Normally the old garage converted into a cosy studio reminiscent of both a barn and a wooden boatshed is enough to inspire Paraparaumu artist Elisabeth Vullings into creating unique, architecturally inspired works of art.

But when lockdown hit artist's block set in like a ton of bricks, and while Elisabeth often works with recycled materials, this was not the kind of bricks she wanted to be working with.

So she locked up the studio and dedicated her time to family life with her husband and two school-aged children.

"For some reason every time I went out to my studio in lockdown I couldn't work, nothing was happening.

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"But inside I started to sketch on bits of paper and that progressed to sketching on my bedroom door.

"I found that was the perfect place to work because I could be around the kids, set them their school work and have conversations with them while at the same time work on this piece."

1:1 Door, a work by Elisabeth Vullings that has been awarded a highly commended prize at the Parkin Drawing Prize.
1:1 Door, a work by Elisabeth Vullings that has been awarded a highly commended prize at the Parkin Drawing Prize.

What resulted was '1:1 Door', a very personal, award-winning piece of work which represents Elisabeth's experience of lockdown.

Entered into this year's Parkin Drawing Prize, a prestigious drawing competition sponsored by philanthropist and arts patron Chris Parkin with 482 entries nationwide and 76 finalists, Elisabeth made the finals and then won one of 10 highly commended prizes announced last week.

The piece itself looks at the boundaries that were instilled during lockdown, focusing on the door, before zooming out to the plan of Elisabeth's house, street, neighbourhood and continues zooming out to where we are in New Zealand.

The door became a mediator between the home and the studio, a place where Elisabeth could actively and verbally participate in home life while intermittently working on the door's wooden surface with pen and acrylic.

Elisabeth Vullings working on her next project. Photo / Rosalie Willis
Elisabeth Vullings working on her next project. Photo / Rosalie Willis

"I didn't plan it, it just evolved over time throughout lockdown and into level 3."

Working in situ, "I had no privacy while working, half the time there were bath towels thrown over the door and kids' stuff all over the place".

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Working on both sides of the door, the piece is a step in a new direction for Elisabeth.

"It is more sculptural, it's given me a new direction."

Entering three times and making the finals each time, Elisabeth is as excited this time as she was the first time she made the finals.

"You never know with these kinds of awards, there are such a range of different works, so to make the finals and get recognition was amazing - I did a little happy dance."

Chris Parkin said, "When I founded the Parkin Drawing Prize eight years ago I hoped it would create a resurgence of interest in drawing, empower artists, and get the drawing conversation going between artists and New Zealanders in general.

"This year I wanted to acknowledge the fact it's been a hard year for artists due to the pandemic so I increased the prizemoney to $25,000.

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"I can only encourage people to pay a visit to the NZ Academy of Fine Arts this month, see the amazing collection of artworks on display and support local by buying the art."

Commentating on the themes for this year's award, head judge Charlotte Davy said, "It seemed to me that the entries fell into three strong groups - works that were overtly about Covid-19 and lockdown, broader environmental concerns, and finally that wonderful repetitive mark making that you only see in drawing which is usually conceptually and/or compulsively driven."

The Parkin Drawing Prize exhibition season runs until August 30 at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts' Academy Galleries, Queens Wharf, Wellington.

All the artworks will be for sale giving admirers and collectors the opportunity to purchase some wonderful pieces.

Elisabeth works at her home studio from 9am-3pm, Mondays to Fridays and also welcomes people to come visit her and view her works at The Drawing Board, 19 Moana Rd, Paraparaumu.

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