Dunedin Murals

Since I moved back to Dunedin in 2017 I’ve painted quite a few small wall paintings around the city. I thought I might try to put a photo of each of them up here on my blog in the order I did them. I’m only including ones I’ve done under my own name (and not my alter-ego) and which are outside and not on interior walls. I’m also not including the ones I’ve painted outside Dunedin since I moved back.

  1. Yellow-eyed penguins on George Street. This was the first mural I painted a few weeks after I’d moved back. It was organized by Phantom Bill Stickers. My partner says it’s terrible and that the beak on the right hand penguin is all wrong. I agree – it is a bit weird. This was covered in a big tag in August 2021 and I painted the Lawrence Lions over it (see #26 below).

2. Tutankhamun inspired Egyptian sarcophagus on a wall on the corner of King Edward Street and Sullivan Avenue in South Dunedin. It was painted in the middle of winter in 2027 using gold spray paint and black acrylic. Also for Phantom Bill Stickers. It’s actually lasted really well and still looks good.

3) This chicken is on the corner of Fredrick and George Street. It was commissioned by the DCC and Chorus and was painted in February of 2018. It was tagged last week but I managed to clean it off OK.

4) Snapper Mural – on the side of the Crown Hotel in Rattray Street. This mural of the famous Dunedin band was commissioned by Jones Chin (pictured) in May of 2018. I used a photo he lent me as the reference. Peter Gutteridge (with the glasses) and drummer Alan Haig (right) were easy but Christine Voice and Dominic Stone were harder because they’re almost hidden in the photo. Peter and I used to be good buddies back in the day.

5) Royal Terrace Badgers – Two badgers just down from the Dunedin Museum of Natural Mystery at 61 Royal Terrace. My father really loved badgers. This little mural is for him.

6) This Chinese Ferret Badger was the first painting in my now ongoing series of small wall paintings inspired by the exhibits at the Animal Attic at Otago Museum. This is one of my favorite places in the whole world and my own museum is partly a tribute to it. It’s like stepping back into an old Victorian Museum. With each painting I have to strike a balance between being true to the antique stuffed animal and making it look life-like. There’s also the head of a stick insect because the home owners who commissioned it really like stick insects. Painted in May 2018.

7) White Sharks – another commission by a home owner in May, 2018. I couldn’t really do a lot of brush work on this corrugated garage wall and its one of the only murals I’ve done using almost entirely spray paint (usually a use a mixture of spray paint and brushes or just brushes).

8) A professional couple who were walking by when I was painting the ferret badger asked if I could paint something on their wall in Highgate and this Porcupine Fish from the Animal Attic was the first thing I painted. Apparently its a PokeStop on Pokeman Go (Whatever that is). I went on to paint nine animals from the Attic on this fence during June and July(mid-winter) of 2018. Since then the house has changed hands but the current owners are happy to leave the fence the way it is.

Giant Ant eater
One of their neighbors said the eyes on these lemurs looked ‘too crazy’ and I had to tone them down a bit. Have you ever seen lemur’s eyes? They do look a bit crazy!
Photo from the Otago Daily Times photographer Stephen Jaquiery

9) The stuffed Green Turtle that this painting is based on resides in the Animal Attic. Private commission in Broad Bay – September 2018.

10) Freddie Mercury on the side of Queen Street. Painted in October 2018 for the building owner. You’d think Freddie would be easy but I had quite a bit of trouble getting a likeness from the photo I used. Painting the crown was fun. I like painting crowns.

11) NZ Coastal Fish (as well as a deep sea angler fish) on the side of a private house in North Road in North East Valley. Private Commission January 2019.

Leather jacket and a Mado

12) Hares and other objects belonging to the owner(including the rabbit skull to the left of the hare) on the side of a private garage in Port Chalmers. This is only a detail of the right side of the wall. May 2019.

13) Hoowinker Sunfish – on the side of The Lead Balloon Cafe on the One Way System. It’s based on the cast of the one on display in the foyer at Otago Museum. May 2019.

14) A painting of Hooper’s Inlet and Papanui Inlet looking down from Highcliff Road. Private Commission. June 2020. Like a lot of my murals it looks way better than this photo.

15) Theropod dinosaur on the side of Crusty Corner in North East Valley. Commissioned by Otago Museum to promote a travelling exhibition. September 2020. I’m keen to paint something else on this wall.

16) Bengal Fox – another animal from the Animal Attic. A private commission on the side of a garage in Roseneath. November 2020.

17) Flying Kiwi’s, Crazy Tea pots and other native birds on the side of the Waitati Hall. Commissioned by Mandy Mayhem and the Waitati Community Board. December 2020.

18) Gef the Talking Mongoose – hidden down an alley way off Moray Place. I got caught painting this by the building owner on the morning of Christmas Day, 2020 but she let me off because I think she liked my work. Who is Gef? Google him!

19) A giant wheke (octopus) crawling round the side of the Broad Bay Hall. Organized by Amber and Zoe and the Broad Bay Community. Painted on Boxing Day 2020.

20) A Karaerea (native falcon)painted on a brick wall for The Valley Project in North East Valley. March 2021.

21) Tutara Guardian for Bland Park in Waitati. Commissioned by Mandy Mayhem and the Waitati Community Board. March 2021.

22) Screaming Roosters for the Screaming Rooster Cafe and Bar at 9 Stafford Street. They’re in the alley way beside the entrance to the gallery/bar.

24) Laundromutts in Kaikorai Valley – April 2021

25) Mud Puppy Skeleton – based on the one at the Animal Attic at Otago Museum – Andersons Bay – May 2021

26) The Lawrence Lions – these two lions were painted over the Hoiho/Yellow Eyed Penguins (see Mural #1) after it was tagged over. in August 2021. These two lions were shot when they escaped from a circus in Lawrence in 1978. Their bodies were taxidermized and they are now on display at the Animal Attic at Otago Museum.
27. Three Hoiho /Yellow-Eyed Penguins in Burlington Street just off Moray Place for Team Hoiho – December 2021
28. On Boxing Day 2021 I added a sea anemone to the side of the Broad Bay Community Hall. Thank you Zoe Fox and the team in Broad Bay!
29. This mural depicting nocturnal animals and the night sky on the side of the Victoria Hotel in Dunedin but its not just your usual mural. It’s painted with UV paints and there’s some big UV lights up above it that will come on when it gets dark revealing a whole new look to the mural that you can’t see during the day. As far as I know this is the very first light reactive mural with built in UV lights anywhere in Aotearoa. Thanks to the Dodd-Walls Centre at Otago University, Otago Museum Dunedin Street Art, Laser Electrical Services UV Gear, The Victoria Hotel and Hirepool Ltd. Nighttime photo by Alan Dove. January 2022.
The night time photo really doesn’t do it justice. In real life it really glows.
30. A temporary painting on plywood on Hanover Street opposite the Crown Hotel which was done for a TV shoot in early February, 2022. The bird is a White Fronted Tern and the painting is based on the specimen in the Animal Attic.
31) An unknown species of jellyfish and a transparent octopus painted on the side of a garage in Wales Street in Maori Hill in February 2022.
32. A colourful private commission in Aotea Street in Andersons Bay – February 2022
33. A tuatara based on the specimen at the Animal Attic at Otago Museum – February 2022 – in Edward Street in Abbotsford

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34. A Giant Malayan Squirrel based on the taxidermized specimen at the Animal Attic at Otago Museum. Painted in Balmoral Street in Opoho – March 2022
35. The Desert Monitor from the Animal Attic at Otago Museum on a wall in Lock Street in Concord – March 2022
36. A kiwi from Otago Museum on the wall of Bill Brosnan’s bookshop on the one-way system heading north. (March 2022)
37.An ‘Animal Attic’ piece painted in Corstorphine on the side of a house opposite the Middleton Road shopping center. This one is based on a glass model of a Bobtail squid made by genius father and son team of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka who produced thousands of accurate glass models for museums and universities between around 1850 and the 1930’s
38. In late April I painted almost thirty local marine animals on three long thins walls opposite Wakari School in Shetland Street. This is just one of the three walls.
38. Detail on the Wakari Wall Marine Mural

38. Detail on the Wakari Wall Marine Mural (2)

38. Detail on the Wakari Wall Marine Mural(3)
39. A nautilus shell painted on the back of Otago Girl’s High School for the principal. The nautilus is one of the symbols of the school. It’s based on the nautilus shell on display at the Animal Attic at Otago Museum. (May 2022)

40. A kaka and a kereru having a cup of tea. This private commission is on a wall at 230 High Street and references a detail on painting number 17 – the Waitati Hall Mural (late May 2022)

41. A painting of Hair Raiser Tours, Andrew Smith, down Black Dog Alley on Moray Place. November 2022.

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Environmental Exhibition – Wellington – 2010

Work by Bruce Mahalski, John Badcock, Lex Benson-Cooper and Debra Britten.

July 30th  –  August 15th, 2010.

I started collecting shells, fossils and bones when I was very young. My parents were both scientists who had collections of their own and we travelled quite a bit overseas so there were always opportunities to pick up interesting stuff. Once my mum even tried to send a weaver bird’s nest to New Zealand when we were on holiday in Africa  but customs weren’t too keen on letting it into the country! Most of my collection I found myself on beaches or roadsides.  Some people might consider it ghoulish to collect bits of dead animals but to me it isn’t about death – it’s about life. Like a sympathetic magician I hope that by possessing  an animals bone a little bit of its life force will rub off on  me. It’s also a tribute – a form of recycling – a lot of these things are just too good to leave lying around and I have to take them home.

For a long time I didn’t think about using any part of  my collection as raw materials for my art practice. I put the best of my pieces in display cabinets and keep the rest in boxes. The first time I used some of my bones in making an object was for the show – Full Spectrum Dominance – at the Mary Newton Gallery in Wellington in 2002. A large part of the show was a collection of $2 Shop toy guns which I had tried to strip of their negative associations by  instilling them with new beauty and life.  One of these was  Bone Gun#1 – a toy M16 rifle completely covered in bones. It was such a joy to  that I soon made another – Bone Gun#2 (see below).

Bone Gun #2

20 x 70cm

Bones attached to a toy gun

(Comes in purpose built metal case)

2007/8

Bone Show- Bone Gun cf case (Medium)

‘Environmental’ will be the first time this piece has been exhibited. It comes in a rusted sheet metal case (not shown) especially made for it by local artist and stone man – Carl “Carlucci’ Gifford.

When my Wellington art dealer, Ron Eskamp told me he was planning a a show with an environmental theme I suggested making a series of work that began where the Bone Guns left off. Happily Ron was  quick to approve of the concept. I could have continued to predicate my bone works on military apparatus but I didn’t want to repeat myself any more than necessary.   For some time I could not think what to make out of bones and then I realized that I didn’t need to make anything at all. I could just layer bone on bone to achieve interesting textural effects. I immediately ramped up my bone collecting efforts and put the word out among my friends to grab any interesting specimens they saw.

Bone Show- Bone Gun (Medium)

Lintel #1

(to be hung over the top of a door frame)

13 x 1050cm

Layered bone and shells on Matai plank

2010

Bone Show - Lintel (Medium)

This was the first piece I made specifically for this show. I didn’t originally intend to make a lintel or indeed to make anything symmetrical. I was only planning to layer bone on bone as in the detail pictures below. However  the piece soon took on ‘a life of its own’ and acquired a Viking/Pacific look I had not anticipated.  It contains sixteen skulls including those of a sheep, a hawk, a duck, a hedgehog, a penguin and a Chatham Island Weka and many other bones including those of moa, seal, cat and wallaby.  The bones are attached  to a plank of 150 year old Matai timber (as are many of the other pieces)  which  I picked up from a skip opposite my old studio in Abel Smith Street. An old colonial cottage was having (an illegal) refit and a lot of good stuff had been dumped including two very old mummified cats which I also grabbed for some future use.

Bird Man #1

15 x 1180cm

Bird Bones attached to plank of Ponderosa Pine

2010

Bone Show - Bird Man (Medium)

I had finished nearly all of the work when I found a box of albatross or mollymawk bones I had forgotten about in the attic.  It’s hard to tell an albatross form a mollymawk – particularly when its not in exactly tip-top condition! It was the day I  was going to see Ron at the Exhibitions Gallery show him photos of the work for the show.  I decided it’d be nice to have one more work and quickly laid out some of the  bones on a plank of ponderosa pine and took a photo. Ron decided it  was his favorite  so I decided I’d better actually put it together for real. As well as duplicating parts of bird/human anatomy the piece also references the ‘cult hooks’ of Papua New Guinea and the bird man culture of Easter Island (Te Pito No Te Henua).

Cult Hook #1

30 x 1200cm

Bones,shells and fossils attached to  a framework of Ponderosa Pine

2010

Bone Show- Cult Hook (Medium)

This piece is the largest and most dynamic of the series and contains the bones of many large animals including those of pig, seal, dog, dolphin,human, sheep and albatross (or mollymawk) – as well as local  fossils and sea shells. Attached to a background of Ponderosa pine using glue and rods it evokes the cult hooks found in the men’s houses of Papua New Guinea. A hook at the top connects the sculpture to the house’s rafters and another at the bottom is used to hang equipment and offerings to local spirits’.  These ceremonial hooks influenced the success of war, hunting and garden cultivation, as well as helping to ward off disease.

Whale Rope

24 x 1015cm

Length of rope emerging from a piece of old table –top

2010

06 (Medium)

I have a long association with the Island Bay Marine Education Centre and while I was there one day Marco Zeeman showed me a length of rope which had been brought along by two local conservationists, Haydon & Suzanne Miller. Apparently it was part of a seven metre long length of rope they had recovered from the throat of a dead female blue whale that washed ashore in Golden Bay in 2009. It is speculated that it may even had caused the death of the whale. The piece of rope disappears through a hole into a plank from an old hardwood table top. By ‘turning the rope into art’ I hope to spread the sad message that the ocean is simply drowning in our crap and its  high time we all  cleaned up our acts. If this piece does sell I intend to donate my part of the proceeds to some of the main anti-whaling groups.

 Whales - dead blue whale - DOM 13.6.09

 

Skull Rack #1

28 x 1000cm

Three sheep skulls attached to Matai Planks using metal rods

2010

Environmental- Skull Rack (2) (Small) Environmental-Skull Rack detail (Small)

Skull Rack #1 is inspired by the skull racks of Papua New Guinea where the skulls of dead foes and relatives are preserved in the  men’s houses in racks or shelves.  Despite my comments about the life affirming nature of bones I do have to admit to also seeing a lot of beauty in decay.  The top skull is an amazing example. Despite the fact that it is from a ‘common’ animal I think it is one of the most amazing skulls I have ever seen. I was lucky enough to be given it  on a recent trip to Waiheke Island by Helen Aldridge who also gave me some other excellent bits  and pieces including a mummified kingfisher. The skulls float out 12 cm from their wooden base on thin metal rods.

