Master class inspires artists
Indika Mendis has won the IHC Matariki Drawing Competition with a pastel drawing in which creatures emerge in an explosion of colour.
Indika, 29, from Auckland, was one of 15 disabled artists who took part in an IHC Media online workshop run by prominent artist Michel Tuffery in the run-up to Matariki in July. The prize for the best drawing was one of Michel’s Matariki (star) lasercut sculptures.
Michel Tuffery has exhibited worldwide and been honoured for his services, including being named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2008 for his services to art. He says, however, his real reward is having the opportunity to enrich communities with art, and the drawing session was one of those moments.
“You were seeing me – the Michel Tuffery that just loves being with community and empowering other human beings. But I get more of a buzz from them,” he says.
“I do work with a lot of interesting students who have learning difficulties and anxiety issues. There’s a particular methodology I use; a structure that I use. I don’t know where it comes from. Probably all the amazing teachers I have been around when I was growing up.”
Michel, who is of Samoan, Rarotongan and Ma’ohi Tahitian heritage, was educated in Wellington. Having dyslexia made writing difficult, but drawing was his strength.
“I cried a lot. I was a sooky bubba when I was going to speech therapy and reading class – remedial. I used to have real bad anxiety attacks. And they said here is a blank page Michel – and here’s a few little lines. You only have to write two, three lines Michel and then you can draw what you are thinking.”
He says art is a way to communicate even when language is a barrier. He recalls teaching in France despite not being fluent in French. “It’s a universal language that is called art.”
Michel says he formed an immediate connection with the artists at the IHC workshop. “I felt their energy straight away and was familiar with their humour.”
The IHC Media drawing session was inspired by Michel’s Font series – woodcuts carved for each of his and wife Jayne’s five grandchildren that are a visual diary of special times spent with them.
At the workshop, each of the artists started with a letter – the first letter of their name – and watched as Michel drew designs around the letters. The designs came from traditional Polynesian motifs – kōwhaiwhai, ferns and leaves, and weaving. Then it was the turn of the artists.
“I was quite taken aback by Indika’s work,” Michel says. “He executed it really well. He just enjoyed the moment.”
Indika started with an ‘I’ as central to his design, and before the session was over it had been transformed with cats, sharks, a crocodile and a bee.
Michel, who chose the winner, congratulated all the artists. “I have to say I was pretty impressed by all the entries. I could feel the energy and I did spend quite a bit of time just enjoying your mark-making process, and all the good colouration and all the elements that we talked about during the drawing process.
“Indika, I have to say your pastel cat, of all the elements that I talked through in the workshop, was a very good visual response. So, congratulations and Happy Matariki.”
Caption: Artist Michel Tuffery with a new star design, HawaiiMakali’i (Little Eyes).