Auckland street artist ‘at war’ with taggers who keep vandalizing his work

An Auckland street artist says he is “at war” with taggers who keep vandalizing his work.

Jesse Jensen, who paints under the name Ares Artifex, has painted murals across Auckland, including for Auckland Council, the Department of Conservation and the Department of Justice.

The West Auckland resident said works like his help spruce up ugly places, such as bare walls and construction sites.

“It brings the art to the masses.”

READ MORE:
* In pictures: Auckland street artist Ares Artifex lights up the city
* How South Auckland’s reputation for tagging was overturned
* Graffiti tags ‘bomb’ the Auckland train as passengers watch

However, this year Jensen has battled “toys,” or graffiti artists who tag someone else’s art with the intent of destroying it.

“I’ve been at war with about 10 toys this year, which keep hitting my job.”

Street artist Jesse Jensen, who paints under the name Ares Artifex, believes his work is being targeted by illegal taggers.

LAWRENCE SMITH / Stuff

Street artist Jesse Jensen, who paints under the name Ares Artifex, believes his work is being targeted by illegal taggers.

One of his murals in Henderson has been tagged about 30 times.

Jensen said that while it was frustrating for him and his clients when his art was vandalized, he empathized with the taggers and understood why they did it: going after someone who had the permission to paint legally.

“At the end of the day, they’re artists and they’re trying to make art,” said Jensen, who used to tag himself.

Jensen thinks street art can beautify bare walls and construction sites.

LAWRENCE SMITH / Stuff

Jensen thinks street art can beautify bare walls and construction sites.

Auckland Council has spent around $4.2 million removing between 70,000 and 110,000 cases of graffiti a year for the past five years.

Jensen believed Auckland Council could curb offensive tagging if it provided more space for graffiti artists to paint legally.

The council’s rapid removal of graffiti prompted taggers to produce high-profile graffiti in places that were difficult to remove and with little artistic care because they knew it would be removed, he said.

“It’s a weird incentive for graffiti artists to do the ugliest stuff. They try to smudge the paint as much as they can, they don’t make a high quality piece.

Graffiti on Vinegar Lane in Auckland's Ponsonby.

Caroline Williams / Stuff

Graffiti on Vinegar Lane in Auckland’s Ponsonby.

Auckland council’s business delivery manager Grant Muir said the council had a “zero tolerance” for illegal graffiti.

For street art to be legal, it must have the approval of a land or property owner or council if it is facing council property.

The council had previously trialled a wall at the Corban Estate Art Center in West Auckland where street artists and graffiti artists could paint without needing permission.

‘While the wall remains available, it has unfortunately been found that the graffiti has spread to adjacent properties and therefore has not solved the problem it was intended to address.’

Jensen thinks there would be less illegal tagging if graffiti artists had more public space to paint without needing permission.  Pictured is a street art studio by Jensen in Glen Innes in 2020.

provided

Jensen thinks there would be less illegal tagging if graffiti artists had more public space to paint without needing permission. Pictured is a street art studio by Jensen in Glen Innes in 2020.

However, when a high visibility wall was repeatedly tagged, the council worked with the landlord, the local trade association and the local council to hire a local artist to do a mural in an effort to prevent the graffiti vandalism.

“This is usually done in consultation with the wider community to ensure the art reflects the demographics of the area or supports a specific theme,” Muir said.

The council has spent approximately $65,000 on murals and “beautification” projects over the past five years.

Until June, community organizations could apply for a grant to fund local beautification and other safety-related projects.

The program received $110,000 and included a range of public art initiatives.

Comments are closed.