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Exhibitions | Galleries | Studios | Street Art | Art in Public Places | Ōtautahi Christchurch and Canterbury

A Changing Face

 

Three youthful faces stare outward from a lush green background, a sense of poise and pride evident in their outlook; they exude a focused sense of purpose. These figures, Selina, Iva and Callum, are the subject of Kophie Su’a-Hulsbosch’s 2023 mural for the Mini Flare Street Art Festival. The painting stretches along the exterior eastern wall of Tūranga Library, allowing the trio to both greet passers-by and survey the space beyond.

Su’a-Hulsbosch, also known as Meep, chose to depict three of her close friends in the work, each having made Ōtautahi home after arriving from overseas. There is Selina, who grew up Samoan in the North of England; Iva, from Indonesia, a descendent of the Minangkabau tribe; and Callum, born in London of Caribbean descent.  Accompanying golden iconography reveals this lineage; Selina’s siapo-inspired floral patterns, Iva’s ceremonial headdress and the palms standing upright next to Callum, all add to the mural’s narrative.  However, it is the unseen shared journey to Ōtautahi that unites the three, despite their differing backgrounds and experiences. For the artist, the choice of these three contemporaries reflects the changing cultural identities of our city. In doing so, Meep’s work suggests a key potential of muralism as a public art form: story telling through immediacy rather than posterity.

Growing up in Ōtautahi, statues of important men (and fewer women) stood as selective symbols of our past – from Godley in Cathedral Square to Rolleston outside Canterbury Museum. These marble and bronze monuments have served to reinforce historical narratives through generations. Of course, we now acknowledge the problematic nature of such an approach, and across the globe statues have been contested and many removed as our understanding of history, collective and individual, evolves. This reflects the problem in seeking to preserve individual glories for future generations to celebrate – passing decades don’t just wear and fade the material reality, they also change our sense of identity and self-awareness.

Muralism, in its ultimately ephemeral form, provides a fitting solution to this complex reality. Not only can murals allow us to reflect on those who have gone before us, such as Jacob Yikes, Dcypher, and Ikarus’ tribute to Ernest Rutherford, Distranged Design and Right Brain Designs’ Edmund Hillary mural, and Su’a-Hulsbosch and Janine William’s Wāhine Toa mural on Hereford Street (depicting Elsie Locke, Neroli Fairhall, Airini Grennell-Gopas, Wharetutu Te Aroha-Stirling and Erihapeti Rehu-Murchie), their energy seems more fitting for a contemporary lens, a platform for those who walk among us and are affecting our world now. In either case, we can evaluate and consider ideas in real time, using the present and the immediate to frame our understanding of the world. Murals do not seek the permanence or privilege to remain in place for hundreds of years. They speak to us now, not just representing the stories we can tell, but the context in which we can receive them.

The dilemma is perhaps found in our conditioning to public art –we come to cherish the familiar when it comes to our surroundings. It may be sad to see a fond work disappear, as has been the case with so many of the city’s wall paintings, but change is inherent in muralism’s power. We can always look forward to what may spring forth. Selina, Iva and Callum reflect our city today, with the poise of the statues that went before, yet their mural understands they are part of a much larger story and that those who come next will tell new stories, reflections of the world that they will make.

Kophie Su’a-Hulsbosch, Selina, Iva and Callum, 2023, Tūranga Library, Eastern wall, 60 Cathedral Square

 

 

A Changing Face

 
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