Graffiti – urban artform

Love it or hate it, graffiti is a part of the urban landscape. I’m a fan of graffiti, but not a fan of random tagging.

I love the colour and style of big graffiti pieces, but I don’t personally see the value of random tags. However, I am learning that these seemingly random scribbles are often a precursor to graffiti artists learning their trade and building into bigger and stylier works.

I recently watched Style Wars, which documents the early years of graffiti in New York. It’s a fascinating look at the birthplace of urban graffiti, and outlines the overlap between graffiti, hip-hop and breakdancing as outlets for visual, spoken and physical expression for urban dwellers. It is an intriguing look into the community of graffiti artists, who talk about why they ‘write’ (usually just words) and why they ‘bomb’ (typically more substantial, pictorial works).

The library has copies of the 25th anniversary edition of Subway Art, in which photographers Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant document the diverse work of graffiti writers who (illegally) painted subway cars throughout New York City. The larger style of this new edition showcases the work in fantastic form.

For a New Zealand perspective, check out Elliot O’Donnell’s book InForm, where New Zealand graffiti artists talk about their work, their style and their influences.

Jonny Wartman is a director for the only professional graf company in New Zealand. He’s originally from Christchurch and was interviewed for The Pulse.

Graffiti is everywhere, whether you love it or hate it. To whet your appetite to find out a little more, here’s a selection of covers to give you a taste – the books on non-English language graffiti art, for example, graffiti paris and RackGaki, were really interesting to get a different cultural perspective of graffiti.

Howard Morrison – To Sir with Love

It feels like an old friend has gone. Sir Howard Morrison has passed away at the age of 74. He has been one of those great stalwart kauris of New Zealand – up there with Edmund Hillary, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Colin Meads – fully embodying Aotearoa to Kiwis home and abroad. His version of Whakaaria Mai is one of New Zealand’s taonga.

It wasn’t long since this great entertainer was on our tv screens – Howard recently appeared on September 4th on the Good Morning show in a cool Birthday special and on July 3oth talked about the importance of Te Reo Maori in his life.

Many tributes and eulogies will come today and in the days to come. Radio New Zealand has summed up his long career and many achievements, thus:

From his days with the Howard Morrison Quartet in the 1960s, Sir Howard had a varied career as entertainer, cultural ambassador, and social advocate …Sir Howard was born in Rotorua in 1935, a member of Ngati Whakaue of Te Arawa. He began putting together vocal groups to perform at rugby club socials in Rotorua in the mid-1950s and was a member of the successful Aotearoa Concert Party that toured Australia.On his return to New Zealand, he formed a group with his brother and cousin, and guitarist Gerry Merito, that became the Howard Morrison Quartet … In his later years, he established the Sir Howard Morrison Education Foundation of Te Arawa Youth to support those embarking on university study and was a trustee of the Books In Homes organisation. Waikato University gave him an honorary doctorate in recognition of his service to the Maori community.

Hei maumaharatanga ki te tino hoa
In fond remembrance

Image of the week

Womens’ Royal Army Corp Parade

Womens’ Royal Army Corp Parade

1940’s. Parade of the Womens’ Royal Army Corps  at Burnham Camp. The woman second from the front is my mother Joan Gundersen (nee Gott). She was a Sergeant Major.

Christchurch City Libraries is inviting the public to be part of a gathering and documentation of historical photos on peace and conflict in Christchurch from 14 September until 23 October. We are collecting images of Canterbury’s involvement in peace and conflict over the years and will publish them on the libraries’ Flickr site. This year we are looking at three broad themes in fitting with this years Heritage Week: Life at Home, Away from Home, and Peace and Remembrance. So gather up those photos and send them in! The Christchurch City L ibraries Photo Hunt 2009 is open from 14 September until 23 October and is part of the Beca Heritage Week’s ‘Doves & Defences’ celebrations. Winners will be announced and contacted on the 2nd November 2009.

Celebrating Dame Agatha Christie

Good Lord, as Poirot’s chum Arthur Hastings is so very fond of saying, I clean forgot Agatha Christie week. Where are one’s little grey cells when one needs them, what what…

September 13-20th was a week-long celebration of Dame Aggie, her long and extraordinary prolific career; over forty events were scheduled both in London and on the self-styled “English Riviera”, her hometown of Torquay. The best-selling author of all time with two billion books worldwide and over 80 novels and short-story collections published (stick that in your pipe and smoke it Alexander McCall Smith) she is of course best known for her dandified Belgian detective Poirot and the shrewd, perpetually knitting Miss Marple.

Two new Poirot stories and 73 notebooks detailing un-used ideas and alternative story endings have recently been published by John Curran in Agatha Christie’s secret notebooks: Fifty years of mysery in the making. Not everyone agrees these books were exactly “secret” but they do apparently give new insights into the Christie writing process. Curran also acted as consultant to the National Trust  during the restoration of Greenway House, Dame Agatha’s holiday home in Devon, which opened for the first time to the public this year.

Christchurch City Libraries has just purchased several of the Poirot television series featuring the incomparable David Suchet as Poriot and trusty sidekicks Inspector Japp, Hastings and the almost, dare I say, librarian-ish Miss Lemon. The 1930s modernist decor and fashions are divine and a host of well-known British actors pace in out of the stylish sets smoking furiously while pleading their innocence.

Miss Marple tales are also available on DVD featuring both Geraldine McEwan and lovely, fluffy Joan Hickson as the eponymous heroine. The Geraldine McEwan versions play a little fast and loose with the original stories but are all jolly good fun.

However if this all sounds drearily old hat François Rivière’s comic strip adaptations of several Christie stories including Murder on the Orient Express, The Secret of Chimneys, The secret adversary, Murder on the links and Death on the Nile are an interesting take on the classic tales.

As part of the Guardian’s coverage of Agatha week they posed the question “How well do you know Agatha Christie?”
…the answer dear reader is extraordinarily well.. I got 11 out of 11..nah-nah-nah-nah!