Three Heads (Triptych)

Head#1

80 x 80cm

2008 – 2010

Gloss/Acrylic Paint/Sand

Environmental - Head One (Small)

This is one of three heads that make a vertical triptych. I actually started painting these heads a couple of years back when I intended to do a series of works based on drawings that I had done when I was five. My mother had just found the old scrapbook containing the drawings and I thought they were more lively than anything I had done since. I am pretty sure the original drawing was inspired by a carving which I saw on a school trip to Otago Museum. I never completed the series because I had trouble transforming the drawings into paintings and for a while I abandoned the heads when I had trouble resolving the backgrounds.  My recent interest in building up layers of texture enabled me to find a way to contrast the hard gloss of the faces with the softer colors in the background and I decided to finish the triptych in time for the current show.

Chatham Islands Weka

50 x 70cm

Limited edition screen-print by the artist on 350gsm paper(10 prints)

2010

Environmental-Weka Screen-print (Small)

A five colour screen-print on paper based on two photos taken on a trip to the Chatham Islands in 2008. I took the photo of the weka in the foreground but my friend Stephen Robinson took the background picture of the trees.  We were out by the old airport near the bush containing the most famous dendraglyphs (carvings on living trees) and the quality of the light was so intense the scene is forever burned in my brain!  Steve and I  ran around taking photos like crazy but I lost most of mine when I loaded the stick from my new digital camera into the computer instead of routing the pictures through the camera.  No two prints in the edition of ten are exactly the same with slightly different tones and offsets across the edition in keeping with my new ‘more painterly’ screen-printing style.

Environmental – Exhibitions Gallery – Wellington – July 29th – August 15th – 2010

www.exhibitionsgallery.co.nz

www.mahalski.com

Studio Pictures

Enviro-Studio - July 2010 (Small) Enviro-Studio 4 (Small)

Environmental - Birdman(closeup) (Small) Enviro-Studio 3 (Small) (Small) Enviro-Studio 5 (Small)

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Interview with Bryce Kowalski – Critic – 1988.

Long time contributor to Critic (Otago University’s student paper) – under this pseudonym (and many others) Bryce has just left Dunedin. Before his departure we – at Critic- thought it might be interesting to talk to the man about his politics , his music and his new cuddly toy. (Editor’s Note – I have made one or two changes from the original interview to make the thing more relevant and readable).

INTRODUCTION

CRITIC – Where are you from originally – they aren’t too many ‘Kowalski’s about?

BRYCE – Here of course – Dunedin. You think I shifted here from Auckland or something?

CRITIC – I know that you went overseas a lot when you were young. Did these travel experiences leave you with any lasting impressions that have continued to impact on your life and work?

BRYCE – Naturally! My parents both worked for the University and they used to travel a lot. Until I reached the age of 16 I was pretty blasé about it all but that year(‘79) I spent a lot of time on my own doing various jobs in different parts of England and also went to Germany for a while. It was quite liberating to be treated as an adult by the people I worked with and I grew up pretty fast that year. I think that seeing other countries only made me appreciate this one more. In some other places I’d probably be one of the first against the wall as an obvious deviant and trouble-maker.

CRITIC – So what do you think are the main issues in the world today?

BRYCE – Getting rid of the cold war would be nice – it’s even starting to look like it may happen. The main reason I oppose war is that it’s just too hard on the planet. Once we’ve got the major powers talking to each other again and the nukes are gone or cut back we can then look at fixing some of the other major problems – starting with the environment.

CRYSTAL ZOOM! (1983 – 85)

CRITIC- You’ve been involved with various bands now for a number of years – starting with the somewhat ‘infamous’ Crystal Zoom! Tell us a bit about that?

BRYCE – A group of us had been talking about putting a band together called Crystal Zoom for a long time but in the years before we actually started playing we out up a ton of Crystal Zoom! graffiti up all over town ( and on the side of barns on State Highway One between Dunedin and Christchurch). We figured if people had heard of us they would think we were ‘BIG’. So we had the name itself long before we actually got the band together. There’s a funny story behind the name but I probably shouldn’t tell it here- I might get in trouble.

To start off the band was a basic four piece with me singing (shouting) Mike (Wilde) Weston on guitar, the incomparable Eric Neuman on bass and Nathan McConnell – later Nick Niell -on drums.. We had grown up with a lot of the so-called ‘Dunedin Sound’ – mostly a group of bands influenced by sixties American guitar music – but their style just wasn’t our cup of tea. Like a lot of new bands we started playing punk and thrash(both of can cover a multitude of musical sins) but gradually we go better and more versatile. We had gone out of our way to set ourselves apart from the prevailing ‘sound’ and for a while it was hard to get gigs so we started setting up our own at Coronation Hall in Maori Hill ( earlier ‘Punk’ bands like ‘The Enemy’ had done the same thing). We had absolutely no scruples and would play with anyone – The Mockers – Motorhead – Gamaunche.

Our ‘difficult’ approach turned off some of the cooler crowd .One well known musician friend said that he would never speak to me again after we played with The Mockers (which we did on several occasions over the years) and he never did again. We were completely brazen about promoting ourselves and would try and get into the Otago Daily Time’s Music Column every week and Rip It Up every month – even if we had to make something up. One time I put out this press release saying that we had all come out as New Zealand’s first all-gay band but the music reporter at the paper said that I was obviously drunk (not true) and wouldn’t use the story but other music papers did.

We were just way too un-hip to get a deal with Flying Nun Records so we put our our own cassette tapes – the first one was ‘ Hooked on Crystal Zoom’ (1984) and the tapes all came in this plush orange purse that Mike whipped up. Later that year we did ‘Live at the Ego Club’ with us and Gamaunche playing live at the Empire Tavern. That one came out in an orange Christmas stocking and we promoted it with a lot of posters of naked guys with just a little bit of orange fluff covering their willies. In 1985 we got a new rhythm section in the form of the amazing human drum machine, Barry Blackler and Dunedin legend, Rob Murphy on bass – both of whom had recently left popular Dunedin band, ‘The Idles’. Playing with these guys really picked up our game but in the middle of 1985 Mike and I moved up to Waiheke Island (in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland) and set the band up there. Once again we needed a new rhythm section and this time we pulled in old friend, Rob – ‘Dick Libido’ -Brown on bass and Yoh – ‘Dr Rhythm’ on drums.

Yoh’s main claim to fame was that he had been the drummer in the Screaming Mee Mees ( a popular and successful early eighties band from Auckland). We recorded another tape – ‘More Base’(1985) – a mixture of live recordings from Dunedin with Rob and Barry and experimental stuff that we started doing on Waiheke while Mike was learning to use a four track tape recorder.

IDENTITY

CRITIC – I heard that you all started wearing masks up there whenever you played and if somebody asked for a band photo for an article or something you’d give them a picture of a tree or house or a rock.

BRYCE – Yeah – we always found it hard taking the whole thing seriously . We started trying to separate our ‘real’ personalities from our artistic ones (using fake names and masks etc) so that hopefully people would accept our performances on their face value and not just hate us straight-away – for being a bunch of uppity young wankers.

When I’m on stage I turn into a different person – in real life I’m more reserved – I could never have walked down the street ( well maybe I did occasionally) wearing the sort of bizarre stuff we wore on stage. That’s why so many bands disappointed us – just getting up in their street clothes. and playing their instruments. I always thought there should be clear distinction between the performer and the audience ( although of course you do get the odd interesting exceptions).

DUNEDIN SOUND ON 45

CRITIC – But you did eventually get something out on Flying Nun? – a single with a song called ‘Dunedin Sound on 45’ on one side and your own ‘Uptown Sheep’ on the other. It’s become something of a cult item and still gets quite a bit of play on the student stations. What was the story behind that?

BRYCE – Now that is funny story. One night we were playing at the Captain Cook Hotel ( with The Idles I think or maybe it was one of the ‘Battle of the Bands’) when this guy came up and said we were amazing and he would pay for us to record a single of ‘Uptown Sheep’ at the popular radio station (4X0) where he worked as a DJ. So he jacked it all up and we went down to 4X0 and did it – together with a ‘B’ side called “’I can’t get any sex. I can’t get any drugs, I can’t get any BMX’. Mike was pretty into the whole BMX(Bi-cycle Motor Cross) racing thing then and we all took the piss out of him about it. The recordings were OK but Flying Nun still wasn’t touching us with sharply pointed stick so we still didn’t have a record company – although our mates in the Idles had a good relationship with a Record Company called Jayrem in Wellington.

‘Uptown Sheep/Dunedin Sound on 45’ Cover Photo (Miffy Rees Photo)

At this time (1984/5) there were these terrible songs coming – medleys of perennial chestnuts with names like ‘Hooked on Classics” – all set over a permanent background of incredibly repetitive disco hand-claps – seemingly designed to make anyone with one iota of musical appreciation immediately kill themselves to block out the agony! So – being the little stirrer that I am – I suggested we do our own version and call it ‘Dunedin Sound on 45’. Some of our ‘Dunedin Sound’ musical contemporaries could see the humor in it and actually played many of their parts on the finished song – with us doing all the rest. But many of the local ‘hip priests’ just thought it was another one of our scams (which is naturally was) and didn’t want a bar of it.

Anyway we recorded this thing with Mike Chirnside – two songs by ‘The Clean’ songs, two from ‘The Chills’, and one each from ‘The Stones’, ‘The Verlaine’s’ and part of our own ‘Uptown Sheep’ on the end. Each song segued into the next with that infuriating disco hand clap shit in the background. We also did a dub version of it and recorded ‘Uptown Sheep’ in the backyard at Eric’s county retreat se we could have a double ‘A’ side single.

It eventually came out in 1985 on Flying Nun – 500 copies – no promotion – and someone had butchered (excuse the pun) the cover artwork but over the years its become a bit of a cult classic ( mainly because of the ‘famous’ names that appear on it rather than anything to do with our skill). You’d have trouble finding a copy anywhere for less than $30 now(Editor’s Note – now about $100) and I’ve lost my own copy. I remember I did get a royalty payment from FN once – $40 – I bought these trousers (points).

CRITIC- What prompted the move up to Waiheke Island in 1985? You guys seemed to be going pretty well before you left?

BRYCE- A lot of that was Rob and Barry – you couldn’t play badly with those guys behind you. I moved because I was in love with someone up there and Mike moved because I think he was fed up with Dunedin.

CRITIC – Was it productive?

BRYCE- I think it was – especially in terms of songs and new ideas. We got right into the whole hippy thing and started to examine every aspect of our lives. After one ‘experience’ we decided to totally divorce our real personalities from the band. That’s when we started wearing all the masks and making animal noises when people tried to talk to us and giving them pictures of trees or other objects to print instead of a picture of us. We were so tired of all those geeky band pictures and people saying the same rubbish over and over again. So – we did the ‘More Base’ recording – which does have some good stuff on it – but we had trouble gelling as alive act. The big masks made it hard to play and set up a real barrier between the band and the audience. A lot of people just didn’t get it. And our new rhythm section just wasn’t Rob and Barry – no disrespect to Dick and Dr Yoh – and we had trouble playing good consistent live performances. Mike and I started getting involved in other things – like I got job in an advertising agency through this guy I met on the ferry – and then there was a personal tragedy and the whole thing just disintegrated and I moved back to Dunedin.

LET’S GET NAKED (1986-92)

CRITIC – So when you got back to Dunedin in late 1985 you formed ‘Let’s Get Naked with Rob Murphy.

BRYCE- Before the Naked’s started Rob and me formed a covers band (together with John Fleury/Dixie Tunnicliffe/Nick Bucanan and Antony Baldwin) called ‘Good in Bed’ to play over Christmas and New Year. I love that name – should’ve kept it – I always tried to name bands so that they stood out from the rest on the back page of the Otago Daily Times

If you saw the names – ‘Taste Squad, Rocky Lox, The Shorts and Good in Bed which one might you spend a buck or two on? – if it was me I’d pick the one with the saucy name!

We had a lot of debauched fun and decided to form a new band and write some new songs – so Rob and me got together and wrote most of the songs off the first album in about a month – with him programming the drum machine and playing bass and me writing the lyrics. It started off with just the two of us recording at Mike Chirnside’s place in North East Valley and the first song was ‘Funky Dunedin’. Gradually the band started to grow until we had two front-men – myself and Ross McKenzie (ex lots of bands), Antony Baldwin on guitar (ditto) and Nils Olsen on sax. Later we ditched the drum machine in favor of Riki Agnew (drums)who Rob pinched from Cactus Club to play percussion (until we found out he could drum so well). This was the most stable line-up but there were a few other’s who went through the band at different times including Norman Duftie, Nick Bucanan, Darren Watson, and Robert Steele. It was the best when Riki was drumming but then he buggered off overseas and things slowly began to crap out. We were also really pissed off when the video for ‘Funky Dunedin’ didn’t come out – a long story there….

Let’s Get Naked – 1987
Front Row – Bruce Mahalski/Antony Baldwin
Back Row – Ross McKenzie/Rob Murphy/Nils Olsen/Riki Agnew

 

CRITIC – So do you think you’ll ever play again?

BRYCE- In 1989 Mike Weston and I re-recorded some Naked’s songs and some that hadn’t been recorded and put them out under the name – Bio-Hazard (before the US band made the name popular). I’d still like to play again with some of the guys – I’m still proud of some of the songs. We just never had that moment when opportunity meets preparation. There were a lot of good bands around at the time – it was a very competitive environment.

I love playing live – when you’re up there and the band is tight and you’re anticipating each others every move and you have this massive a mount of volume behind you – you can feel pretty fucking powerful – like a witch doctor in a cave. But when no–one comes, the PA breaks down, the drummer is drunk – you feel like slashing your wrists. Seriously! But when it works – its amazing – I can put on my stupid out-fit and my sunglasses and pretend to be someone else completely. The day- to-day personality can have a rest and I can let the beast roar! Everyone should try being in a band – there would be a lot less work for therapists….

THE CUDDLY BOMB(1989)

CRITIC – Why did you decide to get into soft – toys – particularly soft representations of nuclear missiles?

BRYCE – It probably had a lot to do with my mum who was a lecturer in animal behavior/child psychology (what’s the difference, right?). One day when I was about 5 she took my favorite soft toy off me and hid it – thinking that it was time I put away such childish things I guess. I don’t remember the incident but it obviously affected her. She spent years afterwards doing research on stuff like childhood attachments to soft toys and blankets to try and find out if children who resorted to such things were more developmentally retarded – in short- they weren’t.

Both my parents were also pretty involved in the peace movement so I was always worried about the world ‘blowing up!’

