Artist's work going global

DANIELLE STREET
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2014
Grumpy Cat

LOST ART: Mr Walsh’s Grumpy Cat artwork was buffed off the Big King watertower last year by a Watercare contractor.

Paul Walsh
BRANCHING OUT: Three Kings artist Paul Walsh is getting media coverage in the UK, United States and Canada for his utility box artwork.
Paul Walsh
FEATHERED FRIEND: The posh Ponsonby Pigeon gained about 2.5 million views in 48 hours after being posted to Reddit.

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The artist behind the beloved Grumpy Cat on a prominent Auckland watertower is gaining global recognition for a series of new works.

Three Kings resident Paul Walsh featured anonymously in the Central Leader in May when the large kitty he painted on Big King reservoir was covered over by Watercare contractors - much to the disappointment of regular park-goers.

Following the story Mr Walsh was given carte blanche by telecommunications company Chorus to paint its roadside utility boxes.

It's not a paying gig, so the industrious artist raised $1300 through PledgeMe to pay for supplies. "It's enough to pay for the paints and a couple of hours of my time. I don't mind doing this sort of thing for cheap, because the profile it gives you is huge," Mr Walsh says.

And he's not kidding.

A photo starring the bejewelled Ponsonby Pigeon was posted to social news website Reddit and within 48 hours the image had clocked up 2.5 million views.

Then he got a phone call from CNN's Headline News asking about the project.

His work has also been picked up by popular arts website My Modern Met and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Mr Walsh says he is overwhelmed by the response to his artworks, which feature an unlikely cast of creatures like astro-sloth and a fabulous sunglass-wearing cat.

"People have really adopted them," he says.

"They aren't as put off by the slightly weird subject matter, which I really like. There's a tradition in New Zealand public art for the vast majority of it being either historical or native birds.

"I think it is important for artists to be able to be challenging while they work in the public sphere. We shouldn't just have bland art everywhere."

So far he has embellished eight boxes around central Auckland, however three of them were mistakenly painted over by a contractor.

He was reimbursed by Chorus for the gaffe and supplied a large tub of clear-coat protectant for his work.

Mr Walsh has another 15 boxes in his sights but says he will probably need to fundraise for more paint.

He is also working in conjunction with the Puketapapa Local Board on a proposal for Watercare to get grumpy cat reinstated on the Big King Reserve watertower.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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