Photo gallery: 'The Auckland Straight' - NZ graffiti artist Paul Walsh chats about our graffiti art scene & reveals his new memorial piece

A sign on the wall of Paul Walsh's Karangahape Road studio reminds him: "sleep, eat food, have visions".

The Auckland graffiti artist is dutifully tucking into a bowl of teriyaki tofu when I drop by his shared space just a stroll away from his latest striking portrait on the side of the Rockshop.

The late Queen of Soul - Aretha Franklin.

Paul Walsh with his Aretha Franklin tribute on the side of the Rockshop building on Karangahape Road.
Paul Walsh with his Aretha Franklin tribute on the side of the Rockshop building on Karangahape Road. Source: Luke Appleby/1 NEWS

Walsh's homage stares back at you kindly, with subtle hues of mint green harking back to the 1950s - Aretha's heyday.

Her eyes were the most important part, Walsh says, as he makes a minor touch-up between two spring showers. If you get the eyes wrong, everything is wrong.

The murals have become all too regular as music greats have passed away over the past few years.

A David Bowie mural on the side of the Karangahape Road Rockshop by Paul Walsh
A David Bowie mural on the side of the Karangahape Road Rockshop by Paul Walsh Source: Supplied

David Bowie. Prince. Dave McArtney. Leonard Cohen. Chris Cornell. Tom Petty - the list goes on.

Outside of musical tributes, Walsh describes his style as "pop surrealism", saying it can be seen adorning utility boxes up and down the country.

A Leonard Cohen mural on the side of the Karangahape Road Rockshop by Paul Walsh
A Leonard Cohen mural on the side of the Karangahape Road Rockshop by Paul Walsh. Source: 1 NEWS

A Prince mural on the side of the Karangahape Road Rockshop by Paul Walsh
A Prince mural on the side of the Karangahape Road Rockshop by Paul Walsh. Source: 1 NEWS

His boxes are decorated with everything from dogs in tan coats to space-faring sloths, and he's completed almost 60 now. More are lined up for the rest of the year.

Utility box works by Paul Walsh.
Utility box works by Paul Walsh. Source: Supplied

The locals adopt them, he tells me, and they become an intrinsic characteristic of otherwise "utilitarian" public spaces.

Utility box works by Paul Walsh. Source: Supplied

"In a city where there are huge billboards and advertisements and hoardings - there is a lot of public space which is colonised by commerce, and it's nice to have little parts of it which are colourful items for art's sake - and for no other reason than that," he says.

Utility box works by Paul Walsh Source: Supplied

His work features strong themes of animals and the natural world. He sometimes draws inspiration from internet memes, he says, and always tries to remain apolitical in his public works, so as not to exclude anyone from it.

Utility box works by Paul Walsh.
Utility box works by Paul Walsh. Source: Supplied

Walsh is a rare breed - a fully-professional artist who now makes the entirety of his living from commissions or selling his work.

He was first inspired by M. C. Escher, with block prints of the Dutch artist's work adorning his childhood home - a gift from his absent father.

He recently passed the gift on at the other end of K Road in the form of a large homage to Escher's 'Hand With Reflecting Sphere' - complete with a nosy bystander reflected in the petanque ball held in his hand which he used to work from.

Paul Walsh's M. C. Escher tribute on Karangahape Road.
Paul Walsh's M. C. Escher tribute on Karangahape Road. Source: Supplied

The silicone graffiti protection applied over all of Walsh's works has done its job here too - "stink" has been written in crude red lettering by some midnight critic - but it's no match for a quick rub from the amused artist.

The piece shares the corner of a car park with a large, dominating work by Andrew J. Steel - a twisted mass of his signature human forms spread thickly across a building.

"It's sort of saying: I'm here too," Walsh says. He's never spoken to Steel.

During the mid-to-late 90s, Auckland property owners endured a wave of graffiti plague fuelled by the global proliferation of American hip-hop culture.

A portrait of hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar by Paul Walsh.
A portrait of hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar by Paul Walsh. Source: Supplied

Walsh's artistic talent bloomed both before and during that period, over many nights spent adding his own "weird characters" to his friends' tags and bombings.

The alley on Cross Street near Karangahape Road is a regular haunt for taggers and graffiti artists, Paul Walsh says.
The alley on Cross Street near Karangahape Road is a regular haunt for taggers and graffiti artists, Paul Walsh says. Source: Luke Appleby/1 NEWS

Auckland has its own graffiti "accent" he tells me, often described as the "Auckland Straight" - a slightly diagonal orientation and subtle curve applied to vertical lines. He shows me examples among a mass of tags and "slap-on" stickers in a messy alley at the back of Cross Street, off K Road.

Paul Walsh with an example of the "Auckland Straight" graffiti accent - seen here on Cross Street.
Paul Walsh with an example of the "Auckland Straight" graffiti accent - seen here on Cross Street. Source: 1 NEWS

A work van for the nearby Asian supermarket bears the scars of an adolescent artist who hasn't yet found the difference between damage and design.

The work van of the Lim Chhour Asian supermarket has become a part of the art on Cross Street.
The work van of the Lim Chhour Asian supermarket has become a part of the art on Cross Street. Source: Luke Appleby/1 NEWS

Walsh gestures to various works on the often-repainted walls, calling out names and interpreting the glyphs for me - some of them are friends of his, unable to return and fend off the encroachment of less-developed artists.

He's been called "New Zealand's Banksy", but Walsh spurns that title. He stayed well clear of January's exhibition in Auckland, saying it was nothing but a "blatant cash grab by his former manager".

Unsurprisingly, his favourite music is hip-hop, with the 90s being his "golden era". When he paints, though, he listens to something else.

