News | 7 July 2023
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Mural brings colourful vibes to Island Bay parade

Gina Kiel grew up surrounded by the artwork of her late father Leon Kiel – known to many as the artist behind the island in Whairepo Lagoon. She is now following in her father’s footsteps by creating beautiful public murals, with the most recent one on the wharepaku toilet block on Medway Street, Island Bay.

Woman wearing a pink high vis vest holding onto a paint brush and canister infront of a mural.

How did your career start as an artist?
I always drew throughout my childhood, so I knew that I wanted to do something visual. I got my first role at a tiny animation company where I worked on a lightbox – that’s before I used computers or anything! 

That naturally progressed into murals, and I started doing paintings on friend’s walls and garage doors. The first public one I did was for the company ‘Wrestler’, and I painted their garage door. 

Woman smiling wearing a high vis orange jacket, painting a mural on a small building.

What is it about painting murals that you enjoy?
Painting large scale is really fun, you get to have a lot of impact with your work. It’s super challenging too because there are so many moving parts to a mural – you change locations, you have time to interact with people in the public, but it’s also a solo practice. 

There’s a huge social element to painting in public too, you’re creating something in a space that people interact with, and it’s so beautiful to see.

What made you want to create a mural in Wellington?
I was born here in Te-Whanganui-a-tara and grew up in Raumati, so Wellington is definitely home for me. 

My dad Leon Kiel was a sculptural stone mason, so he did a lot of installations around the waterfront. He installed and created a lot of rock installations for Waitangi Park and things around town. He died around 14 years ago, so it’s special for me to be creating public works. There’s definitely a connection to him, because I grew up around him and his work. That’s something I’ve been thinking about with this mural.

Cute little building with a mural painted on it.

Tell us the story about the mural.
When the Council approached me, I was drawn in by the building’s cute little shape!  

My intention was to brighten up the area – it needed some uplifting. I wanted to make something that makes you feel happy when you look at it, so I used colours that were bright but also with a balance of neutral as well. 

The concept is around the flow of the ocean and the land meeting, in a very abstract sense. And because Island Bay has such a colourful and diverse community, I wanted this mural to show it all flowing together. 

Colourful wave patterns with a painted bird.

What was special about this mural?
I’ve painted in a lot of public places but this corner in Island Bay had so much foot traffic. I had to stay extremely focused! Some of the people I met doing this work were surprising and beautiful. 

After previously seeing me in the paper, a guy who had photos of my father playing in his band back in the 1980s stopped by. He had been trying to find me to give me these photos, and it was so special because my father has passed away. Those interactions are so special and show how involved the community is. 

Find out more about public art on our website.