The Cut Collective have collectively cut a fair number of stencils in their time, it’s what they do; the cut and paste ethos. Stripping back urban spaces, embracing visual appropriation in the streets of Auckland city and around New Zealand, demanding public attention. But this is not all these artists are capable of, with the standard art kit of any conventional studio, the methods and techniques that these artists employ with these tools make for collaborative works of epic proportions. The term ‘cut’ is also used to self describe the way that ideas are dealt with in the Collective- ‘they get cut and left lying on the cutting room floor.’ But not all ideas are left to the fate of the scissors, the Cut Collective are not only cutting connoisseurs, but have become a fully fledged creative business delivering art to the masses.

Established in 2006, the Cut Collective became the official title for four like-minded artists who discovered the individual projects and concepts complimented each others own pursuits harmoniously. Inspired by international and local activity, the Cut Collective community is in a constant state of flux, establishing new relationships and conceiving fresh and impulsive concepts, further developing their own inclusive community philosophy.

Comprised of four central artists dedicated to creative production, each with their own entity and pseudonym; TrustMe, Component, Enforce1, Peepshow (and more recently a fifth member iThink), the group is ever changing and growing with each new project. This communal, group mentality is reflected in each and every piece of work that is created, as each artist brings their own skill-set to each collaboration. This casual and spontaneous approach has evolved and changed over the years as the Collective has embraced commercial endeavors and commissions in order to turn their passion into a living, but the underlying drive from their days beautifying the streets surreptitiously still prevails.

They have been involved in numerous exhibitions which grew from their experiences on unsolicited surfaces and have in the last three years completed significant shows at The New Dowse, the Auckland Art Gallery, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and more recently a traveling exhibition called Public Access 5 which is currently on show in Nelson. One of their more commercial exploits was a project with Yoobie, which saw the Collective design a unique ipad2 case, based on the relationship between technology and creativity, operating as if it were a personal project than a corporate one.

The Cut Collective have adopted and included numerous styles, concepts and philosophies which purposefully lace each project with a comment on social symptoms, the environment, consumption or about the general modern human condition. These prominent Kiwi art activists have embraced the very streets where they grew up and have now spread their spray paint and stencils into more lucrative acomplishments on a global scale, whilst still staying true to their site-specific roots and the art of recontextualising their prolific designs in different environments.

Traditionally street art is unexpected and the artist’s identity is perpetually mysterious and obscure, however the Cut Collective has become a notorious title in the name of street art antics. The original crew met through their own illegal street escapades, out to beautify and enhance the most mundane of street spaces and leave a mark of their own. The freedom and spontaneity of suburban art is forever prevalent in the Cut Collective mantra, and although being arrested in the process can ‘upset the flow’ in such a risky business, it has not stopped the Collective finding a public space or  project to create something reflective of themselves as a whole.

The following interview is with TrustMe, A.K.A Ross Liew, representative from the Cut Collective.


Words: Emma Forster






The Cut Collective have become a established and iconic part of NZ street culture, can you tell us about what you do, who was involved from the get-go, when it started and why the initial Collective became established?

Cut Collective was founded in 2006 by myself TrustMe, Enforce1, Component and Flox. We were all practicing street artists who met through street art. As we got to know each other we’d go out to put up work together, then plan work together and then make work together. It was a kind on informal collaboration to begin with, once we realised what we could achieve through greater man-power and resources it developed into much more organised collaboration. We were all pretty keen to achieve bigger scale work and through this collaboration we discovered how to tackle large walls and large exhibition projects. The make-up of the collective has changed slightly since then, outside of our frequent collaborators it now includes myself, Component, Enforce1, Peepshow and our newest recruit iThink.


Can you describe the Cut Collective’s general overall style and philosophy? What is the origins of your name?

The name Cut Collective came out of wanting to suggest that we were a open group of artists who wanted to collaborate with many different people. We still do. The word ‘collective’ we decided was the best way to do this. It is more open ended than a traditional graffiti crew. The ‘cut’ is simply a reference to what we do – stencils form a large part of our practice, as does the cut and paste ethos, techniques such as cutting back, and the idea of visual sampling is quite strong in my work in particular. It could also describe the way a lot of ideas are dealt with in the collective – they get cut and left lying on the cutting room floor. The members of CC have always carried very distinctive styles but when working on collective projects, we do strip away personal styles to achieve a more collaborative outcome.










Where do you base yourselves and where does most of your work get produced?

For the last three years we have operated out of a studio on Auckland’s K’rd. Our studio is pretty much the one stop shop for making stuff. We have everything we need in here. K’rd is pretty much the only place we want to be. We had to renegotiate our lease earlier in the year and were looking at other places but they all had one major draw-back, they weren’t on K’rd. We have a very strong community of creative and interesting people up here, and there is a strong history and tradition of this. Something that we are keen to see continue.


Some people believe that street art is a risky business. Can you talk about some risks the Collective has had to take, and share some memorable experiences or stories with us that you have had in the urban art making process?

There’s quite different types of risks involved with what we do. Earlier on it was the obvious risks associated with making art illegally and getting arrested. That is still a possibility but our approach has changed over the years and to be honest making illegal work in Auckland is pretty much a waste of time right now with the council at it’s most zealous ever. If you don’t live here you can’t really understand how hard the buff goes at it. We now focus on getting as many legit spots as possible, we can make better work and create a better environment.

Our approach has always been to better spaces, and in most cases the police are understanding of this when we have been stopped, it also helps that we’d target spots that are a bit grey in terms of ownership. Both myself and Component have been arrested before for doing street art, and while it does upset your flow for a while it’s not the end of the world. We are still doing what we love to do, just in a slightly different manner.