Street artist Paul Walsh
Street artist Paul Walsh. Source: Luke Appleby/1 NEWS

"I actually listen to podcasts more than anything - simply because it's a lonely job - five hours up against a wall," he says.

"It's nice to have someone talking in your ear.

"But when I'm painting the memorial pieces, I'll listen to the artist that I'm painting."

Leonard Cohen was hard going, he said.

"But Aretha was fun ... I was dancing."

Paul Walsh is due to be a part of the Foliage exhibition at Art Week beginning in the second week of October.

Walsh has just finished his Aretha Franklin tribute mural – the latest in the line of recognisable works. Source: 1 NEWS



Read Deadpool 2 star Rob Delaney's heartbreaking essay on son's cancer battle

Rob Delaney has penned a heartbreaking essay on his son's cancer battle, after the toddler passed away aged just two-years-old.

The Deadpool 2 star was struck by tragedy earlier this year when his son Henry - whom he had with his wife Leah - lost his battle with brain cancer, and has now shared an emotional essay that was originally penned as part of a book he wanted to release for parents of sick children.

Rob decided to stop writing the book when he saw his son's last "bad MRI scan", saying he and his family "just wanted to be with him around the clock and make sure his final months were happy."

Read full essay excerpt here.

Explaining why he posted the excerpt on Medium yesterday, the 41-year-old comedian wrote: "The reason I'm putting this out there now is that the intended audience for this book was to be my fellow parents of very sick children.

"They were always so tired and sad, like ghosts, walking the halls of the hospitals, and I wanted them to know someone understood and cared.

"I'd still like them to know that ... But I can't write that book anymore because our family's story has a different ending than I'd hoped for. Maybe I'll write a different book in the future, but now my responsibility is to my family and myself as we grieve our beautiful Henry."

The essay focuses on the months surrounding Henry's diagnoses and how his family helped the tot deal with his treatment, and Rob says that despite his son's condition, he felt "excited" to see him at the hospital.

Rob writes in part: "I may wish Henry wasn't in the hospital and it may make me f***ing sick that my kids haven't lived under the same roof for over a year. But I'm always, always happy to enter the hospital every morning and see him.

"It's exciting every day to walk into his room and see him and see him see me."

The actor cuts off his essay "abruptly", as he never finished the story before he learned Henry's diagnoses was terminal.

He said: "I'm aware this ends somewhat abruptly. The above was part of a book proposal I put together before Henry's tumour came back and we learned that he would die. I stopped writing when we saw the new, bad MRI.

"My wife and his brothers and I just wanted to be with him around the clock and make sure his final months were happy. And they were."

Rob Delaney with his son Henry. Source: Twitter


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Serena Williams is 'proud' of her friend Meghan Markle's charity work

Tennis champion Serena Williams has revealed she's "proud" of Meghan Markle after she launched a cookbook in support of the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

The 37-year-old royal has written the foreword to a recipe book from cooks at the Hubb Community Kitchen, which is based in London, and the Duchess of Sussex has revealed she felt "connected" to the Community Kitchen because it offers a "place for women to laugh, grieve, cry and cook together".

Responding to the announcement, the Duchess' good friend Serena wrote on her Twitter account: "I used to call you Meghan (and I still do) but dear Duchess of Sussex your first project "Together" a cookbook bringing women of all cultures together. I could not be more excited about it and proud of you.

"It's beautiful - diversity, inclusivity, coming together in grief or joy."

The book - which is called Together: Our Community Cookbook - marks the former Suits actress' first solo project as a royal.

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, centre front, poses for a photograph with women of the Hubb Community Kitchen. Source: Associated Press

It features 50 recipes by women whose community was affected by the fire in the Grenfell tower block in London, which killed 72 people in June last year.

The long-term ambition behind the project is to provide support for the Grenfell families and others within the community.

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex cooks with women in the Hubb Community Kitchen at the Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre. Source: Associated Press

The Duchess has played a hands-on role with the book, helping the group to find a publisher, and then providing legal support through the Royal Foundation charity.

The Royal Foundation is also responsible for ensuring that the proceeds from the sale of the book go directly to the Hubb Community Kitchen and other similar projects.

Speaking about the book, Meghan recently explained: "Through this charitable endeavour, the proceeds will allow the kitchen to thrive and keep the global spirit of community alive."

Meghan Markle and Serena Williams. Source: Associated Press


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Bert and Ernie aren't gay, Sesame Street insists as persistent puppet sexuality rumours swell again

On again off again gay rights icons Bert and Ernie aren't gay. Repeat: The famous puppets are not in a same-sex relationship.

That's the word from the producers of Sesame Street, who had to quell rumours about the duo's personal life yet again today after the theory - oft repeated over the show's nearly 50-year history -- was stoked by an interview with a former writer.

"I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were (gay)," said Mark Saltzman, who wrote for the show throughout most of the 1980s, in an interview with LGBTQ website Queerty.

"I don't think I'd know how else to write them, but as a loving couple... Because how else?"

Mr Saltzman said he was inspired to write their loving interactions and minor quibbles by his own relationship.

But in a tweet this morning, Sesame Street issued a statement insisting that "they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation".

"As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends," producers said. "They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves."

A writer previously revealed he wrote the roommates as a gay couple, but Sesame Workshop says none of the show’s puppets have a sexual orientation. Source: 1 NEWS


Award-winning thriller hitting Auckland stage - 'It will make you squeal'

There's an award-winning thriller showing in Auckland this week, and not in the movies, but on stage.

Māori playwright Albert Belz and director Tainui Tukiwaho are presenting Cradle Song, and they say the genre is fairly new to Kiwi theatres, as 1 NEWS' Laura Twyman discovers. 

A Māori playwright and director are behind Cradle Song, with a genre they say is fairly new to Kiwi theatres. Source: Breakfast