Anyway –one day a friend of mine – Tony Renouf – was playing around and he made himself a large replica bomb out of cardboard, foil and plastic. We got to talking and I decided that it’d be nice if bombs were cuddly. It took about 18 months to find a place in Auckland that could make them but they’re still not perfect. I want them to be soft yet sharp – which is kind of difficult to achieve. It’s definitely about sending a message to the Super Powers – a sort of cuddly ‘fuck you’ – I’ve even got a giant fake missile in my garden ( courtesy of Grant Skinner who did most of the work on it). So I’m prepared now – anyone stuffs we me and I’ll point my bomb at them! Hear that, Bush! (Editor’s Note – Bush Senior).

CRTIC –I hear there are different types?

BRYCE- Yeah- you’ve got your two basic colours – grey and white and then you have the air-force insignia of your choice – at the moment you can get American/ Russian/ Kiwi/ Ozzie/ French/British/Iranian and Libyan bombs (best sellers so far). You also get a certificate of ownership with each bomb which explains a bit about the concept.

CRITIC- So what is the concept?

BRYCE- I am trying to make a strong negative statement about nuclear weapons and particularly, their proliferation, as well as attempting to do something positive by giving some of the money raised from bomb sales to the Peace Movement.

CRITIC- Isn’t there a danger that the whole thing will be misinterpreted by the Peace Movement etc?

BRYCE – Sure – stuff like that happens to me all of the time. The main criticisms so far have been that they are too phallic ( look at a missile !!!) and that they ‘endorse’ violence – which is utter crap. (Editors Note – Later there was a big back-lash which effectively put this project out of business – I will try and reprise the cuddly bombs in another blog – there’s quite a bit more to this story including a twenty minute ‘video’ that Mike Weston and I produced to promote the thing – plus local news spots etc.)

POLITICS

CRITIC- Why do you set out to provoke people the way you do?

BRYCE- I guess I just feel that someone’s got to – I see myself as a moderating influence on the worst excesses of our times– if it weren’t for crazies like me harassing them all of the time the politicians would probably go completely over the top and do what they wanted. A lot of people say that the whole ‘peace and love’ thing that happened in the sixties changed nothing and all the hippies turned into lawyers and corporate types. I think that’s just cynical bullshit. If it hadn’t been for that movement at that time the Vietnam War would still be raging and probably the whole of Indo-China through to the Middle East would be series of large smoking holes ( not to mention the rest of the place).

Personally I am always amazed that World War Two ever stopped – perhaps it didn’t – hence the Cold War. I guess I am just driven to live the way I do. In a few years I’ll probably be living in the country and getting into self-sufficiency and other trendy eco- causes. Yep – I can dig it.

CRITIC- It seems suspiciously like you made up the questions to this interview as well as the answers?

BRYCE – Well – yeah!

 

All writing, images and products Copyright Bruce Mahalski 2009.

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A Change in The Weather

A Change in the Weather’ is a cartoon strip about climate change issues produced by my friend, Abe Hunter.

The first seven strips were produced by artist/tattooist/cartoonist. Veronica Brett.

The strip is published every week in the Otago Daily Times Saturday supplement (The Mix). Thank you Tom McKinlay!

Here are all the strips they’ve done to date in the order of their publication. All cartoons copyright Hunter/Brett.

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Poster Man

I’ve been making and pasting posters since the
early eighties. In fact I used to do it professionally in Dunedin (before Phantom BillStickers) came along and even though it was against the city’s own by-laws one of my biggest customers was the Council itself (who used my services to promote their own events.) There are certain risks inherent in putting up posters, particularly with the some of the socio/political/environmental posters I put up and I’ve been
threatened more times than I can remember. 

It’s definitely not an occupation for the faint-hearted!  On time in Wellington in 2014 I had my camera stolen by a guy who seemingly hated my posters so much it wasn’t enough to rip them down, he had to smash the whole hoarding! He saw me photographing him, came over, threatened
to punch me, grabbed my camera and ran off. Now that was a good poster.

Here’s a small selection (in no particular order) of some of the band posters I’ve designed over the last forty years which advertised gigs by bands I was either in myself or friends with.  You’ll have to look elsewhere to find the socio-political/environmental posters!

HCsCrowleyMurderA03 (Medium)

Poster for my band -‘The Hipper Critters’ and ‘A Crowley Murder’ – at Bar Medusa in Wellington in 2011. Design by myself and layout by Diane Davis. I have no memory of this gig what-so-ever, 

 

I originally had this idea of sharing these photos of old posters and telling the story of the gig or event they publicized to promote a crowd-funding campaign I put together on the ‘Boosted’ website to raise money for The Great Kiwi Poster Competition which ran between 2021-22. This was the third poster competition I instigated.

The first one was only for Wellington
residents and was part of the Vivid Street Art Festival (of which I was the
main organiser) in 2016. People could enter anything they wanted and Phantom and Hell Pizza were the major sponsors. The second one was open to all kiwis and was called ‘The Aotearoa Poster Competition’ (2020). It had an anti-racist theme and was sponsored by Phantom BillStickers and the NZ Chinese Association.

The Great Kiwi Poster competition was open to all kiwis aged 5-21 and had a focus on the environment and climate change. This one was sponsored by the kind people who donated on ‘Boosted’, Phantom (as usual), Hell Pizza (again) and NZ Biological Heritage. There were over 200 entries and the four winners each received $1000 and got their poster put up all over the country. Hopefully there will be another one soon! (One of the advertising posters for the 2021/22 competition,  designed by myself and Helene Hall, is below)

The Great KPC 2021 A1 Poster_01 (1).pdf final wiht black land animals

BAND POSTERS (1983-2022)


1) ‘Crystal Zoom!’/’Armchair Thrillers’ – Star and Garter Pub – Christchurch 1984.

Poster art by myself /Concept by Mike Weston.

Crystal Zoom (1983-85) was my first ever band. This poster was Mike Weston’s idea. We were all big Joy Division fans and we all read the NME (English Music Magazine) every week. When Mike saw this NME cover just after Ian Curtis’s suicide he came up with the idea for the speech balloons. The first time we used it was for an early 1983 gig at The Empire but this version is the one we used (with cartoon characters of the band from the very first poster added for more effect) for a gig at The Star and Garter in Christchurch in March of 1984.

 This gig stands out in my memory and others too with Gerald Dwyer even writing a story about it for ‘Rip it Up’ as one of the most memorable  gigs he ever went to.

At this point the band was about six months old and composed of myself, Mike Weston, Eric Neuman and Nick Neill.  We went up to Christchurch with another new band called ‘Armchair Thrillers’. We were still kind of punk in musical style (although only Eric looked like one) but we didn’t take it at all seriously and often took the piss out of the whole genre. Armchair Thrillers were a more conventional ‘synth-pop’ type band formed by Damien Woodhouse. I can’t remember the name of the woman who organised this three night engagement on behalf of a short-lived  ‘events management company’ but she told us it would all go like clockwork and be super –professional bla bla bla. It should have been a warning sign but we were still very wet behind the ears.

So we get to Christchurch early Friday afternoon – none of the posters have been put up – there’s no backline gear (which was promised) and maybe there wasn’t even a PA (Public Address System). There was nothing and the Star and Garter is a big venue. Most of the band went to drop off their own stuff at a house our erstwhile promoter had organised and when they got there this wild looking dude opened the door and said – I’m the mad extortionist’. He turned out to be Bruce Cameron – a man who was on the run from the police for threatening to put LSD (or was it PCP) in Auckland’s water supply. This threat was taken seriously as he was the first person (or one of the first) to be convicted for synthesising these drugs locally. There was a big man-hunt going on for him and the papers were calling him ‘the mad extortionist’. After meeting this other Bruce the band drove round town pulling favours to quickly put up some posters and find the equipment we needed to play that first night.

At the time Christchurch was the home of some very nasty hard core racist skin head groups who went around wearing big swastikas on their white t-shirts. They weren’t anything like the cute and cuddly little (and mostly non-racist skinheads) we were used to in Dunedin.

From memory the first night was pretty uneventful with a small crowd but some of the people who were there were in another well-known Christchurch punk band called  (I’m not even going to say what those letters stand for!). They were really friendly, said they really liked us and could they possibly play with us the next two nights because they were about to break up because one of them was going to jail or something. Letting them play with us seemed like a good strategic move as we knew they could pull a crowd whereas nobody knew who we were. The next night is where things start to get really…..’exciting’. There was a big crowd of people and a whole herd of these white power skins. Armchair Thrillers played first.

The skin-heads didn’t have a bar of this ‘cute little hair-dresser band’ and pretty much booed and threatened them off the stage. We knew that most of the people who were there had come to see the hometown heroes last gig so we played second. The skinheads hated us almost as much as the ‘Armchairs’ but we gritted out teeth and managed to make it through our set despite a lot of the crowd telling us to ‘Fuck Off’ etc. They were here to see ECF, who were in fact a pretty polished punk band, with some pretty catchy Clash-style songs that were almost pop. They even had an EP out! Early Sunday morning the cops raided the house where most of us were staying looking for the mad extortionist but he’d already taken off and was caught a few days later in Auckland.  Unfortunately what they did find was the band’s weed stash and normally back then this would’ve been quite a big problem but they were just looking for Bruce and took the pot without busting anyone.

 On the last night the pub was literally packed with the same people who’d been there the night  before but they’d also bought their psycho mates along too. We were pretty used to hostile crowds but this was like something out of movie and it was fucking scary. Armchair Thrillers took one look at the room and made a wise choice not to go on stage. They would have been murdered.

 We would’ve loved to be somewhere else too but we had to go through with it. To give you some idea of the level of hostility in that room someone in the crowd threw a full bottle of Steinlarger at me before we’d even started! It missed my head by centimetres. I’d had things thrown at me before but a full bottle! That showed real commitment!

We had a big San Pedro Cactus on stage as part of our props and these skin heads kept trying to grab it. To try and stay alive we played as fast as loud as we could while they spat and booed and abused us, all of the time fighting to try and protect our cactus with Eric using his bass like a club to fend them off.  Finally one little skin managed to avoid Eric’s defensive attacks and ran out the door with the plant before we could do anything. And then the borrowed bass amp blew up!

 Somehow we got off that stage in one piece and ECF (with another borrowed bass amp) finished the night. We never played in Christchurch again.

Crystal Zoom - Star and Garter gig

2)’Underage Rage’ –  poster advertising a three band gig (‘Crystal Zoom’/’Gamaunche’/’Alpaca Brothers’) at Otago University in 1984.

Design by myself

It was 1984 and Radio With Pictures was coming to town to shoot a ‘Dunedin Music Special’ and our band (‘Crystal Zoom!’) didn’t have a gig.

We were desperate to get on the show so Mike and I organised a gig super-quickly at the University Union(the only venue we could get at short notice) with our buddies from Gamaunche and the Alpaca Brothers(who we didn’t know so well but I loved their meaty bass sound).

The expenses alone were round about $600. Quite a bit of which was paying the Varsity bouncers. For some reason we weren’t allowed to hire our usual ones. The tickets were only $3 so we needed 200 people just to break even. I did this poster overnight.

The main image is based on a bit of graffiti near a squat I lived in for a bit in London in 83 and the hairy hand is from a xenophobic Ray Comfort publication dissing the homosexual community. We gave him hell for it when he came to town a few weeks later but that’s another poster and another story.

So  – to cut a long story short after all that effort we managed to get onto Radio with Pictures playing ‘Uptown Sheep’ – a Dadaist type freak-out  number about sheep going to the freezing works. When I was really young I used to wonder if sheep had their thick wool coats to protect them when they went into the Freezing Works. What sort of work they did there I couldn’t imagine.  Later I found out what really happened and a couple of years after the events I’m describing ‘The Skeptics’ nailed the subject a killer song and a killer  video by Stewart Page (nee Kowalski)

We put up a ton of those yellow posters to promote that gig. In the thumbnail for the doco (which you can watch here)  and 3.54 into it you can see  handsome young Malcolm Black standing in front of a big spread. But coming back to the gig itself.  For various reasons it was an underage thing so there was no license and no booze so like a lot of people I nipped out for some pre-gig lubrication just before we played.  but when I tried to get back in the University’s bouncers wouldn’t let me in. I kept telling them it was me who was going to be paying them their damn wages but they just thought I was some ‘out of it’ scarfie and told me ‘Fuck off!’ I can’t remember how I finally got back in but I must have done because there I am on TV (wearing another classic jersey).

Somewhere around 7.25in the doco you can hear the band being blessed by Saint Roy, Mike dissing the cops and a few seconds of me poncing about  making animal noises. Thirty-five years later nothing has changed. I still love jerseys, animals, posters and especially posters with animals on them.

3. Anti- Motorway Poster by Martin Thompson (Wellington 1990)

This is  only one of two posters in this article I didn’t design myself but I am including it out of historical interest. 

It was produced by  Martin Thompson in  1990 to protest the construction of the Wellington urban motorway. A few years later this road cut a gaping chasm through town and destroyed our natural habitat in Arthur Street and Tonks Avenue.

Martin spent nine hours drawing the poster by hand over a piece of graph paper (I saw him doing some of it). Many Wellingtonians and Dunedinites will remember Martin. A skinny old guy with long hair and a scruffy beard who wore the same greasy suit jacket for 30 years.

In Wellington he used to hang out in front of the fire at Steve Hannify’s workshop in Tonks Ave and later on at Modak’s coffee lounge in Dunedin when he moved there in 2007. I didn’t know Martin well. He wasn’t a sociable guy and he got less and less interested in other people as time went on.

Anyone who didn’t know him at all would probably think he was a homeless mental health consumer but in his own world Marty was famous. A gifted mathematician and a self-taught artist who had his own solo show at the Dunedin Art Gallery in 2015 and his work in collections the world over. Each finished work was created in two halves, a “positive” and a “negative” image of a mathematical formula. I don’t think I’m quite a eccentric as Marty (yet) but like me, the man knew the value of a good poster. Sadly he died in 2021 from lung cancer.

4. ‘Eskimos’ and ‘Let’s Get Naked’ –  a two band gig in Dunedin in 1986.

Design by myself

I drew this one back in ‘86 for a joint gig between my band (Let’s Get Naked) and a rare appearance by our good friends –  ‘Eskimos’ –  some of whom were also part of Let’s Get Naked. It was an incestuous little scene and things weren’t too PC back then either!

For instance we all know the word ‘Eskimo’ isn’t used anymore and these indigenous people prefer to be called the Inuit. The name ‘Eskimo’ was  reportedly foisted on them by some of the southern First Nation tribes who used to raid them in summer.

The gig itself was at the back bar at the European Hotel which used to be on the corner of George and Bond Street. It was a slightly upmarket place with a front bar and two back bars, one where they sometimes showed movies. For some reason Eskimo played first even though it was really their gig. They were an usual band, even for back then with song titles like – ‘Injection/Straightjacket’.

 It was a pretty uneventful gig for The Naked’s (as many people called us back then) until the very last song when I decided to pull a classic rock-star/front-man move and jump off the stage!

