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Colouring the city

Grey walls, dull alleyways and bland businesses beware — Neil Go and his street art are here.

Hailing from the small surf island Siargao, the Filipino artist has a distaste for big cities and a love for surf so when he moved to Gisborne he felt right at home, although one thing was missing: street-art culture.

Although there are colourful walls around town thanks to the Sea Walls project, compared with the rest of the world there isn't much, Neil said.

But things may be changing.

When Neil and Ruth, his Kiwi fiance, moved to Gisborne, he posted some of his art to a local Facebook page and the requests came quick and fast from folks wanting murals.

There are plenty who ask for his art but expect it to come cheap.

“People think it's easy, but they're only thinking of the end product.

“They don't see the creative process behind it, the equipment, and the work that goes into the designs.”

But after painting Bakery 22's wall, he has got work lined up around town from people keen for their own mural.

Although he may be Filipino, he has the humility of a successful Kiwi.

“I'm not 100 percent an artist, but people trusted me so I get to paint.”

It was Ruth who got him into mural work.

The pair met when they were travelling through Asia, and after spending time together Ruth noticed his artistic doodlings and encouraged Neil to foster his talent.

He started devouring Youtube videos on techniques and on a trip to Sri Lanka Ruth got chatting with a hostel owner who was looking for a mural artist.

Ruth told the man Neil could do it and that was that.

After his work went on the hostel's wall, the pair went back to the Philippines to his remote coastal town, but the mural work followed him.

A hostel owner on Siargao Island saw his artwork in Sri Lanka and asked Neil to paint another mural.

Then he and Ruth travelled through India and Nepal, leaving his street art up and down the continent.

Then Covid-19 hit and locked the pair down in Nepal until they made it back to New Zealand, where they gravitated towards Gisborne.

After posting on Facebook, Callum Innes from Bakery 22 contacted him.

“I think there needs to be more positivity in the world. More colour and art,” Callum said.

“It is about taking pride in the community and it's something positive for everyone to see.”

Callum took over the Palmerston Road bakery in August last year and business has been going well.

He'd been thinking about a mural on the bakery wall before he saw Neil's art online.

“As soon as I met him I knew he was the right man for the job. He's so positive”

Callum learned the baking business working at Oslers Bakery in Wairoa, the famed bakery that has been showered in medals over the years.

“I used to spend my school holidays working at Oslers.”

Neil said doing the work for Callum was a dream come true because after painting around the world, he had been hoping to leave a mural in New Zealand.

The artwork took around a week to complete because of Neil's day job as a personal trainer at F45.

Growing up, Neil was always interested in art and hoped to go to art school.

But his parents didn't have the money so the dream became a fantasy.

He put it behind him and studied hotel and restaurant management instead.

Neil worked as an assistant pastry chef in a fine dining restaurant in Malaysia for a spell, but even there he was drawn to art, decorating cakes in the kitchen.

You can find Neil on Instagram by searching his handle @gostaysimple

CREATION: A new mural now decorates a wall at Bakery 22 on Palmerston Road after owner Callum Innes (left) saw Neil Go's work on a Facebook post. Picture by Paul Rickard