The streets are paved with water

In 'The streets are paved with water' Olivia Chamberlain and Sam Towse explore the surface of the city as their subject.

Responding to central Ōtautahi, they embrace walking as a methodology, each taking cues from their nuanced observations of the city, and reimagining its urban vocabulary. Sidewalks, road-markings and spray painted arrows provide shared starting points. Instead of everlasting fixtures defined by their utility, they are examined as elements of the urban landscape susceptible to shifts in perspective. Through their individual processes of making, the artists extrapolate and re-contextualize found materials, silhouettes, and forms, creating structured paintings on canvas – that in some cases expand onto the gallery wall – and wall-mounted concrete-based works.

Critical to these transformations is a sense that the city is never static, but open to be made and re-made through our own personal experiences and idiosyncratic navigations. For the artists, this process begins with walking – sharing routes, shortcuts and observations – and in revealing these to someone else, finding new legibility within the cityscape.



Olivia Chamberlain is an artist based in Ōtautahi Christchurch. Her practice focusses on painting, observation and process. Referring to forms and colours found while navigating the city, structured compositions are revealed in her work by the staining of raw canvas with highly saturated, fluid paint. Recent solo shows include Guidelines, 2023 and Offcuts, 2022, both at City Art Depot, Ōtautahi. Olivia graduated with a BFA (Hons) from Ilam School of Fine Arts in 2015.

Sam Towse is an artist based in Ōtautahi. She recently completed a BFA (hons) at the Ilam School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury. Towse’s practice relates to the urban landscape, rearticulating built environments through in-depth material investigations. Recent shows include Witness marks, Paludal, Ōtautahi (2024); The Moon and the Pavement, Ashburton Art Gallery in partnership with The Physics Room, Ashburton (2022); Found Bearings, Ilam Campus gallery, Ōtautahi (2021); and Bare Land, Hot Lunch, Ōtautahi (2020).