 I’d jumped off stages before and this wasn’t a very high one but for some unknown reason (too many lemonades?) I forgot to bend my legs and landed like an upright stone.  This incredible pain shot up through my legs and I knew I’d broken something. I don’t know about you but I get very embarrassed when I injure myself and there was no way I wanted anyone in the audience to know I was in agony. Somehow I got back on the stage and we finished the last song. Then I quickly made my apologies and walked out the door as if nothing was wrong and there was somewhere really important I needed  to be. A normal person might have asked a friend to take them to the hospital but not me. As soon as I got outside I literally crawled to the bus-stop and caught a bus back to where I was staying in Caversham. The adrenalin wore off on the bus, the pain got worse and it was agony crawling from the bus stop to the house. That night (despite imbibing quite a few shandies) I was in way too much pain to get any sleep. Early next morning I rang my father and asked him to take to me to hospital where an x-ray revealed I’d cracked both my heel bones. Having one munted leg/foot is annoying but having two smashed pins is nasty and I spent the next month or so hobbling round on tip-toe on crutches. For some years afterwards my heels hurt when it was cold and I never jumped off another stage again. I guess it was just a stage I was going through. Boom! Boom!

5)’Crystal Zoom’s last Dunedin gig in 1985 at ‘Sound’s Cafe’. 

In 1985 Mike Weston and I came back to Dunedin from our new base on Waiheke Island near Auckland to do a few Crystal Zoom gigs with our crack Dunedin rhythm section of Robin Murphy(bass) and Barry Blackler (drums) and we also had Rumi Amarasingham playing synth. We were at the height of our popularity and powers and I was told we set a new attendance record that weekend. I have a really good recording of the gig (by soundman, Mike Chirnside) and  you can listen to some of the songs(such as ‘Killing Me Softly With His Sperm’) on my Soundcloud account. I actually found this copy of the gig poster (which I have no memory of doing) for sale on the internet this morning when I was looking for something else. I might have to try and buy it! 

Crystal Zoom Live At Sounds 1985

6) Poster Advertising ‘Crystal Zoom’s third cassette release (1985)

 ‘More Base’ (Design by myself)

 After the gig above I had far too many lemonades before I ended up ‘The Governor’s’ for an interview with a local music journalist(who shall rename nameless) Back in the eighties the Otago Daily Times ran a half page about the local music scene every Wednesday and it was our mission to get our band in it every issue. The same applied to the monthly music magazine – Rip It Up. If we weren’t doing anything we’d just make up some bullshit story. I can’t remember what far fetched stories I was spinning that night but it must have tipped the journalist over the edge because from  that night on he became our implacable enemy.

The first evidence was a nasty little article in the first issue of ‘Garage’ Magazine called ‘The Crystal Zoom Existence’. It didn’t even mention the music except for “Dunedin Sound on 45’ which it warmly (and truly) described as ‘post-kindergarten’.  It even said Dunedin had ‘got rid’ of us like we’d been tarred and feathered and dropped off at the beginning of the motorway.

Naturally we thought this was just great and quickly made a poster of it to promote our third tape release – ‘More Base’. We were deep in our Dadaist phase at this point and wore masks (made by me)all the time a’la The Residents. The photo was taken by the now defunct Auckland Star.

That’s me in the background and our third drummer, Yoh,(“Laurence Landwer-Johan) in the front.

Yoh was ex-Screaming Mee Mees. He was a good drummer and our new North Island, bass player, Smokin’ Dick Libido, had great chops too but the band never really jelled in the North Island and after quite a bit of recording, a few gigs and a major personal disaster, I moved back to Dunedin to form Let’s Get Naked with Robin Murphy.  

7)’Axemen and Crystal Zoom at The Pitz Nightclub 1984 (Poster by The Axemen)

This is the only other poster which I didn’t have a hand in myself but I’m including it because the Axemen did such great art and posters and because it was a memorable gig. The Pitz was a low concrete underground venue in Bond Street which had been used as a venue for a number of years. It had terrible sound but it was easy to get permission to play there. Both Mike and I got very very drunk and in the photo below we can be seen handing out egg cartons(used for sound proofing) as pass-outs(ie. if you went out of the venue you had to present one of these egg cartons to get back in). 

8)Crystal Zoom – live at Coronation Hall (1983)

Poster image swiped by Mike Weston from an old Playboy and design by myself

This was the first of two gigs our band organized at Coronation Hall in Maori Hill – a venue made famous by early Dunedin bands like The Enemy, The Chills, The Clean and The Elevators. In those days it was hard for a band to get a gig when most of its members were under the legal drinking age of 20( in 1999 the Government lowered in to 18).

Playing there meant a young audience and there would inevitably be trouble with local hooligans so as well as the hall hire, PA and lights we also had to hire some members of the local karate club as bouncers. I can’t remember who played at which gig but some of the bands that played with us at Coronation Hall were The Wake and White Noise Cult. I do remember that both gigs were pretty chaotic and quite a big learning curve for us but we did make some money(see photo below) which we spent on more gear.

Bass player, Eric with some of the profits – note poster behind his head. Not bad considering the entry fee was only $2.50!

9) Let’s Get Naked (1986-91) – our most common poster – designed by myself and based on a photo of my bottom (it doesn’t look as good as that now!)

10)’Chippendale House Rent Party’ with ‘Let’s Get Naked’ , ‘Electric Blood’ and ‘The Rothmen’ (1987)

Poster by myself although its actually a drawing of ‘Crystal Zoom!” (not ‘Let’s Get Naked’)

Chippendale House in Stafford Street in Dunedin was a local arts co-operative that ran between around 1986-88 with funding from the local council and income from exhibitions and fundraising gigs like this one. Our band got talked into doing this free gig by my girl friend, Jill, who worked as an Art’s Advisor for the council. None of us wanted to do it as the place had a ‘too cool for school reputation’ and we were anything but. Plus we had to do it for free! But Jill was persuasive. We were a really popular local band at this point and were used to playing at The Cook and Sammy’s which had good PA’s and lighting systems and I well remember turning up to play this gig and there was almost nothing. They’d been a party the night before and the place was a mess. The PA was completely munted – like something you’d give an autistic teenager to try and fix to keep them busy for a couple of weeks. I can’t remember how Robin got it going or maybe we just played through the backline. Not a happy memory.

11) Four Rational Records Posters for Fundraising Gigs (1986-87) and the album cover of the ten band compilation record – ‘Art for Chart Sake’ (1986) – all design work by myself but the photo on the album cover is by Tom Sampson.

Rational Records started in 1986 when twelve local bands played at Sammy’s to fund a compilation LP (“Art for Chart’s Sake).

By the mid-late eighties the influence of the first generation of ‘Dunedin Sound’ bands was waning. ‘The Stones’ and ‘The Clean’ were gone and ‘The Chills’ and the ‘Straight-jacket Fits’ had moved  to Auckland.

Despite this the city’s live entertainment scene was firing on all cylinders with lots of bands, heaps of venues and good crowds for local acts. Many of the bands at this time were inspired by English and US new-wave bands and Australian groups such as Hunters and Collectors and Midnight Oil’ but ska, reggae and rap influences were also creeping in. There was also an active ‘punk/oi/hardcore scene based around Seacliff and at their venue, ‘The Nerve Centre’,(formerly ‘The Pitz’) in Bond Street.

Despite the fertility of the scene many of the groups were hard to categorize and it was difficult for local acts to access recording facilities and release their own material. Flying Nun tended to focus on their established acts (and their fellow travelers) and tended to shy away from that anything that didn’t fit ‘the house’ sound. Those major labels that did release more ‘mainstream’ local music tended to focus on Auckland.

The only Dunedin bands I can think of that got released on labels other than Flying Nun in this period were ‘The Idles’ on Wellington’s ‘Jayrem’ and The Netherworld Dancing Toys on Virgin. These two bands also dominated the local entertainment scene in the mid-eighties with frequent full houses at venues like ‘The Captain Cook Hotel’ and ‘Sammy’s Cabaret.’

Into this apparent vacuum stepped a young (21) year old student called Cam Olsen. Cam had recently started playing saxophone, (as part of a duo called ‘The Nordic Horns’ with his younger brother, Nils) in an established (but reconstructed) local group called ‘The Idles’ (formerly ‘Pretty Idles’). Cam was excited about some of the new songs the band was writing and thought it would be good to try and do some recording and perhaps release a record. How hard could it be?

After a big night up late talking with some of his musical buddies he went out and got a $5000 overdraft to start a local record label – ‘Rational Records’. The other main person that really deserves credit for the founding of Rational was Mike Pearce who had just set up ‘Strawberry Sound’ with Roger Wilson. Strawberry was a new audio-visual company which also had a small eight track recording studio in their premises in Bath Street near the Octagon. Mike agreed to let the fledgling record company use the studio on easy terms and help Cam get the ball rolling.

I stepped in pretty early to produce the record covers (usually with photos by Tom Sampson) and organized posters and promotional gigs to keep money and bands coming in. Most of the posters featured our mascot – Rational Rat. I can’t remember how many of these multi-band gigs I organized but probably around a dozen and many Dunedin bands played at them between 1986-88. Sadly Rational folded after putting out four LP’s. The whole thing was way too idealistic and Cam and I were too young and loose but it was a serious attempt to set up a record label like a non-profit communist collective – perhaps something slightly akin to Rough Trade records – but in the end not so successful. 

12) This poster promoted ‘Live at the Ego Club’ – Crystal Zoom’s second tape release which was recorded at The Empire Tavern in 1984 with Crystal Zoom on one side and Gamaunche on the other. The poster was printed by ‘The Axemen’ in Christchurch.

Design and stencil cutting by myself. The poster is based on one advertising ‘The Truth’ newspaper – a salacious broadsheet that ran between 1906-88.

13) Poster Promoting ‘Crystal Zoom’ when we moved to Auckland in 1985. Design by myself. 

When Mike Weston and myself moved the band to Auckland in 1985 we were pretty much unknown so we decided an aggressive publicity campaign was necessary. I remember us going out over a couple of nights and pasting up 1000 of these enigmatic ‘teaser’ posters in central Auckland – the biggest poster run I’ve ever done. 

band-photos-two14) Crystal Zoom’s last gig in Auckland (1985) – Poster by myself but I stole the photo from a library book

This was Crystal Zoom’s final gig. We had been playing in Auckland/Waiheke Island for about nine months with our new rhythm section but things weren’t jelling and we knew it. I don’t remember much about these three nights except for ‘Rip It Up’ music reviewer, Russell Brown,  telling me after one of them that I should give up on trying to be a singer/front man and concentrate on cartooning instead. A few weeks after this gig my partner died suddenly and I moved back to Dunedin. 

15) Poster promoting Crystal Zoom’s first tape release – ‘Hooked on Crystal Zoom'(1984)

These were a very small series of one-off posters I did using images cut from Cleo magazines of naked me with orange ‘fun fur’ covering their genitals. The cassette tapes themselves came in a furry purse made from the same material.

16) ‘Pretty Trippy’ and ‘George Street Normal’ – live at the Crown Hotel – May 19. 2022. Poster by myself with layout by Diane Davis

‘Pretty Trippy‘ is my latest band/ This gig was a special one because we were playing with two former members of ‘Let’s Get Naked’ (Rob Murphy and Ross McKenzie). Robin and I have been in three bands together (“Crystal Zoom!’, ‘Good in Bed’ and ‘Let’s Get Naked’). You can see some video of Rob playing bass on one of our songs –‘Joe’s a Fiend’ – while our usual bass player, James Dickson boogies away stage left.

 

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Dunedin Paintings (2017 – )

A series of paintings and indoor mini-murals I’ve completed since my return to Dunedin in 2017. One or two of them are still for sale and the prices are below. Pleas email me via – http://www.mahalski.com – if you’re interested.

‘Red Rooster’ (2017) Head of a roosted. Acrylic paint and spray paint on canvas (Private Collection)
‘Gold Plankton’ (2017) Acrylic paint and spray paint on canvas (Private Collection)
‘Red Penguin’ (2017) A Yellow-Eyed Penguin painted in acrylic paints and spray paint on canvas
“Gloss Red Rooster’ (2017) Painted with spray paint/enamel paint and spray paint on canvas. I used this as the template to paint a mini-mural on a utility box in Dunedin.
‘Male Seahorse Giving Birth’(2018) A painting on canvas of a male seahorse in the process of giving birth and surrounded by plankton. For sale $950

‘Male Seahorse Giving Birth’(2018) A painting on canvas of a male seahorse in the process of giving birth and surrounded by plankton. It’s still for sale $950

‘Grey Plankton’ (2018)- a variety of plankton surrounds a larval jellyfish Acrylic and spray paint on canvas. Private Collection.
‘Mummified Possum Joey’ (2018) 600mm x 600mm Acrylic paint and spray paint on canvas. It’s still for sale – $500.

‘Mummified Possum Joey’ (2018) 600mm x 600mm Acrylic paint and spray paint on canvas.

It’s still for sale – $500.

Mr T painted on the wall of ‘Re-Burger in Mosgiel. The colour choice was not mine. (2019)Spray paints and enamel paint on the wall of the takeaway.
Mr T detail
‘Gold Barracuda Head’ (2019) Acrylic and spray paint on canvas (Private Collection)
Royal Albatross at Taiaroa Head (2020) Acrylic and spray paint on canvas (Private Collection)
Kokako for Andrew Smith on the wall at ‘Hair Smith’ (2020)
‘Fur Seal Skull’ (2021) Acrylic and spray paint on board (Private Collection)
‘White fronted and Caspian Tern Skulls’ (2021) Acrylic and spray paint on board (Private Collection)
‘ Male and Female Yellow Eyed Penguin Skulls’ (2021) Acrylic and Spray paint on board (Private Collection)
‘Diatom – a painting on the wall of the Forrester Gallery in Oamaru (yes – I know its not Dunedin) May 2021’
‘Homo rudolfensis’ (2021)Acrylic and spray paint on plywood. Painted for an exhibition about human evolution at Otago Museum in 2021
‘Homo Ardipithecus (2021)Acrylic and spray paint on plywood. Painted for an exhibition about human evolution at Otago Museum in 2021
‘Homo Heidelbergensis (2021)Acrylic and spray paint on plywood. Painted for an exhibition about human evolution at Otago Museum in 2021

‘Homo Africanus (2021)Acrylic and spray paint on plywood. Painted for an exhibition about human evolution at Otago Museum in 2021. For Sale – $400

Plesiosaur – a Painting on the wall of Otago Museum – November 2021
Unidentified Species of Jellyfish (2022) Acrylic and Spray Paint on Canvas (Private Collection)
A jaguar in the jungle – painted on the wall of a bedroom of a private house (March 2022)

A Kereru and a Tui on interior walls of Commodore Motel (October 2022)

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Escape from the Animal Attic

The Animal Attic is an upstairs space gallery space at the Otago Museum.

