Plaza mural unveiling to open festival

BRIGHT NIGHT: John Pugh works through the night, completing the mural now covering a wall in  Huatoki Plaza.  The American, who has completed vast outdoor projects in other parts of the world, was commissioned by the organisers of the Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular to create the work
JONATHAN CAMERON/Fairfax NZ
BRIGHT NIGHT: John Pugh works through the night, completing the mural now covering a wall in Huatoki Plaza. The American, who has completed vast outdoor projects in other parts of the world, was commissioned by the organisers of the Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular to create the work

A creative collaboration between a Kiwi and an American will be officially unveiled today, before the region's premier garden festival gets under way tomorrow.

The large mural on the wall of Huatoki Plaza in New Plymouth has been completed, three months after American John Pugh and New Zealander Mark Spijkerbosch first started work on it.

Tonight it will be welcomed as part of the Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular.

Pugh, of California, specialises in trompe l'oeil – trick of the eye – murals that draw viewers in.

The project began when festival organisers contacted him.

He submitted the design and began work with Spijkerbosch, of Rotorua.

The mural wasn't painted in situ but on a special material in Spijkerbosch's studio before being applied to the blank wall.

Pugh, who has been painting illusory murals since 1981, said he preferred to paint at night and this week did much of the finishing work in Huatoki Plaza after daylight.

"Night-time is a great time to explore your creativity because there's fewer distractions."

To avoid the rain, he was up until 4am on Wednesday.

Illusory murals like this attempt to integrate the architecture into the painting, with this installation characterised by a wooden boardwalk inviting viewers to "walk in".

The foreground also features a rock cliff spilling down to pools of water while an eastern view of Mt Taranaki dominates the background.

He's named the work Waterway.

Spijkerbosch described the project as time-consuming and demanding but expected it would last on the wall for two generation or about 20 years.

The picture was like a portal full of colour.

"We've had some comments from the community about what we're doing and that's cool.

"People like to be tricked. It gives them a very engaging dimension I think."

He's been a fulltime mural artist for 20 years and describes Pugh as his mentor and friend.

The Garden Spectacular runs from October 28 until November 6 and features 49 gardens as well as garden talks and walks, a speaker series, wine and music in gardens and a floral demonstration by Heather Hammond.

Taranaki Daily News