Our main risks right now are that we get the work/art balance right, something that is very challenging when you do this full-time. Maintaining our studio and it’s overheads as well as providing a living for 3 of us full-time means we take on a lot of commercial work, often to the detriment of our art. This is reality for now.










How do you feel the Collective has infused NZ and world culture into their work? What inspires the Cut Collective as a whole and individually?

I think we infuse our work with NZ culture by virtue of being from Aotearoa. We are aware of where we come from consciously and unconsciously and this manifests in our work. This became really clear when we worked with Leo Volland of Viagrafik who are from Germany. The contrast in styles was very evident. Cut Collective is inspired by the idea of contributing to our communities in the way that we best can, which is through art. That may be producing exhibitions, events or painting public walls. Individually we are inspired by quite different things when talking about our individual art, personally I find the durability of people around me who choose to make art in the face of a small and challenging market the most inspiring, other artwork doesn’t tend to inspire me as much as the character of the people who make it.










You have all grown together as a group from the outset, what changes have occurred within the Collective over the years, in terms of style, members and any other notable developments?

An original member, and the only girl to date, Flox, left the collective last year. Another member Kool also left at the same time. We are very realistic about operating a collective with artistic personalities involved. If our core members are not on the same page and not wanting to move in the same direction then it is not going to work. Flox and Kool had different priorities emerge and you have to recognise and allow them to pursue them. Peepshow and iThink have joined since we started in 06 with iThink coming on-board as recently as a month or so ago.

Stylistically and philosophically we have developed quite significantly. Since our show at the Auckland Art Gallery in Feb last year we have focused on really pushing the collaborative nature of the collective. Where previously we’d bring our individual styles to the table and find a way to best present them alongside each other, since that show we have tried to fuse these styles in to one, so you can’t tell who made what, did what. It’s just one very strong style that is determined by individuals, but you can’t necessarily see the individuals in it. It’s a very challenging approach, you have to park all ego at the door, be prepared to rationalise every decision to the group, and have plenty of ideas knocked back. While each individual doesn’t own any particular aspect of the work, at the same time they own all of it.

Over the last three years we have also operated as a limited liability, trading as a company. This has affected the balance of our work a lot. Less art, more commissioned and commercial work. We operate simultaneously as a art collective and business, maintaining the separation is very hard, as is getting the balance right.











What kinds of mediums and tools does the Collective use and create work with?

Pretty much your standard tool kit of any art studio. We go through a lot of scalpel blades obviously and we have only just recently got our first laser cut stencil made. It probably won’t happen again for another few years but it definitely achieved something we couldn’t. On the same project we also anodised aluminium and laser etched, two new exciting processes we previously hadn’t used before. We have our own in house screen-printing studio, a bunch of power-tools we try and use, and of course a lot of spray paint.


The Collective has been commissioned to do works for other identities such as the Auckland Council, can you talk about some of these projects and what other companies or individuals have commissioned work from the collective?

We have done work for councils, youth groups, charities, schools, patrons, galleries, shops, bars, architects, and pretty much every type of company out there. From botique to out-right corporate. The latest was perhaps one of the more successful. It was a far more collaborative approach with a commercial and creative partner than what we had previously done before. We embarked on an art project with YOOBEE, out of which we produced a limited edition run of iPad2 cases.










What do you think are the best ways to promote yourself as an artist collective to the general public?

Forgo the individual attention for the sake of one umbrella identity. Make good work and look outwards when ever possible. Collaborate on bigger projects with other artists when the opportunities arises.


Who do you feel your target market/deomographic is? Who does your art work speak to most of all?

If you believe facebook then 25-35 year old females. I’m a big fan of that demographic. However, in regards to who it speaks too, I think it speaks to those who share similar ideas about life as us. Just as I respond to stuff that is produced by people that I can relate to. I get their view, their phrasing, their approach, their look or sound. This doesn’t restrict an audience then to demographic, it’s a true variety of people.









What is the Collective currently working on at present?

Making next months rent! As well as making plans for next year, maybe some overseas art ventures down the line. We’re constantly working on new works and planning on new projects.


Is the Cut Collective project a full time job? What other jobs do the members have which co-incide with the Collective projects?

I have spent the last 3 years making my living almost exclusively from the work we do as a collective. Myself, Component and Enforce1 are essentially employed full-time working on what ever is on our books at the time. The other members have jobs which limit them to more specialist contract work for the collective. One works as a dj, free-lance graphic designer and lecturer, the other works as a full-time creative at a small agency upstairs from our studio.










Can you name some of your favourite artists (local and international) who influence the Collective?

My favourite local artists are ones i’ve know for a while who have been making art over the same period i have been. Especially those making the same type of art. We still do it despite the sometimes harsh reality of being an artist. In that regard they are the ones who influence me, i’m not the most attentive when it comes to wider world art picture, and i’m more influenced by the character of people then the work that they make.

Local artists: Deus / Gasp / Tanja Jade / Mica Stills / Askew / Berst / Agent…


Who would you like to work with in the future?

People with some pretty firm ideas yet open to influence, who are reliable in their planning and execution, who get what we are about and see new ways to explore the same territory. Either that or some-one with deep pockets.









Are there some projects in the pipeline you can talk about with us?

Hopefully we can get our act together to have an installation at Splore – a music festival just out of Auckland taking place in Feb next year. We’re going to try bring our latest show, Public Access 5 home to Auckland. It’s currently in Nelson and we feel like we’ve neglected our home town a bit too long.


What would you like the Cut Collective to be remembered for?

A bunch of artists who worked hard and helped develop a more fertile artistic landscape for those around us.






Tags: , artists, auckland, cut collective, new zealand, nz, street art

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