Street art: Sworn enermies: Felines vs. Canines by Sam Hollis
Your cartoony creatures can be seen on many walls across Wellington and wider Aotearoa. What inspired your signature style?
Public art is for everyone – I always aspired to create work that was accessible, understandable, and fun both for me to make and the viewer to look at. I never took art classes, ever, so my work was and continues to be naive, simple, and playful. I spent my middle-youth in the windy city learning and painting. The community, the youth, and the city itself proved to be a remarkable incubator for creativity.
What strikes me about this mural is the many ways it represents opposition and conflict. Why did you settle on this concept?
The concept of this wall was inspired from a traditional yin-yang symbol... I wanted to create a piece of work that explored the idea of opposition and that more represented the people and animals of Mount Victoria. I reinterpreted the yin-yang form with a cat and a dog duelling in the centre, then reimagined their ringside supporters packed in behind each to the edges of the space.
You often tell stories in your artworks. What story does the showdown in the centre tell?
Cats are crafty, dogs are brave. To be an artist, you need to be both of those things in balance.
You have also designed many murals collaboratively, most famously with Damin Radford Scott as BMD. Creatively, what opportunities does a mural like Sworn enermies afford you as a solo artist?
We worked together collaboratively as BMD for about five or six years, then separated to pursue our solo careers and ambitions as individuals. Murals are a fun medium where you can work at scale and weave artwork into a city’s fabric; you can participate in your city’s look and feel. I use murals to produce either fun or thoughtful work – something ridiculous and colourful, or something with more depth about a social or environmental message for the public to consider. You can’t be too serious or too playful all the time, so I try to find balance in my output.
Your work is now synonymous with the streets of New Zealand. What legacy do you hope it leaves?
I hope people enjoy my work and if you don’t, I’m terribly sorry, but I will be continuing to make it.