Isolation challenge - No. 1

  • 12 May 2020
  • Sarah Holden

When New Zealand moved to Level 4 lockdown a number of our artists took the opportunity to explore their art, push themselves outside of their comfort zone and explore different techniques that they had the time to experiment with.  Those of us who aren't artists made lists of jobs to do around the house, to get things tidy.  For our artists it was a time to get messy, follow the process and see what happens. Many artists have escaped into their art and the time has flown by.  Without the pressure to be anywhere the artists have been able to be fully present in the process and it gave them the opportunity to be creative with what they had available in their studios.  'It was great to be encouraged to use whatever product we had on hand. I used up some things that were long needing to be used. It was also wonderful to see what everyone else had done and see the amazing diversity in all the work,' said artist Joanne Mahoney

The group of artist affiliated with The Little Gallery were guided through a challenge laid down by artist Paula McNeill.  She sent out an email asking if the the artists wanted to participate and outlined a guideline for each step, adding a layer at a time.  Each email was sent a few days apart for the artist to complete the next stage of the challenge.  Without knowing what was coming the artists were able to focus on the present technique, giving in to the process and being present with that particular element.  This journey can be emotional and dependent on the artists feelings at the time - were they content, frustrated, sad or enthusiastic? This is how a lot of work is initiated but the artist normally completes a work evoked out of a single emotion, where as, through this process the artist was able to work their diversity of feelings into each layer.  This was then balanced with a structured process, challenging techniques and sparking creativity, as well as ensuring the composition and colours balanced. The essence of the challenge was based on working over layers, incorporating movement with simple forms, as well as discovering the beauty and importance of white as the dominant tint.

The artists rose to the occasion and the challenge was met with much enthusiasm, giving them something to look forward to and a way to 'lift their spirits' during the lock down period. The results have been fabulous, although not without their frustrations.  Artist Jane Parson commented that, 'The challenges set by Paula were very formative in the further development of my art, in that they provided an opportunity for self examination of what style, mediums and methods really make my heart sing .... I'm so grateful to Paula for the therapy, and the fun of collaboration with other artists.'  Joanne Mahoney agreed, 'I was certainly challenged – my head wasn’t in a good space at the beginning of the lockdown but once the I started following the very excellent instructions it became easier and was a good distraction from worrying about Covid 19.'

And the artists found it engaging and enjoyable too!  Kirsty Black said, 'Paula’s challenge was great fun, it was the perfect way to keep connected with other artists in lockdown, to let go of the rules, follow the instructions (very loosely) and see what emerged. Am pleased to say I was delighted with the result.' Verena Tagman also agreed, 'I enjoyed the "isolation art" very much. Paula's inputs were very motivating and gave me a good push to just get started and not think too much ahead by following the day to day instructions.  It was so much fun for me, as I usually never have enough time to spend in my art studio.  I'm pleased with the results and will definitely integrate some of the processes in my future work.'

A number of the artists were included in the challenge ... and many went on to complete a second and third challenge.  So watch this space for another isolation challenge update, or visit the gallery in Tairua or Whangamata to see these fabulous works which will be making their way there once they've been framed.  


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