It not only sheds light on taxonomy and evolution, but on Victorian-era architecture and ideas about how museums should be presented to the public. From Falkland wolves to rat kings, from giant crabs to beautiful glass models of invertebrates by the Blascka family, the Animal Attic highlights the diversity of species on Earth and explores evolutionary relationships in the animal kingdom.

Many Dunedin artists have been inspired by the Museum over the years and its not uncommon to find people sketching the exhibits. As an artist myself I often go there for inspiration and earlier this year I  began a project to paint some of my favorite exhibits on public walls around the city.

‘Escape from the Animal Attic’ is the first group show to be held in the gallery space at the Dunedin Museum of Natural Mystery. It features work from over 30 artists, mostly from Dunedin but a couple from Wellington. The show will run between November 8th and December, 1rst, 2019.

If you are interested in more information about any of the art work below and the size of each piece you are welcome to contact Bruce at – mahalski@outlook.com.

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The artists involved are – 

Nada Crofskey-Rayner

Humanity’s desire to flaunt the obtained form goes beyond the sense of self, to the extent of attempting specimen preservation exceeding scientific observational purposes. Trophies of difference, predator or prey. Locked behind glass in a musty display. Slowly degrading as it crumbles farther from its original form into a grotesque mimicry of its former self.

‘Exquisite corpse’ ( $350 framed. ) – Water colour on paper

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Holly Aitchison

I am an autodidact who switches between drawing with ink, graphite or charcoal and painting in oil or watercolour. My work is primarily representational and touches on themes of death, osteology, anatomy, feminism and sexuality.

I find that part of the joy/creepiness of the animal attic is the feeling of being stared at by hundreds of glass eyes, a claustrophobic guilt at their slaughter sets in and I begin mentally apologising to them for how their lives ended

.’The Animal Attic’ ($500 unframed) – pen and ink on paper

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Pamela Brown

Artist, Mother, Educator,

Born Southland and lives & works in Dunedin, NZ.

Diploma Fine &Applied Arts / Diploma Teaching

Master Fine Arts (distinction)

Known for colourful painted family portraits.

Creator of The Wallpaper House Installation.

Partner in the Art Department – art educators in  Dunedin.

A part-time lecturer at The University of Otago College of Education

Visual diary Art Workshops held privately by Pamela at the wallpaper House. Currently working with  – collage,wallpaper,maps,aprons,ballerinas,animals and much more.

‘Adorned Creatures’ – $650 – Acrylic Paint on Canvas

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Sarah Auckram

I am a Law and History Otago University graduate who loves to paint in my spare time. Lately I have been working on a series of still life paintings of indoor plants. I have sold these in previous University of Otago Art Week exhibitions. Now that I have finished studying I will hopefully have more spare to enjoy my creative hobbies.

New Zealand Sea lion $180 (framed) – Framed painting on paper

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Kerry Mackay

Artist and Art Educator: B.ED, MFA.

I am interested in ‘reskinning’ objects, bags and skulls, to transform them, keeping some of the history of the object and adding another layer of story. I use vintage woollen blankets in my work as I love everything about them, their history, their colour, their warmth, and the way they stretch and cover shapes. I then bind and stitch with wool and embroidery thread adding new imagery to the skin of the object.

‘Chamois Mount’ $900 – Hand embroidered mount

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Sarah Flourish

I’m a largely self taught artist, though with some excellent tuition at King’s FVA course before it was axed. I’m lucky enough to have a good home studio in which to indulge around the edges of my busy lifestyle and that annoying, though fiscally necessary, 9-5 thing. I tend to get carried away when I start a project and usually work in multiples. My preference is towards unusual supports for painting. I have an old pastry roller for a printing press and I also enjoy sculptural and assemblage projects. A self deprecating sense of humour is usually evident in my work and my art practice provides a good work life balance and helps keep me healthy and happy.

Mona the Monkey’ and ‘The Kangaroo with the big ball sack’ – $250 each – acrylic paintings on canvas

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Serra Kilduff

Serra Kilduff is an undisciplined artist who currently lives between Port Chalmers and Southern Fiordland. She is influenced by tattoo design, scientific illustration, comics and a bunch of artists, from Audrey Eagle to Patricia Piccinini.

Photo Pending

Maximillian Smith

Maximillian Smith is a young Dunedin artist and graphic designer.

Photo Pending

Robert Scott

I have been exploring the world of painting for some years now, and still trying to come to grips with it. I came from a background of drawing War comics as a kid and progressed to doing pen and ink drawings of buildings and farms on the Taieri, where I grew up until I went to Art School in Dunedin.

I have enjoyed working on posters and album covers of the bands I have played with since 1980, it is a great opportunity to try out different ideas.

During the last few years I have been using hardboard cut into different shapes to work on. At the moment I have quite a few commissions to do and no shortage of drawings to try and convert into new paintings. I have been trying to free up my style of late and set myself some new art goals in my approach.

“Scopus Umbretta’ – $500(framed) – Acrylic paints on board

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Louisa Baillie

I make primarily sculptural works. I also work full time supporting the Otago University Anatomy Museum. My job focuses on maintaining and making new anatomy teaching models. The collection is historical as well as contemporary, and is an inspiring place to be.

Photo Pending

Jonny Waters

“Jonny Waters is a Visual Artist currently based in Ōtepoti, Dunedin. Jonny mainly  works with acrylic and aerosol paint at both a small and large scale. He completed a Visual Communication Design degree at Ara in Ōtautahi, Christchurch and then trained to be a qualified Secondary School Art Teacher. He is currently a picture framer at The Framer’s Room and Alternative Education Teacher at The Kokiri Centre. Jonny has also curated and organised several Art and Performance based shows, both independently and for Fringe Festival. In recent years his art practice has focussed on the twisting and distorting of nostalgic cartoon characters as plywood cut-outs.

‘Mezzanine’  – $450 – Plywood cut-outs and acrylic paints

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Motoko Kikkawa
Born Tokyo, Japan 1968 Lives in Dunedin

1984 Graduated Nihon University, BA of Philosophy, Tokyo, Japan

1998 – Moved to Europe
1999 to 2003 Lived in Melbourne 2005 Moved to Dunedin,

2010 Completed BVA, Dunedin School of Art

Numerous exhibitions all over NZ and in Japan

‘The Animal Attic’ – $450 – Pen and ink on paper (framed)

Motoko

Jacque Ruston

Tena Koutou Katoa. Born in Dunedin & spent the 90s in Wellington. I have an honours degree in English Lit. Studied Creative Writing at Whitireia. Wrote & produced a play, short stories, poetry, started Salty Dog vintage. But to dig down and reconnect with painting and find out who I was, aside from the jumble of cultural overload, Mc Jobs and doomed relationships, I had to return to my turangawaewae – Dunedin. It was only then that I took up painting, and guitar. And have felt my spirit fill the empty well. I am mum, gardener, X gen, social activist, dog person at Roseneath Artist Sanctuary & manage Port Chalmers Community Market & of late, member of the West Harbour Community Board.

‘The Serpents of the Animal Attic’ – $340 – Oil paint on board

Jacque Ruston

Dallas Henly

Dallas was raised in the Far North in a creative family but, when it came time to choose subjects in high school, her parents said not to take art as “that won’t get you a job.”  Fast forward nearly 30 years, Dallas finds herself surrounded by talented, supportive people who have reignited her love for making things.  Early in 2018, she took a print-making class at Otago Polytech.  Later, she sold her first painting at a local market.  In December 2018, she leapt into an art career by opening a gallery with her partner in Port Chalmers.

‘Honey – I’m Coming Home’ – $230 – Framed goauche and gold leaf cut outs on paper

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Fifi Colston

Fifi Colston is an award-winning illustrator, author and World of Wearable Art designer. Her works on velvet have featured in sell out solo shows and feature New Zealand native birds, flowers and beetles. This is her first foray into deep sea life. Fifi spent 6 months of 2019 in Dunedin as writer and illustrator in residence at Otago University, and has left some of her heart and paintbrushes there.

Photo Pending

Peter Lewis

Peter Lewis has been cutting up and remixing popular culture since 1991. Inspired by legendary punk artist Winston Smith, Dadaist Max Ernst, and the Pop Surrealist movement, he amputates images from their original contexts and expertly grafts them onto new hosts. Packed full of silly details, visual puns and careful symmetry, Peter’s collages draw you in to a world where childhood images take on sinister new meanings or make dirty jokes together. Peter’s work has been featured on TVNZ’s “The Gravy” art show and in coffee table book “Masters: Collage. Major Works by Leading Artists” by US art publisher Lark Books.

“The God of Never-born things’ – $250 (Collage on canvas)

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Nicola Jackson

Nicola Jackson was born in Dunedin, studied Fine Arts at Canterbury University and has been the Rita Angus Artist in Residence, the Frances Hodgkins Fellow and awarded a Goethe Institute scholarship to study in Germany. She has exhibited regularly since 1981. She works in painting and sculpture installations and her work is informed by a graphic sensibility and extensive craft skills. Her most recent major work is the installation “The Bloggs”. The continuum of the research and development of ideas which inform her work has as a constant a love of museums, especially anatomy museums and the Animal Attic.

‘Bilby’ (Sold) and ‘Five speckled eggs’ – $500 – Mixed Media

‘Mexican Red Kneed Tarantula’- $350 – metallic construction by Conway Dean (see below)

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Hannah Short

Born in Dunedin, Hannah has been keeping a visual diary by taking her persistent nightly dreams, mixing them with life experiences and then translating them into ink drawings from a young age.

This year Hannah has been heavily inspired by the natural symmetry of nature, linear beauty of Henna and utilising colourful contrast and luminescent paint which, in her work symbolises perception and adds a magical element of surprise to each piece.

Hannah shares work on her Facebook page “HanaHrt” and has paintings on display in cafes around Dunedin and the Caitlins. Her largest painting features at Collective Gallery and has a recently completed commission piece at Wakari Hospital Specialist Addiction Services.

‘Milk Snake’ -$350 – Acrylic on Board

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Kaylie Black

I dabble in a range of crafts including cosplay, book binding, plushies, corsetry, jewellery, pixel bead art, free motion machine embroidery and bone carving. I value upcycling and use primarily second hand resources for all of my creations. Some of my favourite materials are leather (Jackets), metal findings (Old bags), upcycled fabrics (Op-shops are great for this) and altering/tailoring old clothing.

Variety truly is the spice of life.

‘Flying Fox Corset – $450 – mixed media – this piece can actually be worn as a corset!

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Flyiong fox corset 2

Kate Watts

I am a designer and textile artist based in Dunedin. I completed my design degree in Christchurch in 2001, and have just finished studying towards a Masters in Visual Arts at Otago Polytech in 2019.
My work, whether in design or art, often begins with a trip to the museum. I have vivid memories of trips to Canterbury Museum as a child, and still have a deep love of museums and natural history collections. The Animal Attic is one of my favourite places to visit in Dunedin.
I am passionate about dye and colour, my artworks vary from small detailed trompe l’oeil dyed artworks to large sculptural installations.
These works for the Museum of Natural Mystery are made using a Japanese printing technique called Katazome. Rice paste resist is applied through a stencil onto the cloth, with pigment dye or pigment or hand painted over the top.

‘Franciscana Dolphin -$89 –  limited edition print (100 total) on linen

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Madison Kelly

Madison Kelly (b.1994) is an Ōtepoti based artist grounded in drawing, looking, and re-looking. Expanding upon traditions of observation, research, and institution, her practice aims to reckon with human/nonhuman interactions in an increasingly uncertain era.

Dave Herbert

Dave is a little shy. He doesn’t like writing much either but he’s a stonking artist and makes awesome cut-out animals (like the flat-pack moa for sale in the museum).

‘Huhu Beetle – $350 – Painting on canvas

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Sarah Sharma

I’m an Art Teacher at King’s High School where I have worked for the 18 years. I dabble in many creative processes, which include graphic design, painting and printmaking.

Alongside my friend and business partner Prue Edge I have a Design company called Skivvie.co. We specialise in quirky, off beat and often humorous Designs with a retro flavour. We produce tee shirts, tea towels, embroidered patches, and paper printed works.

This year I have been spending a lot of time painting character portraits of vintage mug shots, which I exhibited at Pea Sea Art in Port Chalmers in early August as part of an Art collective I belong to called “The Pantie Bag Collective”.

‘Gorilla’ – $250 – Acrylic on Board

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Alan Dove

Alan Dove is a Dunedin based commercial, portrait and fine art photographer. His non-commercial work tends to focus on exploring issues such as environmental degradation, human (over) consumption and our attitudes to dealing with waste.

He is also particularly drawn to photographing the beauty of trees and the rugged central and coastal Otago landscapes. These vast mostly unpopulated spaces are a pleasant counterbalance to the busy, but low-key vibe of George Street where his studio in situated.

‘Domesticated Guinea Pig’ – $250 – framed photo

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Veronica Grace-Brett

Veronica is a 28 year old female human animal who lives in Dunedin. She is also a very skilled illustrator, cartoonist and tattooist. I think she’s cool.

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Bruce Mahalski

New Zealand artist Bruce Mahalski has had solo and group exhibitions of his art work  in a range of media including screen-printing, photography, painting and sculpture since 1996.

In 2005 he made the first bone gun for an anti-war exhibition called Full Spectrum Dominance and by 2010 he had begun to specialize in his trademark textural  bone sculptures. He is also a mural artist and the director of the Dunedin Museum of natural Mystery.

‘Bobtail Squid – Based on a glass model by the Blaschka Family – $250 – Acrylic paint on canvas.

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Andy McCready,

Andy is a  painter from Dunedin with a predilection for pop, lowbrow and illustration. You can generally find him at punk rock gigs or partaking of the free beer at art openings.

Style in a nutshell?

Retro-inflected eye candy on hand-cut, shaped boards. Playful, meticulous, kitschy. Living out my hair and tattoo fantasies by painting imaginary girls who are cooler than me…

“The Red head’s’ and ‘The Ritual’ – $350 each or $600 for the pair – Paint on ceramics

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Conway Dean

Born in Perth, Western Australia, Conway Dean is a self-taught sculptor and jack of all trades. Conway started making wire sculptures while working in a steel factory in the late 1980s. From these humble beginnings, he has developed his own style, inspired by impressionist artists like Van Gogh. Mainly working on commission, he has made a range of native New Zealand birds and more recently has been inspired my marine and terrestrial arthropods (bugs). Conway currently works at Otago Museum as a Facilities Officer, taking care of the displays in the Tūhura Science Centre.

‘Rubble Crab’ – $550 – mixed media metal construction

Madison Kelly

‘ Flamingo exposing its own taxidermy’

The Animal Attic is a space for sitting with animals as they are, and animals as humans choose them to be. Living flamingos filter-feed on the algae and small invertebrates swimming at their feet. The Animal Attic’s flamingo feeds upon the board on which its body is mounted. In a tireless loop of board to feet, to legs, to tail, to shelving, to wings, to shadows, to neck, to frame, to head, to feet, to board, to cabinet, the flamingo exposes its own construction again, and again.

