Whanganui based artists Catherine MacDonald and Brydee Rood, who recently won Excellence Awards at the 2020 pattillo Whanganui Arts Review, are now facing the Covid-19 lockdown.
MacDonald, winner of the Open Award in 2010, this year won the Money Poppins and Article Cafe Excellence Award for her work Just A Moment.
"It was a delightful surprise. The work had come together only a couple of days before it was due to be submitted, and I wasn't sure how I felt about it - I quite like to have some time to reflect on a work after it's been made. So having it win an award was lovely feedback."
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Just a Moment is a pencil and watercolour drawing in which the artist plays around with the idea that we are a sum of our parts - a piecing together of fragments to create a portrait.
"Often the way we get to know a person is through putting together the bits of information we learn about them over time. Putting the pieces together has ended up making a Rakes Progress story set in Whanganui."
Drawing, her primary passion, is at the base of all her work, whether it is prints or furniture.
She says she would like people to enjoy the little things in life, to take notice of their daily environment and find meaning in these things.
"It seems pretty topical at the moment. Often my work is me trying to make sense of things I see around me."
MacDonald's art studio is at home. She has a good stock of materials, and a furniture show to work towards, for which, however she lacks some materials and tools.
"I seem to be fluctuating between productive - -tidying, planning and getting my accounts ready for the accountant - freaking myself out looking at global pandemic news stories and escaping into reading books."
She works part time for Dalgleish Architects and along with the other staff had "hastily" set up her home offices to continue working.
"Not having access to the large format printer, we might get to see what a paperless office looks like.
"In some ways," she said, "the lockdown seems like a great way to get a lot done, being stuck at home with no outside distractions, but it is quite an unsettling time. I'm making plans on what to do over the next few weeks but also telling myself that there is no pressure. It is probably best to focus on keeping well, and as Jacinda says - be kind to ourselves and others."
Brydee Rood moved to Whanganui from Auckland five months ago, buying a house in the city where her mother was born. Being part of Whanganui's creative community was another attraction and she was thrilled to win the Dalgleish Architects Excellence Award ($1000) with her interdisciplinary work A Remedy for Hopelessness / I. Te Henga Gorse Collection Ritual / II. A Hopeful Table.
"It was a lovely surprise to be new to Whanganui and to win the award."
The work is a video installation of footage taken by drone, along with a table and mixed media of handmade and found objects such as her gorse cutters, gorse charcoal, ceramic pieces fired with gorse clay and pioneer soap balls made to a traditional recipe of gorse ash and clay.
"We have complained a lot about gorse over the years so I was determined to explore its diverse beneficial properties and narratives. As a nitrogen fixer in barren soil gorse becomes a good nursery crop for natives when left alone. It is resilient to being cut back and burned – it's quite tenacious."
Rood's body of work is underpinned by critical environmental, social and political contexts, which she responds to through a blend of performance, installation and video.
Since graduating in 2007 with a master of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Arts, she has lived and worked in New Zealand, Germany, India, the United States, Japan, The Netherlands and Mexico. In Auckland she supplemented her income from commissioned work and artist grants by working part time as a tutor for Mapura Studios, but in Whanganui she is yet to find work that fits and supports her focus as a practising artist.
The Covid-19 lockdown has brought uncertain times for many and artists are among those whose work is considered non-essential. Over the last month Rood and other artists have had news that several projects lined up over the next seven months have been cancelled, which would have been significant in terms of independent income.
"It's frustrating because it is work that could have happened at home but is not considered to be an essential service. It would be great if there could be an artist's allowance. I have done a lot of projects overseas where artists are a bit better supported. There are possibilities to work digitally and online as an artist during lockdown, something I might explore further."