Grace Swanston won Fine Arts Whanganui's Young Artist Scholarship 2020, entitling her to a solo exhibition at the renowned gallery at 17 Taupo Quay.
The exhibition opens on Friday and remains open to view until July 15. It is bound to attract a lot of favourable attention.
The show comprises portraits in various styles – graphite, watercolour and pop-art with graphite, coloured pencil and acrylic.
"I've always really loved art but I started practising at NCEA Level 1 when I had my first board and I started getting into pencil realism," says the former Whanganui High School student.
"I would put a blanket on the floor and draw for hours in front of the TV after school. Then I kind of progressed to trying out more styles: I started watercolour only last year."
Grace is studying at Massey in Palmerston North: her first year of a BA in psychology. Her mother's house is a gallery of her art, a record of excursions into different styles and media.
An acrylic painting inspired by the work of one of her favourite artists, Shaun Tan, hangs in the lounge.
"We were given the theme of the Whanganui River, and I wanted to show how the European industrial buildings are coming in and taking over but the native creatures are still there, kind of mixed in with all the modern landscape."
The work is dystopian in its colours and imagery but the presence of river creatures – fish, eels and koura – gives it vigour.
It shows the extraordinary and diverse talents of this young Whanganui artist. Another, called The Crown Takes All, is a comment on the loss of Māori land, culture and voice to colonialism.
"Portraiture has been my consistent favourite."
Grace did consider art as a career, "But I didn't want to be a starving artist." Hence the focus on a Massey degree with a psychology major and a sociology minor, with the aim of becoming a psychologist, albeit a psychologist with a talent for art.
"I have found that some of the theories of learning psychology do interlink with art.
"I have been thinking about art therapy, recently."
She says it might be something of interest for her in the future.
Grace likes the fun as well as the therapeutic aspects of her art, so it is always going to be a big part of her life.
Having started with the realism of graphite drawings, Grace's current love is watercolour.
"I think I can use some of my [graphite] skills with my watercolour, mostly for doing the initial sketch and knowing about shading with the watercolour."
Her watercolour portraits are mostly images of herself or her good friend and model Jaycee.
What: Grace Swanston exhibition
When: Until July 15
Where: Fine Arts Whanganui Gallery, 17 Taupo Quay