Charcoal on paper

$300

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Nico Madill

Assemlitage is the style I guess I naturally stumbled into post high school. When spending late nights sitting on my bedroom floor, experimenting with whatever cheap art supplies I had on hand, this process is what I have more or less run with ever since.

Being a naturally lazy and procrastinating body I frequently find myself on the brink of disaster in regards to the finishing of work. The assemlitage for this particular exhibition was no different and was born out of the ashes and rage of two previous failed attempts.

‘Strawberry letter #23’ – Sold – Mixed media assemblage.

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Anita Clark

Anita Clark is primarily a violin player and composer, performing under the moniker Motte. Usually artworks are created as a side project in the form of band posters or commissioned illustrations. – “Even though I find taxidermy oddly fascinating and disturbing, I’ve always held a penchant for collecting dead things; a taxidermied rat, some dead birds, bones, bugs, things in jars.. Recently while touring, I’ve made a habit of drawing taxidermy portraits, finding it absurdly comical that in the same way you can capture the animation of a living being, you can also capture the non-glint of the dead animals eyes or the atrophied joints and muscle, especially funny when it’s dressed up to seem alive. I chose these two figures as I love/hate the classic museum style display and the curious decisions of placement by the curator”.

‘Canary Row – $300 – Framed Pen and ink on Paper

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Sam Ovens

Sam is a Dunedin-based musician, artist and experienced screen-printer of 15 years. Sam has exhibited works in Canada, USA and locally within New Zealand. For this exhibition Sam chose ‘Land’ based creatures and their parts from the animal attic at the Otago Museum.

‘Reinventing Extinction’ – -$200 – Painting on Board

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Sharon Singer

Sharon was born in England, in 1965 and now resides and works in New Zealand. She gained a BA in Visual Art and Design (2000) and completed her MFA (2008). She has participated in numerous solo exhibitions, group shows and national awards including NZ Portrait Award, Wellington (Finalist 2000), James Wallace Art Award Auckland (finalist 2003), Waikato National Art Award, Hamilton (Merit 2001), and Norse wear Art Award (Winner 2002). As well as recently venturing into illustration in Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion, edited by Jack Zipes (2nd edition, New York: Routledge 2006),and Utopian Tales; edited by Jack Zipes (The Caseroom Press U.K 2008).Her work is held in private and public collections in New Zealand and internationally. She has worked with fairy tales and myth as the subject of her paintings since 2000., invoking concerns such as narrative and meta-fictional awareness, feminist re-telling and fairy tale as popular culture.

‘Fukishima Wasabi – Murakami Spider Crab’ – $450 – Oil on Canvas

Sharon Singer

Jo Robertson

Johanna Juppe, formerly known also as Jo Robertson, was born & raised in West Otago. At an early age she has been a lover of birds & animals. She learnt how to walk following hens around the farm paddock at Waikoikoi & was bestowed with natural bird catching abilities. Miss Juppe’s first experience of the Animal Attic was at age 8 & mostly it terrified her, since she had only ever been around live animals on the farm, this experience brought up many intense philosophical questions about life and death & wonderings as to why anyone would want to stuff an animal like that in the first place. Naturally now revisiting the Animal Attic as a somewhat evolved human being, Miss Juppe can now appreciate the collection from several different lenses. It is natural that she was drawn to the cabinet of Magpies as her first subject, as she once had a pet Magpie called “ Hey Baby” & also to the Red Deer in the stairway to the Attic, she saw him as a type of Kaitiaki. Positioned in the corner of the stairway drawing the deer, she was able to hear what children were saying before turning the corner to the Attic… a lot of them said they were scared.

‘Red Deer Mount’ – $380 – Framed Sepia Oil Pencil on paper

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Facts and figures

2624 specimens on display

  • 482 taxidermy specimens
  • 1321 pinned specimens
  • 23 specimens in fluid, including a whale’s eyeball
  • 59 skulls and skeletons
  • 516 dried molluscs and crustaceans
  • 148 eggs, including an ostrich egg
  • 30 study skins, including a tiger skin
  • 7 fossilIMG_1055Some of the work in the show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s my Name? Tagging Culture and Law Enforcement in Wellington, New Zealand (2016)

The old male bear reared up on its hind legs and sank its claws deep into the pine tree. Then he raked them sharply down the trunk with a loud splintering noise. Next he sat on his haunches and sniffed the air. This was his forest. This was his tree. This was his signal to any other bears that passed this way. An invitation to females and a warning to other males.

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Bear Claw Marks on a tree

Humans also make marks. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years.  Sometimes we do it on things we own (or think we own) and sometimes we do it on public things we don’t. The concept of ownership has an important relationship to the intent behind the markings and their perception by others. If the mark-maker doesn’t have the owner’s permission we tend to call such marks graffiti which is against the law. If permission has been granted that makes it legal  and we call these ‘marks’ advertising, murals or sometimes ‘street art’.

The word ‘graffiti’ comes from the Latin graffito or  ‘a scratch’, and refers to writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or painted illicitly on a wall or other surface, often within public view. Graffiti ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. It has existed since the beginning of recorded history with examples dating back to Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire.

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Graffiti on the walls of Pompeii.

When I was young and growing up in the late seventies and early eighties the most common form of graffiti was spray painted jokes, political slogans and occasional gang names. I used to go round with my friends and put up the name of our band. In fact our first poster had the slogan; ‘You’ve seen the graffiti. Now see the band’. To us it was a form of social media marketing before the advent of the internet.  We used posters and stickers as well but the graffiti helped give us street-cred (or so we thought at the time). It was also cheap fun. We tried to be reasonable about it and for the most part kept away from private property and ‘clean walls’ and usually hit walls that already had some coverage.

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Graffiti on a war memorial in Auckland in 1985.

In the mid to late eighties the look of New Zealand graffiti changed in response to the arrival of American hip hop culture which saw the influx of new kinds of music, clothing and graffiti, plus the third wave of skateboarding.

Tagging had arrived! No slogans. No politics. The minimalist style took over and the tag is now the most common form of graffiti today. Tags are simply a name. Often written almost illegibly like a signature. Not the taggers real name of course but their ‘street name’.  Most taggers put up their own nom de street but in some cases names are shared around a ‘crew’ of taggers. Other times people will put up someone else’s tag as a kind of visual ‘shout out’ (a gesture of street respect). Tags are put up quickly and discreetly using spray cans, pens or scratched onto the surfaces of both public and private property.

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Typical tagging on the side of a skip in Wellington

Most taggers are young guys who get into it in their teens. You do find the odd female tagger or someone older but really it’s mainly a young man’s game. Love it or loathe it it’s not going to go away. The council can put CCTV everywhere. The police can lock people up. People are still going to tag.of these cryptic scrawls have meaning only to the initiated. To most of the general public they are just an annoying eyesore.

Why do they do it?

Is it a symptom of boredom or feelings of social alienation?  Problems at home?  Peer pressure? Teenage kicks? Frustrated artistic ambition?

Every tagger I’ve talked to has given me different answers. If there is a common thought process at work it’s not why? But why the hell not?

“Nobody knows about us, and nobody cares – but we’re going to make you care”.

Some of the taggers I’ve met have been caught many times and have had all sorts of penalties thrown at them including jail, but few are deterred.

I’ve been caught multiple times Security guards are often very aggressive and I’ve been assaulted many times. I can’t report it because I was doing something illegal. It never threw me off though – I loved it too much.”

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More tagging in inner-city Wellington(2016) They got onto this wall when the building was scaffolded for repairs.

But most taggers get away with it. They’re thrashing up their tag all over town and getting respect from their mates; the buzz of adrenaline and perhaps some feelings of satisfaction from putting one over on the cops, the council and ‘straight’ society in general.

This is about to change. In many cities including Wellington the council and the police are getting serious about ‘stopping tagging’.  If you’re a prolific tagger you WILL be on their radar and one day the hammer will come down.

Graffiti is reported to Council and depending on the site location the job will be assigned to one of Council’s contractors for removal.  Using the Stop Tags app, the contractors enter details relating to the tag, including a before and after photograph.  These details are immediately loaded into the live Stop Tags database when the graffiti has been removed.

Every square metre covered costs the rate payer around $25.  At the time of writing the council is logging around 1200 incidents a month. Nobody is quite sure how much is being spent but it’s somewhere in the region of over half a million dollars a year in the central city alone.

And it doesn’t stop there. Wellington City Council staff and Police can search the Stop Tags data base by time, location and tag name. The more tags you put up the bigger your profile on the site. If you get caught red-handed on CCTV or by the cops (who are running undercover operations in some areas) the tag you’ve just done will be compared with all the other tags on the data base. And you might end up with dozens or even hundreds of charges!

Once you’ve been caught the police will go round to your place. They’ll search your whole house and go through all your artwork to see if you’re responsible for any other tags. They’ll get into your phone, your Facebook, your Instagram, and they’ll talk to the Council who will give them any other relevant information from Stop tags. What happens then?

If it’s your first offense and you haven’t gone viral on Stop Tags yet you might just get a stiff talking to (and of course if you are under 17 your parents will be involved as well). If you have been very busy or perhaps been caught before there might be a family group conference and possibly some form of diversion (often community work such as covering over graffiti in your area). Or perhaps charges will be laid (usually ‘willful damage’) and you might face fines, home detention, periodic detention or even jail. Once you’re on the police’s radar it’s not easy to get off. Maybe you’ll start feeling a bit persecuted. Perhaps you’ll mouth off or resist arrest the next time you’re caught and then things will just keep on going downhill from there.

040 - tagging

Most taggers tend to tag inner city buildings and utility structures where there is perhaps something on their part of a perceived ‘lack of ownership’. But suburban property owners are not always immune. Here is my car after one of the local crews had given it a new paint job. It’s hard to put any sort of positive construction on behavior like this!

Here’s an example.

John was a prolific local tagger. Up until he turned sixteen he’d been mainly getting away with minor penalties.  But as soon as he turned 17 the police began to play hardball and the charges came thick and fast. In 2013 he was convicted of numerous instances of willful damage, possession of graffiti implements and some other charges including threatening language, resisting arrest and breaches of community work. He was sentenced to nine months in jail. After he got out he was caught again (reportedly ‘a one-off relapse’). The Stop Tags data base was now up and running and the police had also been busy. Over two hundred photos of his tags around the city were put before the courts and new charges were laid. The sad fact was that most of these tags had been done before he went to jail but only photographed since he got out. Now he was looking at going back to jail for up to SEVEN years – for tagging. At the time of this article his fate still hangs in the balance.

I guess the big question is; what separates a young man like this from some one like . . . Banksy. For one, John isn’t ‘famous’ (yet). But how did Banksy get famous? How did he convince people not to put him in jail and instead make him richer than Croesus? The simple answer seems to be that if you can convince enough of the public that your illegal graffiti is street art then somehow it becomes not only legal (in a way) but desirable too.  But if you fail to engage with the public it doesn’t. Really, like most art, it’s all a matter of perception.

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There’s not much separating tagging from graf except that the latter takes longer because it’s usually larger and more intricate. It’s hard to do good work quickly so the most ‘artful’ graf is usually found on ‘sanctioned’ sites like this one on a  fence behind Toi Poneke (The Wellington City Council Art’s Centre). The tagging above it is unsanctioned.

As a mural artist I am ambivalent about tagging. On the one hand I do get a little bit angry when someone tags a mural I’ve done but on the other hand I got well paid last week to fix up one of my murals that had been tagged. Also people pay me to paint murals, in part, because they often hope it will cut down on their wall being tagged. It will! Not because the taggers respect me or my work (they don’t) but simply because I am denying them a blank canvas.

When a building owner has commissioned a mural and it has been protected with graffiti guard, this means the owner has several months or even years (depending on the product used) to remove unwanted graffiti with water or  chemicals (again depending on the type of guard used), without damaging the mural. This means they are  much more likely to protect the mural by cleaning the wall themselves rather than ringing the council to come and paint it grey.

And perhaps tagging isn’t all bad? Where one tag can look ugly a whole layer of tags can sometimes look like a little bit of nature has invaded the city. Some animals were here. So is it all just thoughtless vandalism? Or is some of it art or on its way there?

The young bear stood underneath the tree where the big alpha male had made his mark a few hours before.  It looked up and saw the scratch marks. To hell with you and your ugly marks thought the young bear. What gives you the right to call this area your own? I’m going to take your territory and all that goes with it. He reached up on his hind paws as high as he could and he sunk his own claws into the bark.

All text and photos(except for Pompeii and bear claw marks) copyright Bruce Mahalski (2018)

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One recent fashion is to ‘disrespect’ street artists by tagging over the top of their work. Here we see a thick cluster of tagging over a mural by street artist, Drypnz, that had only been completed the year before. (2016)

Posted in Art Teaching, Murals, Politics Art, Street Art, tagging | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LOST IN PARADISE – Sheep Photos – The Back-story

‘LOST IN PARADISE’ – is an exhibition featuring the work of Bruce Mahalski, Kevin Dunkley and Miranda Woolett at the Exhibitions Gallery on the corner of  Featherston and Brandon Streets in Wellington. The exhibition runs between the 20th of August and the 5th of September,2009 with the opening on Thursday the 20th between 5-7pm.

I always think art is more interesting if you know a bit about what you are looking at. So here’s a bit of information about the sheep-head series ( AKA ‘Planet of the Sheeps’) – a body of work which I propose to continue until I have enough for a book. Most of the photos  were taken of friends around Wellington in 2009 using three different 35ml cameras and negative black and white  film.

 

Sheep - The Happy Couple (n) 

The Happy Couple – Carey Hibbert and Catherine Povey – 2006.

In 1996 Te Papa held a contest to promote an exhibition of photos by the internationally renowned Magnum Group of Photographers. The competition brief was to produce a photo that was quintessentially New Zealand and if there is one thing that has always screamed New Zealand to me  – its sheep (sorry to everything else).

I already had the sheep masks (see www.mahalski.com – Current Exhibitions – ‘News’ section – first ‘Lost in Paradise’ entry) and one Sunday I took them to my friends’ Carey and Catherine’s place  to try and shoot the perfect kiwi picture  of them in front of their old state house. The clothes they were wearing were perfect but the house itself just didn’t work as a back-drop. We went for a walk with the masks and the camera and literally just around the corner we stumbled across the most  archetypical  state house in the country! I took a few picture (in colour) and entered the best one in the competition.  I can’t say that it won (although it was a finalist). That honor –of course  -went to a picture of a cabbage tree or a nikau palm – I forget which.

Ten years later- in 2006 – I was organizing an exhibition at Toi Poneke(the Wellington Arts centre) with another artist- Stefano TeVega and we needed a picture to put on the invites and the poster. After a failed attempt to take pictures of ourselves dressed as boxers  I decided to try and re-take the Sheep/Statehouse picture again but this time in black and white. Once again I went round to Catherine and Carey’s place and persuaded them to put on the masks. Luckily they still had the same clothes even if the intervening decade had seen them ‘shrink’ a little bit and the photos we took turned out well.

