Street art is a definitive feature of Morningside’s landscape.
On almost every public wall between Morningside and Kingsland you can find artwork, most of which traces back to one or another of the country’s best-known street artists. It’s been this way since the 1980s, when the modern street art scene – along with shoulder pads, hairspray, and the Footrot Flats film – really took off here in Aotearoa.
Street art can say a lot about a neighbourhood. It’s a reflection of the people and things that make up the surrounding community. That’s why Morningsiders, generally speaking, are as proud of our street art as we are the rest of Morningside – which, for the record, is really quite proud.
A few years ago, we here at Crave asked ourselves, “How can we create even more pride in the neighbourhood?” The idea to make more awesome street art was the perfect answer. But first we needed to find the perfect artist.
If you’ve been to Morningside, it’s likely you’ve noticed a beautiful reinterpretation of Vladimir Tretchikoff’s “The Chinese Girl”. It’s a collaborative piece by artists Owen Dippie and Hipara August and can be found very close to Crave. We had certainly noticed it. Like all of Owen’s work, the painting elicits so much emotion and epic-ness, it’s kind of hard to ignore.
Owen’s ability to mix his background in fine arts with healthy dollop of street (and a hefty load of talent) is why his pieces are so indistinguishably his. It’s also why his work speaks to a huge range of people. He’s internationally recognised, having a solid fan base and high demand for his work in the epicentre of the street art world – New York. He was exactly the kind of ‘awesome’ we were looking for.
We didn’t know Owen, but with a stroke of what was possibly a bit more than good luck (or just a classic case of New Zealand’s not-even-2-degrees of separation), a friend of a friend did. So, we got in touch.
The first piece Owen painted for us was actually inside the cafe. We were working on the final touches of Crave 3.0 at the time and decided we wanted bring street art – and in turn, a bit of the neighbourhood – into Crave. His interpretation of Mary can be found perfectly placed above the counter, serenely watching over the cafe. We get asked about her (and if she really is spray painted) every single day.
But the main piece we commissioned from Owen is the massive Creation of Adam street mural. Although located only metres from the cafe, the project was never really intended to have any direct correlation to Crave (except for being part of the same epic ‘hood, of course). We knew we wanted the mural to symbolise connection and unity, but as it was Owen’s work it needed to be something he vibed. We discussed a few ideas we had up our sleeves, agreeing on the near-touching hands of God and Adam from Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”.
With spray can in hand, Owen got to work. Over two weeks every Morningsider, if not every Aucklander, watched in awe. The finished work was celebrated with an Italian-themed street party (of course), which coincidentally fell on international Neighbours Day.
The Creation of Adam mural has become more of a backdrop to Morningside than we could have ever imagined. It’s also become the backdrop to hundreds – if not thousands – of photos. It’s even played backdrop to a few wedding photos, testament to its powerful message of unity.
Thanks to Owen, the mural has given us exactly the outcomes we wanted – it’s the pride of the ‘hood and something that connects us all. But it also communicates new beginnings, with the liminal space between the two fingers symbolising the ‘what-ifs’ of the future.
For us, it speaks of the intangibles of the neighbourhood and the potential we always knew was here.