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City centre celebrated by artist Sara Hughes

News story
Wednesday 27 Nov 2019

You may have noticed the colourful flags and pavement artwork adorning the city centre's streets for the festive season. The inspiration behind the designs are celebratory in nature and takes references from shapes and angles from the urban landscape it sits amongst. We caught up with the artist behind these designs, Sara Hughes, to find out more about her beautiful work - and how it celebrates the city centre. 

What inspired this artwork? Where did you draw your inspiration?

My starting point was to create a work that celebrated Auckland. I reference abstract forms from the city – I traced shadows and bitumen patches on the road and combined them with geometric contours found on buildings. I collected these positive and negative shapes and created new compositions; using collage and water colour - combining the gestural and the graphic.

Could you tell us a bit about what this particular project - and the city centre - means to you?

It’s fantastic that Heart of the City values the visual arts and create opportunities for artists to engage with the city - it allows art to become part of the urban experience. The intention of my public works is that they create moments of encounter for people in their daily lives. I live in Auckland, it’s the city I spent my teenage years in, where I went to University and where I returned to after living all over the world - its special.

Could you tell us about the process and medium you used to create the unique flags and footpath artwork?

I have worked with flags before and I love the possibilities of their constant movement. In this work I combine them with pavement decals that can be walked over. You discover the work as you walk the length of Queen Street.

Both the flags and the pavement decals needed to be bold and to have a strong presence in the busy city scape. I combined water colour paintings with hand cut collaged elements, then I scanned my artwork and enhanced it using computer programs to create shadow and depth. The pavement decals are printed onto a textured substrate that sticks to the footpath, hundreds of individual elements run the length of Queen Street.

Any other unique or notable points you would like to share?

I have been busy working on this project along with a new exhibition for Auckland Art Gallery All My Favourite Shapes that opens on the 30th of November. It’s been an exciting time having the opportunity to create two new works for my city.

With special thanks to Sara Hughes and the teams at Soar Print, Lemonade and Shout Media.

There are four different designs installed which you can see along Queen Street and surrounding Fanshawe Street, Britomart and Federal Street.

Find out more about Christmas in the heart of the city.


  • Photo credit: Sacha Stejko
  • Photo credit: Sacha Stejko
  • Photo credit: Sacha Stejko
  • Photo credit: Sacha Stejko
  • Photo credit: Sacha Stejko
  • Photo credit: Sacha Stejko