Stefano and I used one for the posters for the show and people  seemed to like it. It was fun taking photos using the sheep heads – they made almost any picture look provocative and interesting  – so it sounded like a good idea when dealer Ron Eskamp suggested I do a few more.

 

Sheep Farm

       Mother and son – Lisa and Tom on the farm  –  2009

The picture of Lisa and her son, Tom in front of a flock of sheep was the next ‘Sheep-head’ picture I took in the series. My original idea was to have a couple of young women wearing the masks and surrounded by a flock of sheep. I rang my friend,Christine, and she put me in touch with Lisa , and her husband, Mike, who help run a  farm in the lower North Island. Mike had already got quite a large flock penned up for dosing when I got there and a number of us went out to the pens with the masks and the cameras. I took a whole film of Lisa and Christine’s daughter,Amber, standing in the middle of the flock but it just wasn’t looking the way I wanted it. We’d already let young Tom have a play with the mask and he looked pretty good in it so I took another film of him and his mother posing with the flock behind them. These pictures were a lot more successful. I particularly like the look of the sheep.  Some of them are even looking at the camera. Normally when you point a camera at a sheep it automatically  turns its back on you (try it sometime) but I’d already taken a lot of photos by this time and I think the flock were starting to relax. I’m really pleased with the picture below of just Tom and the flock and the nice round hill behind him.

 

Sheep series - Farm Boy

    ‘Farm Boy’ –  Tom on the farm – 2009.

 

Sheep - pregnant

   ‘Young Mother’ – Justine King – Wellington – 2009

Years earlier I’d taken some pictures of my pregnant partner wearing one of the masks but she refused to let me show them to anyone. Naked people always looked great wearing the masks – like  Egyptian Gods or something out of ‘The Magus’ by John Fowles.  My friend Justine was really pregnant with her first baby and I knew she would be up for a picture. She’s one of the most uninhibited people I know and a great photographer herself.

I was trying to shoot all couples for the series so at first I included Justy’s partner Tristan, in the pictures. Like most self-conscious guys he refused to get his clothes off but the contrast of the naked and clothed sheep-head people looked quite good. However I was having  trouble with the light. The camera I had been using for years had just broken down and I was using an old Nikon I’d borrowed off my mother. It was giving me some really funny exposure readings ( I found out later it was broken too) and many of the photos turned out under or over-exposed. I couldn’t take the pictures again because Justine wasn’t pregnant anymore (having given birth to Rafaella by then). At first I disregarded this picture because I thought the subject was too small but the more I looked at it the more I liked the way the figure was standing on the edge of the darkness with a luminous glow around it. After bit of Photoshop tweaking by long-time collaborator Diane Davis I thought it was good enough to include in the series.

 

Sheep Heads _ Tom and Vaune

    ‘Circus Sheep’ – Tom Beauchamp and Vaune Mason –

        Wellington –  2009

My original idea for this picture was to have Tom  hanging upside down with Vaune standing beside him. Tom is the main man behind Fuse Circus – a Wellington circus company that does shows around the country. They also teach people how to do acrobatics/trapeze acts/ hula hooping /you-name-it ( www.fusecircus.co.nz).”

Vaune is also involved with Fuse and she is well known in Wellington as a   talented jeweler/artist/performer and all-round arts polymath. The photos I took of Tom hanging off the trapeze with Vaune beside him were OK but it was easier to get the look I wanted when they lay down on the floor together. I got quite a few nice shots from this series including a colour one of Vaune with her arms held out by her side like an Asian dancer. It looked so cool I got her to repeat the same pose in my studio  a couple of weeks later where I shot it in black and white (see below).

                                            Sheep with hands

                                      ‘Goddess’ – Vaune Mason – Wellington – 2009

 

Sheep - Rock1(com)

‘Rocky Shore Sheep’– Wellington’s South Coast – 2009

It was one of those winter afternoons when the light around Wellington’s South Coast was just awesome. I went out to my favorite beach just around from Moa Point with the masks and took a lot of pictures. It was hard to choose just one because several of them tuned out really well. This one stood out because of the lovely pool of light on the heads and the rocks in the foreground and the  calm dark detail behind them. It’s the only picture with no people in it.

 

 

Carlucci Sheep - Carl and Katherine Gifford and cat

  ‘Carlucci Sheep’  – Carl and Catherine – Carlucci-land – 2009

Like  a lot of people I had been driving past Carl and Catherine’s place in Ohiro Valley with a growing sense of amazement at the development of their sculpture park – Carlucci –land (carlucciland.co.nz). Their large property seemed to sprout huge stone and metal sculptures over night. One morning I went by and there was a Fiat Bambina ten meters off the ground on giant legs like a spider.  How did they do it and did Carl never sleep? One day I went round and introduced myself and suggested we do a sheep photo. Spiders are one of Carl’s recurring themes and I particularly liked the big one he had in his back-yard.

I took some photos of Carl and Catherine standing in front of the spider but this was the shoot when I found out my camera really was broken and none of the pictures  turned out too well. I had to borrow another camera – the third I’d used so far on this series – and we tried again a couple of weeks later. This time their cat , Max, was also keen to get in the picture and the photos turned out a lot better.  Apparently the large ball that makes up the body of the spider is some sort of cooling or lubricating component from a hydroelectric dam.

SauronAndSheep(medium size 

  ‘Sauron and Sheep’ – Marina, Steve and Al – Underground Arts – Wellington – 2009

 This was the most difficult picture to take. In fact I tried three times to get it right!

Steve Maddock is the director of New Zealand’s only Tattoo Museum (www.tat2.co.nz) and Underground Arts Tattoo Studio in Wellington. The Museum in Wigan Street in Wellington is also home to part of Steve’s impressive Lord of the Rings collection including the spectacular Sauron Mask in the photo.

The recent movies have connected New Zealand very firmly with the Lord of the Rings franchise and so it seemed pretty obvious to take a picture connecting LOR with New Zealand’s other big export identity – sheep (sorry everything else again).

I arranged to take the photos with Steve wearing the Sauron mask but we needed two other people to wear the sheep masks. We had one body, in the form of Steve’s business partner and well-known tattoo artist, Al Musson, but we needed another.  Luckily at that very moment a couple arrived to visit the museum. I asked them if one of them would don a mask for a photo and Marina, a visitor from Italy, kindly agreed to do so.

When I looked at the pictures they were fine but the sign on the wall behind them was too distracting and the masks did not stand out as well as they might. I took the pictures again with Steve wearing the Sauron mask and two other people under the masks but once again my camera refused to function properly and the pictures were under-exposed.

I did them a third time (with the third camera)but on this occasion I couldn’t get the composition right. I should perhaps mention  that taking the photos was made more difficult by the fact that Steve expected me to take the pictures extremely quickly – “You’ve got one minute!”   – and just wasn’t interested any pathetic excuses on my part.

I really wanted a Sauron and Sheep picture for the show. I just didn’t want to give up but I was too scared to ask Steve to put a  mask on again.  I decided to ask my my Photoshop Wizard friend, Diane, if she could  have a go at lightening the background on one of the first pictures  I’d taken.  I think she did a damn fine job and the image finally looks the way I hoped it might.

 

Sheephead pics- Lampton Lambs

‘Lambton Lambs’ – Katherine Field and Jonno Huntington  – Lambton Quay – Wellington 2009  

 This was the last photo I took the current series. I had been wanting to take a couple wearing office-type clothing in the centre of Wellington for some time but  most of the people I know are bohemian types with little in the way of ‘’straight’ clothing. Finally I managed to talk Katherine Field – administrator at Toi Poneke(Wellington Arts Centre) – where I have my studio – into doing the photo. She then had to convince her boy-friend, bar –owner, Jonno Huntington.  

One Sunday not too long ago we took a series of pictures in the CBD and I think the picture above came out the best. I had a bit of trouble with the new camera in the early shots but by the time we arrived in front  of the Prudential building I had it sorted.   Jonno looks like a sheepish Clarke Kent on his way to find a phone booth while Katherine plays the role of sultry secretary in the background.  I like the way it’s got the words – Lambton Quay in the picture. It always remind of Lamingtons- those small strawberry filled sponge-cakes that are so popular in the provinces. 

Sheep Lotto2(com)

      ‘ Lotto Sheep’  – Justin  – Wellington – 1999.

This photo was not taken at the same time as the rest of the series. I took it for an exhibition called ‘Money and Desire’ which was held in Auckland in 1999 but I never actually used it for anything at the time.

The show purported to be collection of artifacts from a cargo cult that had  recently started in New Zealand and that people were using all sorts of magic and ritual to try and achieve instant wealth. I already had some work in the show about Lotto and so I was ecstatic when someone I had a vague connection with actually won First Division. Justin was the eighteen year old son of my ex-partners new partner and he had taken out the Big One with his first ticket. What made this ticket even more cool was that he had watched the draw live and circled each number as it came up . Normally you’d circle the number in every row that it appeared but Justin just followed the one line with his circles getting more and more scribbled as his numbers all came up. This is a photo-copy of the ticket – you have to give them the real one – and they give you a copy. I used Justin’s win in several pieces for the show. My favorite was a decorated reliquary box which held three golden bottles – one contained his hair, another his nail clippings and the final one some fluff from his belly-button.

Thanks very much to all those who took part in the show! And to Ron at the Exhibitions Gallery, Diane Davis, Chris at Framer vs Framer , David White, Rogan Spears, Pauline Mahalski,  Photospace and all the staff at Wellington Photographic Supplies.

All photos © Bruce Mahalski 2009

www.mahalski.com

 

 

Sheep Shakespeare

                                          The very first sheep head photo.

Used on the cover for the single – ‘Uptown Sheep/Dunedin Sound on 45’ (Flying Nun records) 1985

Photo by Miffy Rees  Model = Bruce Mahalski

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Graffiti to Street Art – A Short History

There seems to be a strong impulse in human beings to leave their mark. To tell the world you were here. Unlike other animals we know we’re going to die and leaving some sort of physical mark behind  is one way of ensuring our symbolic survival. Of course animals mark their territories too with scent and claw marks, urine and faeces but there seems to be obvious long term intent beyond marking a territory or finding a mate. Perhaps these drives also play their part in our own activities.

These drawings  on the walls of the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave  in southern France are  the earliest known and best preserved cave art that have been found. Dating back some 30,000 years these charcoal renderings are in many places covered by the claw marks of extinct cave bears. What motivated our ancestors to make these drawings.  No one knows.

001 - Cave Art

When humans moved out of their bear infested caves and into their first permanent dwellings some ten thousand years ago they started to decorate the interior walls with hanging paintings and wall painted frescos while  the exterior walls became canvases for graffiti. What is graffiti? The Oxford English dictionary defines it as ‘writing or drawings,scribbled,scratched or sprayed illicitly  on a wall or other surface in a public place.

In AD 79 the Italian city of Pompeii was covered in ash and mud during the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius. While this proved fatal for many of the inhabitants it preserved the city as an almost perfect time capsule. When the city was rediscovered in the eighteenth century subsequent excavations revealed that the outsides of many of the buildings were covered with drawings and text.

When I was growing up in the 1970’s the predominant sort of graffiti was done with spray cans. It was fast and easy to make your mark on a wall. Tagging hadn’t been ‘invented’ yet and the most common forms of graffiti were political satire, band names and gang related. Often it was pretty mindless. Just young drunken men with spray cans being vandals. Below is a fairly typical example from Dunedin in the early eighties. The first addition to this wall  was ‘Squash a Rasta a day’ with punk ‘anarchy’ symbols. This was followed by ‘Watch it Whitey Nigga Gonna Getcha…’before both slogans were painted over with ‘ANL’ – the acronym of the Anti-Nazi League. Ravens and ACDC (pointedly crossed out) are both band  names.

003 - Dunedin Nostalgia-Grafiiti One

The inventor of spray paint in a can was paint salesman Edward Seymour in 1949 but perhaps the real credit should go to his wife, Bonnie, who apparently put the idea in his head. There were already other aerosol cans on the market but nobody had put paint in them before. Seymour  founded a company,  Seymour of Sycamore, Inc. of Chicago and him and Bonnie got rich!  Other manufacturers soon jumped in and now over 400 million cans a year are sold in the US alone.

011 - Spray paint

Despite the rapid popularity of spray cans it took a while before artists saw their potential for painting outdoors. Traditional mural painters kept using their brushes and indeed quite a number still do.

If the spray can vandal is the city’s wicked witch then the fairy god mother just has  to be the professional mural artist.  A trained professional commissioned by a building owner or a community group to decorate their building. and often paid well to do so. Muralists have been around since the Roman Empire and probably longer and some,such as Mexico’s Diego Rivera,have  become famous. Many of them also had a gallery career to fall back on when they weren’t painting walls. This modern tromp oeil  ‘(literally ‘fool the eye’) mural by John Pugh  is in New Plymouth.

03-b - Napier Tromp d ole

In the 1950’s and 60’s American street gangs started using spray cans to’mark out’ their territories. It only took a second to ‘represent the hood’ with a quick throw up whereas painting a gang slogan by hand took some time and incurred the risk of arrest. In the 1970’s some of this group of  disenfranchised urban youth saw the potential in spray cans to begin the colorful transformation of  their neighborhoods and a new style was born incorporating giant cryptic symbols and illustrated words painted on walls and on the subway trains which they rode every day.. In the beginning this style was called bombing. Now its called graf.  It’s still the style that many people associate with the ‘street art look’ and many young artists today cut their teeth and learn how to use spray paints putting up their tags or graf.

015 - Grafitti - New York bombing

New York ,with its high population of young poor suburb dwellers became was the movement’s early focal point. This new style didn’t go unnoticed by some of the young artists living in the area.

Two of these in particular, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring  are given a lot of credit for helping to lead the cross-over from graffiti to art. Both were inspired by the raw spirit of the new medium and began to paint on the street. Basquiat ( ‘street-name,Samo) specialized in simple iconography and long post-modern sentences mocking aspects of the establishment and the art scene in particular. Haring was more populist and used the walls of subways stations as pop-up galleries to showcase his quirky graphic stylings. Both artists took their street styles into the galleries and went on to major contemporary art careers before dying prematurely later in the decade.

005-Basquiat

Baquiat in New York(1986)

005-Kieth haring Berlin Wall

Keith Haring on the West German side of the Berlin Wall

Another artist who was influenced by what he saw in New York, particularly the life-size figures of Richard Hambleton, was Xavier Prou. Using the street-name of Blek Le Rat (‘rat’ as an anagram  for “art”)he returned to his native Paris and began to paint illegally on public buildings. So he could do this quickly and not get caught he pioneered the use of spraying through elaborate pre-cut stencils. Blek is widely given credit  as the ‘inventor’ of this technique which has since been used by many street artists including the ubiquitous, English artist, Banksy. Banksy  acknowledges his debt to Blek, not only for his use of pre-cut stencils but also for his early use of rats as a symbol of urban malaise and an inside-art joke.

