Today Invercargill can boast one of the tallest street art murals in New Zealand.
Internationally acclaimed artist Danny (Deow) Owen is the creative behind the 33m high masterpiece, with the Invercargill Licensing Trust initially providing the blank canvas on the south wall of the Kelvin Hotel.
Returning home to Southland recently after a stint living in California, Deow said he was excited about the new feature on Invercargill’s cityscape, due to be completed next week and revealed when scaffolding is removed in January.
“Southland’s home and Invercargill’s home so there is a sense of pride in leaving my mark in this way. It’s a painting of some significance and that’s really special,” he said.
“It’s been great to get back behind the roller, the spray paint and the brushes.”
The inspiration for the mural stemmed from two and a half year-old Mia Judson, who Southland parents are of Japanese and Filipino descent. Mia is the supercute daughter of o Japanese Tomi Stallholders, Sayaka & John Judsen. Sayaka sells Ramen, Japanese Curry & Sushi at the market every Sunday.
“The whole concept is around the changing face of Invercargill and how the city continues to diversify … Mia is super cute and full of beans so she was the ideal model,” Deow said.
“It’s been cool to paint something so big and beautiful and bold … Mia’s going to buzz out when she sees it.”
Trust chief executive Chris Ramsay said the repainting of external walls at the Kelvin Hotel presented a unique opportunity for Deow to unleash his magic with paint.
“Our board saw this as a chance to add to the vibrancy of our city, particularly at a time when the CBD is going to be undergoing such significant change,” he said.
Continuing the Trust’s long-standing commitment to supporting the arts sector, it was important to engage local talent.
“It’s incredibly pleasing to be able to utilise the skills of a local artist, especially one with such a significant international standing. Deow has been fantastic to work with and shares our passion for the city,” Ramsay said.
Street art had established itself as a respected art form, with cities around the globe embracing the genre.
“The whole aspect of street art has put this positive spin on what people used to think of as graffiti … it’s really evolved,” Deow said.
“Instead of painting random things, I’ve been painting people and murals with a story that resonates with me or the surrounding area. It’s an honour to capture that.”
The feature artwork completes the latest phase of renovations at the Kelvin, including the exterior painting of the whole building and the installation of larger windows in the function area on the sixth floor.