Nick Atkinson: A mischievous pop-up to keep an eye on

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The Kama Sutra on K Rd.
The Kama Sutra on K Rd.

Andrew J. Steel has painted the long tapering north wall of 4 Gundry St in Auckland three times during the past few years. The first two coats were applied with his long-time BMD collaborator, Damin Radford-Scott. The pair went to school together in Taranaki and their ambitious works cover exterior and interior walls up and down the country.

"Damin's Damin. He's pretty elusive, even when we were collaborating; now even more so. He does him, I do me," says Steel, who's been flourishing as a solo artist since late last year.

Folks walking along the Ponsonby end of Karangahape Rd should take a minute to grab a closer look at Steel's new opus, K Road Kama Sutra II, which transforms a tall breezeblock wall into a playful tessellation of bouncing flesh.

"Pastel peach is a colour I used to use a lot and I wanted to revisit it. It's pop and fun, but it's also skin and sexy. I've been focusing on doing two-colour works, usually black and white, so this is a mix of the old and the new," says Steel, the driving force behind the new mural, though the K Rd Business Association helped cover costs and negotiated access with the owner of the building.

"People become artists for different reasons. I'm one because I love shaping people's environments, indoors and outdoors. I enjoy the hustle of making things happen. Working solo is great, uncompromising, fast and only answering to myself."

The hard-working painter covers hundreds of miles to decorate everything from nudes to car park entrances. When I speak with him briefly on the phone, he's in Havelock North working on a private commission in a chic master bedroom, "the most important room in the house".

When Steel's not working on private interiors or decorating models for Fashion Quarterly editorials, he's making slow progress on two publishing projects, a self-help art book and new take on the Kama Sutra.

"These are two things close to me: mental health and sex. I want to chip away at making something tangible that can talk about those things, help people and share my ideas. And of course, have some fun."

Steel now calls Auckland home and it'll be a thrill for locals to watch his new work pop up on street corners and hip interiors. He's also producing his first series of collectable paintings while avoiding hefty gallery commissions by releasing one piece per month via online silent auction.

"I'm trying to refine my practice and take it to new places," says the always-mischievous artist who includes concealed messages on the reverse side of his new series of one-off paintings.

- Weekend magazine

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