Adding colour to Auckland's CBD piece by piece

Girt by sea and adorned in grey, Auckland's cityscape isn't renowned for its colour. But if you look closer you'll see a city peppered with flecks of colour that capture greater New Zealand and the outside influences that have helped develop its own unique culture.

Paul Walsh is one of many street artists giving Auckland's silent walls a loud and coloured voice. Transforming brick to canvas, Walsh's murals depict recently passed music legends, animals and sardonic social commentary.

"One of the coolest things about painting these public artworks, you know everyone is exposed to them, they become part of the public space and people kind of adopt them as part of the community."

When Walsh was growing up he didn't see any public artwork. He believes that the inspiration it gives to kids is essential.

"There's no sort of barriers to entry... unlike what you get with art galleries or dealer galleries and museums," he says.

Although public opinion surrounding street art is now generally quite positive, there was a time when its existence was outlawed and its practice was deemed criminal.

During the 1980s the graffiti and street art movement swept the globe. Documentaries like Style Wars showed the lengths artists would go to publish their work outside the law. The idea was to force messages from the voiceless into public spaces.

Since then street art has become less about social interference. It's now accepted - and even celebrated - amongst high-end art circles. Inversely it's also become a growing symbol of gentrification.

New Zealand has embraced street art and has a healthy community of celebrated artists - some like Askew and Misery internationally lauded. Christchurch is now ranked alongside New York, Barcelona, Berlin and London as a street art capital.


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