auckland, Art, Aerosols & Artists

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…

Askew One by John Hicks

Askew One

Gasp by John Hicks


Erin Forsyth by John Hicks

Erin Forsyth

Xoe Hall by John Hicks

Xoe Hall

Enforce1 by John Hicks


Flox by John Hicks


Component by John Hicks


Wert159 by John Hicks


Ross 'TrustMe' Liew by John Hicks

Ross ‘TrustMe’ Liew

Gordon Toi – He Tohu O Te Wa

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….

gordon toi by john hicks

gordon toi by john hicks

gordon toi by john hicks

gordon toi by john hicks

gordon toi by john hicks

gordon toi by john hicks

Paul Walsh

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.”

paul walsh by john hicks

Never Give UP

Never Give Up is a short artistic film that beautifully portrays, London 2012 Olympian and Professional Triathlete,
Helle Frederiksen’s inspiring outlook on life.
In 2007 after suffering a discus prolapse at the age of 26, London 2012 Olympian Helle Frederiksen, was told to give up. Missing out on selection to the Beijing Olympics and having to complete a large part of her master degree from her sickbed, Helle made a decision not to give up. She stood by her own self-belief; gained comfort from those that believed in her and pursued her own path to success.
“I was told to give up, I was 26 and had a dream that I wanted to fulfill. I was not going to give up. I made a choice, sacrifices and a commitment to myself that I would succeed, not just in sport but in life.” – Helle Frederiksen
Today Helle Frederiksen continues on a path, a direction in life that she loves. Helle’s story is one of inspiration and a fine example of success through determination and self-belief.
“Life is what we make of it; we are wrong if we think success in life comes easily. Whether it is in sport, business or life in general success does not come without sacrifices, hard work and determination.” – Helle Frederiksen
Never Give Up portrays Helle’s outlook on life through a combination of powerful scenes, epic landscapes and perfectly composed music. Helle narrates the film herself, providing a very personal yet powerful message about life and decisions in life that have made her who she is today.
Here’s to an inspirational girl and her commitment to follow her dreams. May we all pursue this path and fulfill our promise in life.

Roger Ballen

I find the photographs of Roger Ballen both fascinating and disturbing.
Like the work of Diane Arbus before him it is a contradiction in terms – both compelling and compulsive to look at yet focused on subject matter we all too often want to look away from.
Merging the boundaries between art house and documentary photojournalism he continues to inspires and inform and his ongoing collaboration with Die Antwoord has bought him a new army of followers.
The collaboration is a masterful achievement – more so because it flies in the face of current trends to partner young trendy groups with young, trendy image makers.
Aged 63, Ballen himself says…
“Because photography is such an easy medium to master technically, especially with today’s cameras, people don’t realize that it’s not just being able to pick up a camera.
When I lift that camera up to take a picture, I’ve gone through thousands of steps to get to that point.
That’s what you’re really seeing; it’s a complex view of the world, through my imagination and through my experiences.”
Long may he continue in his search for the photographic truth….

roger ballen photography

Roger Ballen Photography

roger ballen photography

roger ballen photography

Roger Ballen Photography