“Every time I think I’ve painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek Le Rat has done it as well, only twenty years earlier.”(Statement credited to Banksy)

Blek Le Rat- Rat Stencil

Blek Le Rat- Rat Stencil

Banksy- Rat Stencil

Banksy- Rat Stencil

Whatever one thinks about Banksy he does have to be given  a lot of credit for catalyzing the new art movement via his clever publicity stunts such as painting on the  Isreal -Gaza barrier wall(2005), his coffee table books and his film, Exit through the Gift Shop(2010). The film is a virtual  street art how-to guide and as well as featuring Bansky it also catalogs some of the early activities of tile artist, Invader and paste-up artist, Shepherd Fairey.  But of course none of  these artists would have gone on to become famous without the invention and the widespread proliferation of the internet in the nineties and early twenty first century. By its very nature street art is temporary and is often covered over by other works or the building itself is modified or knocked down. A photograph on Instagram and the work is saved for ever(?)and available for viewing all over the world twenty four hours a day. Without the internet there would have been no mass movement on this scale and street art would never have been anything more than a strictly local phenomenon.

As street art took off spray can manufacturers such as Molotow and Montana brought our new colour ranges and nozzles adapted for different styles. Hire companies expanded their fleets of cherry pickers and scissor lifts and street art started to cover not just walls but whole buildings.  One of the world’s top big spray painting artists is Aryz from Madrid. Like many modern street artists he says he uses no stencils or grids to paint his giant colorful pieces all over the world. Like a rock star with a spray can he has joined an elite group of globe-trotting artists who travel the world going from one well-paid commission or street art festival to the next.

009 - Aryz gigante

Aryz – Madrid

And its not just the men who are getting famous. Street art started out as mostly an illegal phenomenon where young men went out at night and painted or glued and hoped they didn’t get caught. Nowadays many cities have places where young people can practice their skills and more and more female artists are joining the movement such as Swoon, lady Aiko and Faith 47.

faith47 - saturation.incubation.illumination-1

Faith 47 – South Africa

But street art is much more than just spray-painting. It embraces a whole range of new artistic movements who are expanding in all directions.

There is reverse graffiti where temporary or semi-permanent images are made by removing old paint or dust or grime. One expert in paint removal is Vhils from Portugal who removes old paint to create beautiful portraits.

015 -Vhils -Portugal

Vhils-Portugal

There is paste-up – where posters or composite images are pasted onto walls using glue or wheat paste. Many are very temporary. People rip them off or they get covered over and without a photo on the internet their fleeting existence would go unrecorded. Two of the most well known are American,Shepherd Fairey, who became famous for covering the world in his OBEY posters and Frenchman JR who covers walls in giant photographic montages of local residents.

Obey-Shepherd Fairey

Obey-Shepherd Fairey

There is street sculpture – where sculptures or ready-made objects are installed with or without permission on walls or in public places.  Invader from France used tiles which he glues onto the unsuspecting walls of public spaces while Cityzen Kane from England uses large foam sculptures which he glues and/or bolts onto the wall.

Cityzenkane Gotenburg- Sweden 2016

Cityzenkane- Gotenburg – 2016

And then there are video projections, sticker art, yarn bombing, tromp oeil  chalk drawing and many other sub-sets and variants of those we have already mentioned.

Street Art has come of age. It is the new art movement. As potent and powerful as any of its predecessors. It is the child of the spray-can and the inter-net. And its not going away any time soon.

Words – Copyright Bruce Mahalski – 2015

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Posted in Art Teaching, Murals, Politics Art, Street Art | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poster Boy

Poster Boy

I was down the alley at the back of the Robbie Burns putting up a spread of posters for a band called ‘The Poodles’ when the police car pulled up beside me. I tried to ignore it and just kept covering the backs of the posters with the glue from the bucket at my feet but then I heard the doors open and the cops walk over. I picked up one of the posters and stuck it carefully onto the wall before turning to face them. They were a couple of young guys – fresh out of Police College.

“Do you know you’re committing an offence?” said one of the cops.

“No”

“Well, you are”.

He paused and looked at the wall which was covered in a thick layer of posters dating back to sometime in the nineteen- fifties.

“But a lot of other people seem to be doing it too”.

I kept quiet and looked humble.

“Personally I can’t see a lot wrong in it. As long as you’re not sticking them on private property?”

”I wouldn’t do that! I do this for a job.” I said, making a direct appeal as one professional to another.

They looked at me with new respect.

“So do we”, said the other cop. “Have a good night”.

They got back in their car and drove off and I put up the final poster of the lay-out before moving down George Street towards the Octagon. It was getting cold and I had to keep my foot on the posters to stop them blowing away while I glued up the next lot.

A block or so down I had just started a spread on a wall surrounding a new building site when a car pulled up at the traffic lights and tooted. I tried to pretend it wasn’t there but then a hand came out of the passenger side waving a band poster.

“We’re gonna’ cover your posters!” someone in the car shouted drunkenly and then the lights changed and I could hear them laughing as they drove off.

“Fucking amateurs” I thought. “Make-work pricks!”

If the little shits did cover them I’d have to go out the next night and do the job again!

The next couple of blocks were pretty uneventful except for some bodgies in a Cortina who wound down their window and abused me – “Faggot with a bucket!” – as they cruised past.

I’d nearly finished the main street and I was putting up some posters on a bollard when I was confronted by this old Asian guy who was clearly very angry about something. It was hard to understand what he was saying and it took me a minute to work out that he was a shop owner whose premises had been ‘postered’ at some point. He had decided it was me. He kept on telling me to “Piss Off!” and that he was ‘sick of me putting up shit up all over his building.

“How would you like it if someone came to your house and put shit all over your walls? You’d call the cops!”

I tried to reason with him and tell him how responsible I was but he just didn’t want to listen.

He started asking me for my name and I took this as my cue to leave but I could hear him abusing me for the next block or so.

There was only the university to do now.

There used to be some big bollards outside the union but they’d be knocked down when they built the new library so the posters had spread onto the wall in front of the bike stands. I was putting up the last of the Poodles posters when a couple of students came up and asked if they could have one. Of course I gave it to them. It saved me sticking it up and them tearing it down.

I had just about finished my glue as I pasted the last couple of posters onto the wall.

I could feel the grime of the city starting to eat its way into my finger-tips and I was looking forward to getting home and going to bed.

I was almost home when a car pulled up beside me – it was the Cortina with the homophobic bodgies again. Naturally I kept walking and ignored them but this tall bodgie jumped out the passenger side and grabbed me and the driver  – who looked like Meatloaf – got in front of me and started yelling that I’d spat on his car or some such shit.

I knew as soon as I said anything – just one word – he’d hit me – so I said nothing and just looked through the guy like he wasn’t there.

He kept on abusing me and knocked the bucket out of my hand but I just continued to blank the prick completely.

He realized his strategy wasn’t working – so he upped the ante and spat a beer-smelling gob of saliva straight into my face while his mate held me round the neck and laughed.

I could see him waiting for my reaction but there was no way in hell I going to give this mother the satisfaction of acknowledging his mindless existence now.

So I just kept on blanking the fucker completely.

My complete lack of response really threw him and I could see the cogs slowly turning in what passed for his brain as he tried to work it out.  Maybe I was retarded or deaf? He just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t reacting.

By now I was resigned to getting a kicking no matter what but suddenly his mate let me go and without saying another word they got back in their car and drove off.

I wiped the spit off my face with my glue-covered hand and walked home feeling really good.

I had totally dominated those dumb fucks.

It was just another night in the exciting and sometimes dangerous world of the professional poster person.

Toyboy 4 - Cuba- 12.10.10

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Sacred – A sculpture by New Zealand bone artist – Bruce Mahalski

We can only look upon a human skull with awe.

 Inside a layer of bone which is only a few millimetres thick in places lived a thinking brain, the mind of a person like us.

Imagine the millions of thoughts and experiences this object encapsulated.

No wonder we revere skulls. But we’re scared of them too. Not only do they remind us of our impending death there is also the fear that their former owners might come back to haunt us. For many reasons most of us aren’t too comfortable around human skulls and we certainly don’t want one in our home.

 Today our skulls usually get buried along the rest of us or destroyed completely during the cremation process, and many people don’t have the opportunity to interact with them.

But in the not so distant past skulls often had another life.

Christians (and other religions) used to keep the skull (or other bones) of religious leaders and venerate them in special containers called ‘reliquary boxes’. By far the largest collection of crania belongs to the Catholic Church and many important religious buildings still contain and occasionally display such relics as palpable touchstones of their faith.

the skull of Peter of Verona

the skull of Peter of Verona

Other cultures have kept skulls as trophies, preserving the heads or skulls of their enemies and displaying them in their houses – or even wearing them as decoration. These trophies were often kept as an insult to the dead person’s mana and a visible warning to their relatives not to come looking for vengeance. Other cultures believed that cutting the head from an enemy and keeping their skull would give them control over the spiritual power of the deceased which they could turn to their own ends in this life.

The indigenous people of Papua New Guinea used to keep skulls of family and friends out of love and a desire to remember their kin. These skulls were considered to hold the spirit (imunu) of those deceased.  If they were well looked after the spirits would continue to help the community as their owners had done when alive. The skulls were often frequently handled and sometimes covered in clay to resemble the deceased person. These ritual objects provided a tangible link between this world and the next and were often consulted for advice or help in times of need.

It wasn’t only the natives of New Guinea who liked to decorate skulls; Neolithic crania from approximately 12,000BC have been discovered in the eastern Mediterranean decorated with Dentalium shells. On the other side of the Pacific the Aztecs covered complete skulls in turquoise and other materials. One of the most famous of these is thought to represent the god Tezcatlipoca, or ‘Smoking Mirror’; one of the four powerful creator deities who were amongst the most important of their gods. They also used to cut the facial bones from their victim’s skulls and make ritual masks from them.

Tezcatlipoca, or ‘Smoking Mirror’

Tezcatlipoca, or ‘Smoking Mirror’ – Skull covered in turquoise – British Museum

aztec-skull

Aztec skull mask with flint blade nose/tongue

The Aztecs believed that when a person died their life-force departed from the mortal remains forever. So they had no compunction about using bones in their ritual art. One of the gods, Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec god of the dead, used bones like seeds to grow new life. The bones were crushed into a powder and inserted into the soil where new humans grew like plants.

There are not many examples of people using human bones for artistic purposes in European history.

One well-known exception is the famous ossuary chapel at Sedlec in the Czech Republic. In the 17th Century woodcarver František Rint used human bones and skulls at Sedlec to make all sorts of decorative sculptures. Mostly they paid homage to the Schwarzenburg family who owned the ossuary – or to himself!

Family Emblem of the Sc

Family Emblem of the Schwarzenberg – Sedlec Ossuary – Czech Republic

 Another more recent example is the art of Swiss artist Francois Robert who made a number of temporary installations using a human skeleton which he laid out in different patterns and designs, many of which depicted words or weapons.

stop_violence_gun_525

Francois Robert- Skeleton Pistol

Recently I acquired a human skull. Like the other skull in my possession this one was also once ‘owned’ by an old medical man. Up until quite recently everyone training as a doctor had to acquire a real human skeleton so that they could become competent anatomists. Nowadays most medical students use life-like replicas but these are not useful for illustrating the impact of various diseases or congenital malformations.  The skeletons came mostly from sources in India until they outlawed their export in 1985. But many people in India still cannot afford a proper funeral and bodies are often dumped in some convenient place. These bones and others looted from gravesites continue to supply an illegal export trade in human material.

According to estimates, 20 000 – 25 000 human skeletons are smuggled out of India every year through Nepal, China and Bangladesh. The skeletons reach markets in the US, Japan, Europe and the Middle East, mostly for medical institutions. The price for a complete skeleton in these markets ranges from $700 to $1500 depending on the quality and size. In India a full skeleton costs around $350 in the open market. Young Brothers, a Kolkata based bone dealer, sells a human skeleton for $300. While the complete skeletons mostly find their way to medical laboratories in the West, the assorted bones and skulls are used for religious rituals mostly in Hindu and Buddhist dominated areas. For example, as part of their tantric rituals in places such as Nepal and Assam, many tantric adherents drink wine from human skulls.

Illegal Skulls

A police officer in Burdwan, West Bengal, displays a cache of skulls confiscated from a bone factory on the outskirts of Kolka.

I find it slightly odd that not many people are prepared to use real human skulls in art today, although their representations appear absolutely everywhere.

My new skull had been sitting in the bottom of a cupboard for years and was in very poor condition. I decided to use it in a piece of art. I didn’t take this step lightly and I knew I would be throwing myself open to criticism by people who believe I am being dis-respectful.

Much of my work is connected with the idea that humans are an integral part of the natural world and have no claim for any separate status. It is our current ‘disconnectedness’ from nature that is at the heart of so many of our current problems as a species.

 In my opinion all life is equally sacred. I can’t see any spiritual distinction between the bone of a human and the bone of a sheep. I admit that if a bone had a personal connection through birth or friendship (e.g. it was my father’s skull) I might feel differently. But that is a separate issue. I don’t care what happens to my own skull. In fact I’d be happy to see it involved in some new act of creation – or perhaps just sitting on my son’s mantle piece.

The skull I obtained is a mystery. I have been told by the person who gave it to me it probably belonged to a mature woman who probably died at least sixty years ago.

This beautiful structure was part of a living organism and I make my work to honour her previous life force and not to commemorate or celebrate her death. I am also trying to do justice to the life forces of all the other biological material I have used in the work.

Smooth white cup sponge (Corallistes fulvodesmus) Ngawi 2014

Smooth white cup sponge (Corallistes fulvodesmus) Ngawi 2014

To make ‘Sacred’ I installed the skull in a reliquary box or a cista mystica (a sacred casket) made from recycled timber (with the help of Global Wood Rework). I designed the piece so that the skull’s face resembles the corolla of a large flower. The ‘petals’ are made from dried cup sponges(see above) This is a particularly lovely species of sponge which dries out like thick cardboard. I obtained these rare specimens from a beach at Ngawi in the Wairarapa. The other bones and teeth come from cows, sheep,wild pig and ostriches sourced from farms in the lower South Island.

If I hadn’t made this piece both the human skull and the other material would probably been lost to our view entirely. I hope that by preserving these artefacts and bringing them a new life inside a home or a gallery or the internet I am extending them both honour and respect. That is certainly my intent.

Sacred- Skull Art by Bruce Mahalski

‘Sacred’ (30 x 30cm) Human facial bones with cup sponges and bones from cow,sheep, and ostrich in a custom box made from recycled wood. Bruce Mahalski – 2015

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