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Art attack on city substations

Monday, March 27, 2017

Often the target of unwanted graffiti, substations around the city will be brought to life with professional spray art, as part of the Paradox: Tauranga Street Art Festival.

Electricity distributor Powerco, which is the principal sponsor of the festival, has offered up five of its assets as blank canvases on which street artists will be making their mark.

Work has begun on the first Powerco site, in Spring Street, by prominent Christchurch street artist Wongi “Freak” Wilson, who played a major role in revitalising the quake-stricken city through graffiti art.

“Street art is a powerful medium for instilling a sense of pride in the communities in which we live. It becomes a unique part of a city’s identity and the people who live there become the custodians of that art work,” says General Electricity Manager Andrew McLeod.

“Powerco strives to connect people – both literally, through our electricity network, and by supporting initiatives that strengthen and enliven communities. We are proud to be supporting this exciting inaugural event, which will have a lasting impact on both those who live in Tauranga and those who come to visit this beautiful harbourside city.”

Wongi, who is volunteering his time, says the artwork will combine all three of his preferred styles – realism, nostalgic cartoons and traditional graffiti.

“I’ve got a general idea, but I tend to paint quite organically,” he says.

“In my mind I’m picturing hands with pens, pencils and spray cans, along with cartoon characters and elements of graffiti.”

The image, which will wrap around the substation, will take several days to complete.

Wongi, 35, harboured dreams of being an artist from a young age, inspired by his father who was also a talented artist.

He has been a full-time artist for the past six years, supported in his career by his wife Emma, who is an accountant.

“Street art adds a lot of different factors to a place. It’s a talking point and a visual attraction,” says Wongi.

“In Christchurch it was used a lot as a distraction as well, to beautify the place and be uplifting and positive.”

The other Tauranga substations to be adorned with street art are at Sixteenth Avenue, First Avenue, Marsh Street and Mirrielees Road.

This will not be the first time that Powerco has turned its utilities into works of art.

Several transformer boxes and substations in Taranaki, where Powerco has its head office, have been emblazoned with artwork by New Plymouth artist Phil Jones, also known as “Suspect”.
The artwork associates dangerous creatures – raging bulls, wolves, spiders and jellyfish – with the hazards of electricity.
“Our assets are designed to be functional but the artwork made them into points of interest as well. It really brightened up pockets of the city and acted as a deterrent to unwanted graffiti,” says Mr McLeod.

The Paradox: Tauranga Street Art Festival, open from Tuesday, will span 12 weeks and is comprised of three elements – Paradox Inside, Paradox Outside and Paradox Live & Local.

Paradox Inside will see a major, ground-breaking street art exhibition created inside Tauranga Art Gallery, featuring the Oi YOU! collection, including the most extensive assembly of works by acclaimed street artist Banksy in the Southern Hemisphere. To complement the collection of iconic street art, some of the world’s most famous artists will create bespoke works within the gallery.

Paradox Outside will include a combination of public and privately-owned wall spaces that will be transformed by artists from home and abroad to celebrate the natural habitat of street art, while Paradox Live & Local will encourage public interaction with a series of events during the 12 weeks.

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