Public Art goes Digital



24 July 2016 - Ok, so here it is, Rotorua’s first digitally-produced public mural, unveiled last year on the new toilet facility at Eastside’s Puketawhero Park.

Chosen from a number of submissions by local artists, the selection panel were wooed by its composition and bright colourful tones.  Interestingly, no one contested that artist Joe McEnteer would create the entire work on his desktop! The image was chosen simply on its artistic appeal.

As a traditional muralist swinging a brush for years, I always wondered when this turning point would happen – especially since I’d been quoting against the ‘machine’ more and more in recent times.

The digital printing process has obviously been around for decades and is now more accessible and versatile than ever.  Let’s face it, traditional sign-writing has almost completely disappeared to make way for adhesive vinyl letters, while hand-painted graphics are almost non-existent in the commercial world.

No question that digital media is also influencing the public art realm. We’re seeing more and more sculptures created in front of a screen – then programmed to be computer cut in steel, wood or stone. Believe it or not, I could even get this article cut through a piece of inch-thick solid steel!  Can you imagine how long that would take with a drill and the tiniest of files? Probably years, if it was even doable.  

So then, are we seeing the demise of hand-rendered artworks?

I’m picking there will always be the allure and prestige of having an artist create directly and purposefully for a space. And let’s take some solace in the fact that the computer still obeys or interprets an artist’s commands - for the meantime anyway.

Without doubt, what will always remain key to the stature of any public artwork (aside from physical characteristics) is the underlying concept.

And the concept behind Joe’s mural at Puketawhero park is truly engaging:

“The skate park inhabitants represent a wild and colourful demographic, riding the waves of life and time. The story I am trying to tell is about all people from all walks of life coming together and not only challenging themselves as individuals but also sharing this space in harmony…

- Joe McEnteer

Perfect. Well done Joe. All said and done, I’m reassured that whatever the process, public art will always be about people.


Page reviewed: 24 Jul 2016 8:00am