Painter's work puts smiles on people's faces

Last updated 05:00 28/12/2012
DISTINCTIVE MURALS: Waikato Times Person of the Year finalist Jeremy Shirley is brightening up some of Hamilton’s ‘scary’ structures.
BEN CURRAN

DISTINCTIVE MURALS: Waikato Times Person of the Year finalist Jeremy Shirley is brightening up some of Hamilton’s ‘scary’ structures.

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Jeremy Shirley doesn't do anything blindingly brilliant but in his own quiet - and largely anonymous - manner he's played a key role in the last year in making this city we live in look and feel a little bit nicer.

He's put smiles on people's faces and turned neglected corners of Hamilton into picturesque murals.

So far, the artist has painted his distinctive murals on a dozen bus stops and half a dozen pedestrian underpasses around Hamilton.

He's just completed another work on the eastern side of the Cobham Dr Bridge and his work also adorns the walls of a couple of fish and chip shops and cafes in the city. He's not finished yet either, with work due to start on another 10 bus stops.

Shirley says everyone he's spoken to has enjoyed what he's done and he has no intention of stopping.

"There are so many horrible areas created in our urban environment and a painted surface makes things look a whole lot better," he says.

It was a "huge" honour to be nominated as a finalist for the Waikato Times Person of the Year and while he doesn't do it to gain accolades, "it definitely makes you feel good".

"If I can make you smile, it doesn't matter what language, then it's a winner, " Shirley says of his bus shelters.

"I am really humbled by the response to them. I mean, I love painting those things."

Shirley dabbled in art and worked for a Te Awamutu signwriter before attending Wintec to study graphic design and illustration.

He secured a commission to create some work at the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre in Hamilton in 2000 and ended up with a job teaching art at Waikeria Prison.

He spent three years there before moving to Waikato Museum, where he leads the workshop team and is part of the exhibition team.

The idea to paint bus stops and underpasses grew after he noticed how little art - and how much tagging - there was on the streets of Hamilton.

"These are great structures, but they can get neglected and tagged and become quite a scary place for people."

Not any more, thanks to the work of Jeremy Shirley, a finalist in the Waikato Times Person of the Year.

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- Waikato Times

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