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Artwork a lifeline for award winner

DANIELLE STREET
Last updated 05:00 12/12/2012
Blythe

DETAILED: Artist Andrew Blythe says it can take up to three weeks to complete one of his paintings, which are often themed around poverty.

Blythe
JASON OXENHAM
INDEPENDANT ARTIST: Andrew Blythe is enjoying newfound recognition after receiving the Attitude Award for Artistic Achievement.

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Rain or shine, Andrew Blythe puts on his yellow plastic parka every day and trudges his way to the studio space where he has been going for the past 12 years.

The Toi Ora Live Arts Trust is a community studio where people who have experienced mental illness receive arts tuition and for clients like Mr Blythe it is a lifeline.

The Sandringham resident has carved out a corner in the Arch Hill space where he paints the day away, methodically coating large sheets of paper with rhythmic lines and symbols.

The self-taught artist says he doesn't plan out a painting but the artworks grow organically, starting off in a corner of the canvas and taking on a life of their own.

However some themes keep re-emerging.

"Poverty is a big part of my work really, I suppose it's just what I do," he says.

For the 50-year-old it is almost a compulsion to paint, but it is gaining him recognition both at home and internationally.

He has exhibited in New York, Paris and Sydney as well as locally - highlights which recently earned him the Attitude Award for Artistic Achievement.

"It's very kind of them to give it to me," he says.

"It's a recognition of my work, and my hard hours spent here working away."

Mr Blythe spoke at the award ceremony in front of a crowd for the first time in many decades.

In fact, when he first started going to Toi Ora he would barely speak to anyone at all, centre director Erwin van Asbeck says.

He says Mr Blythe's confidence has developed hugely since he has been going to the studio.

"His wellness has also flourished to the point where he is living independently," Mr van Asbeck says.

Mr Blythe had a turbulent adolescence that saw him in-and-out of hospital and sleeping rough on the streets of Auckland.

It was in during this time that he took to drawing with charcoal as a way to make sense of his situation.

"During all his changes and challenges his art has been a constant for him. It's a place where he can work and gain strength and focus," Mr van Asbeck says.

Mr Blythe was among eight people recognised at the fifth annual Attitude Awards held late last month.

The ACC Supreme Award winner was Sharon Davies from West Auckland. Ms Davies was selected for her "will not quit" attitude.

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