Mural artists go with the Maitai flow

00:10, Dec 05 2013
WAVES OF COLOUR: Wiremu James’ design for the Collingwood St bridge mural, drawn when he was 14.

Nelson is set to receive two "Christmas presents" in the form of new murals along the city's Maitai River Walkway.

Work got under way earlier this week on the first two of the Riverside Murals Project's 10 planned murals.

The "urban street design" mural under the Collingwood St bridge is titled Flow. It uses layering techniques, with a riverbed transforming into sky and water patterns evolving into birds, while the word "Flow" runs through it off the back of a youthful face.

Wiremu James
TAKING SHAPE: Artist and project manager Christopher Finlayson and his helpers work on the Flow mural under the Collingwood St bridge.

The second piece, at Millers Acre, by artist Rick Edmonds, is sepia-toned like an old photograph, and depicts people and sailing boats of yesteryear at the mouth of the Maitai River,

The Collingwood St bridge work is based on a 1998 design by Wiremu James, who now lives in Australia. He drew it when he was 14, and is unaware it has been transformed into a public art feature.

Project manager Christopher Finlayson said he was sitting with Mr James when "he drew [the design] and gave it to me".


Mr Finlayson kept the design until he pulled it out one day and thought, "Whoa, this would be perfect" for the riverside murals.

Mr Finlayson is a strong believer in free public art, describing it as "art by surprise" which breaks down social preconceptions and "reconnects people with art".

The Golden Bay artist has created 350 public artworks all over New Zealand during the past 35 years. He is the man behind some of Nelson's most talked-about public pieces, including the Aotearoa mural on Wakefield Quay and the Urban Jungle on a building at the top of Trafalgar St.

Volunteers came down to the river during the week to help out and leave their stamp on the city. A J Southern, 18, said she chipped in because "it sounded really fun" and she wanted to be part of "organised vandalism".

"I am allowed to paint a wall in public."

It was a family event for Lisa Op den Buysch, who came with her daughter Mariah, 17 and son Jacob, 19. Mrs Op den Buysch said she enjoyed the experience because it was "cool to be able to express and make the city beautiful", and it was "great to have something to inspire people" with.

She hoped her children would one day be able to show the next generation how they had contributed to the city's public art.

Arts Council Nelson adviser Lloyd Harwood said the mural project helped to reinforce Nelson's status as "a centre of art". It would also get people to visit parts of the city that they might not otherwise think to visit.

He said the works would be an interesting addition to "our lovely city" and would improve some areas that were a "wee bit bland", while giving artists and the community pride in their city.

The Nelson City Council has approved $77,000 towards the project over the next year.

The Nelson Mail