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A ‘love letter to New Zealand’ wins IHC Art Awards

A ‘love letter to New Zealand’ wins IHC Art Awards

27 August 2015

An intricate map of New Zealand, embroidered on linen by Auckland artist Chris Wills has won the IHC Art Awards 2015 and $5000.

Chris, 42, who lives in Waiuku, used counted cross-stitch to illustrate the map, complete with the New Zealand Coat of Arms, place names and extras including boats and a lighthouse.

Auckland cartoonist and illustrator Dylan Horrocks, one of three judges of this year’s Art Awards, says Chris’ work is painstaking and thorough. “It’s kind of like a little love letter to New Zealand. It’s got simplicity, combined with this obsessive detail.”

Fellow judge Denise L’Estrange-Corbet, co-founder of WORLD fashion, says she was really drawn to the map. “The work is exceptional.”

Boh Runga, musician and jewellery artist, another of the judges, says the piece is something she would love to own. “It’s just beautifully done and very detailed.”

Chris’ step-Mum Gaylyn Wills says his work is all the more amazing because Chris is able to transfer a picture from a graph to fabric without appearing to count the threads, which is the usual way of working. Gaylyn says he seems to see a picture in pixels or tiny squares that can be transferred to the threads of the linen or canvas that he is working on.

Chris has autism and has difficulty communicating, though he is able to say names. “His life revolves around people’s names and place names,” she says.

Gaylyn says Chris started doing cross-stitch when he was 21 after watching her doing it. She says he became fascinated by the patterns and symbols on the graphs. “He seems to see the picture in the graph far more than you and I can see it.”

Dharmesh Chand, 20, from Otahuhu, won second prize of $2000 with an acrylic and pastel work inspired by Salvador Dali’s clocks, titled A Train Station for Me and My Friends. Third place and $1000 went to Sheryl McIlroy, 51, from Nelson for Best Friends, a humorous compilation of photographs of four friends in four different hats. The People’s Choice Award and $1000 was won by young Gisborne artist Keitha Taylor, 17, forBaby and Mother Giraffe.

There were 540 entries in this year’s Awards, including sculptures, installations and textile art, painting and drawing. The IHC Art Awards are open to all New Zealanders with an intellectual disability, age 13 or over, whether or not they use IHC services.

The top three prize-winners were picked out of 30 finalists nationwide and announced at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington tonight (Thursday 27 August 2015). The finalists’ work was auctioned at the event, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the artists.

The judges

Denise L’Estrange-Corbet

Denise L’Estrange-Corbet, is co-founder of New Zealand fashion house WORLD. When judging the IHC Art Awards in 2012, she met an artist who now works for her part-time, and this has opened her eyes to the difficulties faced by people with disabilities. Denise is also an author; she has done many artworks for charity, lectures extensively, and has recently played the lead in an Auckland play Sitting Pretty, which received rave reviews. “I really look forward to judging the IHC Art Awards, as the Awards are so important for the artists to be given an outlet to show their creativity each year, express themselves and their wonderful talent. It is world class.”

Boh Runga

Boh Runga was not content with a music career fronting one of the country’s most successful bands, Stellar. Since the band disbanded in 2010, she has formed a number of creative partnerships – with Che Fu in 2010 on The Winery Tour and in 2012 she was back writing music and performing with Anika Moa and Hollie Smith. Boh’s creativity continues with her Boh Runga for NZ Mint Jewellery, a make-up product under Boh’s name launched by Shiseido, and her Monarch butterfly-inspired rug design for Designer Rugs ‘Kiwi Icon’ collection. Boh’s creations flow from the studio to stage and catwalk. Boh judged the Art Awards in 2013 and 2014.

Dylan Horrocks

Dylan Horrocks is a cartoonist, writer and illustrator who lives in Auckland with his wife and two sons. He is the author of the graphic novels Hicksville(1998) and Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen (2015), a collection of comics stories and poems, Incomplete Works (2014), and the comic book seriesPickle and Atlas. He has written Batgirl for DC Comics and Hunter: the Age of Magic for Vertigo and his short story Steam Girl was included in The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy and won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novella.


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