Artist’s work go­ing global

Central Leader - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET

THE artist be­hind the beloved Grumpy Cat on a prom­i­nent Auck­land watertower is gain­ing global recog­ni­tion for a se­ries of new works.

Three Kings res­i­dent Paul Walsh fea­tured anony­mously in the Cen­tral Leader in May when the large kitty he painted on Big King reser­voir was re­moved over by Water­care con­trac­tors – much to the dis­ap­point­ment of reg­u­lar park-go­ers.

Fol­low­ing the story Mr Walsh was given carte blanche by telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany Cho­rus to paint its road­side util­ity boxes.

It’s not a pay­ing gig, so the in­dus­tri­ous artist raised $1300 through PledgeMe to pay for sup­plies. ‘‘It’s enough to pay for the paints and a cou­ple of hours of my time. I don’t mind do­ing this sort of thing for cheap, be­cause the pro­file it gives you is huge,’’ Mr Walsh says. And he’s not kid­ding. A photo star­ring the be­jew­elled Pon­sonby Pi­geon was posted to so­cial news web­site Red­dit and within 48 hours the im­age had clocked up 2.5 mil­lion views.

Then he got a phone call from CNN’s Head­line News ask­ing about the project.

His work has also been picked up by pop­u­lar arts web­site My Mod­ern Met and the Cana­dian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion. Mr Walsh says he is over­whelmed by the re­sponse to his art­works, which fea­ture an un­likely cast of crea­tures like as­trosloth and a fab­u­lous sun­glass-wear­ing cat.

‘‘Peo­ple have re­ally adopted them,’’ he says.

‘‘They aren’t as put off by the slightly weird sub­ject mat­ter, which I re­ally like. There’s a tra­di­tion in New Zealand pub­lic art for the vast ma­jor­ity of it be­ing ei­ther his­tor­i­cal or na­tive birds.

‘‘I think it is im­por­tant for artists to be able to be chal­leng­ing while they work in the pub­lic sphere. We shouldn’t just have bland art ev­ery­where.’’

So far he has em­bel­lished eight boxes around cen­tral Auck­land, how­ever three of them were mis­tak­enly painted over by a con­trac­tor.

He was re­im­bursed by Cho­rus for the gaffe and sup­plied a large tub of clear-coat pro­tec­tant for his work.

Mr Walsh has an­other 15 boxes in his sights but says he will prob­a­bly need to fundraise for more paint.

He is also work­ing in con­junc­tion with the Puke­ta­papa Lo­cal Board on a pro­posal for Water­care to get Grumpy Cat re­in­stated on the Big King Re­serve watertower.

Photo: DANIELLE STREET

Branch­ing out: Three Kings artist Paul Walsh is get­ting me­dia cov­er­age in the UK, United States and Canada for his util­ity box art­work.

Feath­ered friend: The posh Pon­sonby Pi­geon gained about 2.5 mil­lion views in 48 hours af­ter be­ing posted to Red­dit.

Lost art: Mr Walsh’s Grumpy Cat art­work was buffed off the Big King watertower last year by a Water­care con­trac­tor.

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