Happy first birthday Gather Magazine! I was featured as part of their b-day celebrations with a bunch of other bad-ass babes. Read more below…
Written by Shannon Poynter + Photography by Jessica Whiting
New Zealand’s soul is made up of its people, our land and our national treasures those who encapsulate an open attitude and an intuitive form of artistic expression to make something individual and unique, something that flourishes and that we can all identify with as being a part of Aotearoa. Hayley King aka Flox is one of those national treasures, a talented artist who speaks to us all. Flox uses the medium of spray cans and stencils to create larger than life murals bursting with native flora and fauna. I had the honour of chatting with her about the past and present, and the woman behind the vibrant, up-lifting and recognisable artwork that she produces.
A lass of the Far North, Hayley grew up in Kaitaia with her brother and father. Art is in the blood, and the family has a backbone of creativity with her father being Head of Department of Art at Kaitaia College, and her brother is now a Graphic Designer based in Melbourne. Though things could be hard at times, memories of beaches and camping are at the forefront of her mind when reminiscing, and the subconscious influence that the landscape and spaces have had on her artwork. “You don’t always think of it, but every part of your childhood shapes who you are as an adult-the art becomes an extension of my own personality and beliefs, of myself.”
At the eager age of 17, Hayley ventured to Auckland alone to complete 7th Form at Western Springs College and then started a Fine Arts Degree at Unitec in 1999. Bold and ambitious she graduated from Unitec in 2003 and secured an artists’ space at a studio in Parnell. Though it was a shared space she recognised the need for a haven in which to enhance her artistic practice. It was here that her journey under the moniker Flox began, and it was during this time that she was first handed a spray can and a new era of her artistic journey commenced.
After university she had the inspiring presence of mind to apply for a grant for a business course and continued to develop and grow as an artist whilst also making printed t-shirts for the Aotea Square Markets, earning her bread and butter. Flox also joined with a group of like-minded individuals around 2005-2006 known as the Cut Collective, who were street-artists with a passion for this new and often stigmatised medium. They worked together to break down these barriers. People responded to Flox’s bold, bright and uplifting artwork and from there on the journey expanded and evolved into the genre that is often defined as Muralism and is where her passion lies to this very day.
Hayley aka Flox explained with a fervour that this is what gets her ticking, expansive murals within the community, and the bigger the better. “It’s a beautiful monster and there are so many cogs to the machine. It’s what stirs up my artistic juices, the murals. Going into communities and painting large murals that speak to those people specifically, it becomes a voice for them, of their personal situation.”
From these endeavours, Flox has found that not only does it expand her own artistic horizons and enables her to meet new artists, but they also inspire youth as many high schools and colleges these days use spray cans as a medium and Flox and her artwork as an inspiration and case study. ‘I appreciate being able to be a part of a movement that changes people’s perceptions of what art can do and be.”
Her personal life lies at home with her partner, a New Zealand filmmaker, and her two sons. For some time, her home was above her artist studio in Ponsonby but being a mum and a businesswoman encouraged her to look at moving to a home, a space separate from the empire that she has so successfully built. Being a young entrepreneur and a mama from her mid-20’s, like some of us Flox did not embark on the quintessential Kiwi OE, but her work has allowed her to travel later in life, to destinations that she may not have typically gone to in her youth. “Travelling later in life has meant I’ve been able to travel with intent and meet like-minded people through my work”.
Though her travels have taken her far and wide, a trip in 2015 to Taiwan provided both a grounding and inspiring experience. She applied for a visa through the Asia New Zealand Foundation and was awarded the Creative NZ residency for three months in Taipei the nation’s capital. Her partner documented the visit through two films, and the focus was on bringing back to life the endangered wildlife of this unique island nation on the concrete walls of its largest city.
The effect of Taiwan’s industrial boom in the ’80s is the gradual destruction of some of its animal inhabitants and Flox was commissioned to create imprints in the city, to bring these creatures back from the brink. She spoke fondly of the Taiwanese people. “Such a receptive beautiful people, they responded so well to the art, and they loved my son, Taiwanese people love children. He created a happy buffer in many interactions and exchanges.”
Flox’s overseas adventures have taken her from a passion project in India to a beachside wall in Hong Kong, collaborations in Japan to exhibitions in New York, but always home again to work extensively and passionately around New Zealand. Throughout NZ; communities, schools and organisations have commissioned Flox with her cans and stencils to make stunning and empowering murals up and down the country. These can be found in Auckland’s schools and Hamilton’s alleyways, on walls at Mt Maunganui and on merchandise or pieces for worthy organisations such as Greenpeace and Starship Children’s Hospital. Hayley’s altruistic spirit and inspiring energy can be enjoyed and felt through her murals, and her openness and love for her fellow countryfolk are tangible when talking with her and when you see her work gracing our country’s buildings.
A national treasure is defined as an ‘artefact, institution or public figure who is emblematic of a nation’s culture or identity, who is greatly valued by its people”. Hayley King aka Flox has enhanced our lives through her artwork, inspired us with her kind soul and elevated us and united us within our communities.
This puts her in the pantheon of kiwis whose artistic avenues have achieved so much more than their aesthetic value alone but adds to our distinctiveness, our humble pride. This is the makings of a true national treasure.
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