Personal work takes top awards

Last updated 14:51 11/12/2013
Jacqui Clayton, left, and Barbara Lawson
MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ
TOP TWO: : Bachelor of Arts graduates Jacqui Clayton, left, and Barbara Lawson, Excellence Award recipients.

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Two Bachelor of Arts and Media graduates have won awards of excellence for their bold and deeply personal artwork. They share their stories with Judith Ritchie .

Barbara Lawson and Jacqui Clayton have just completed their Bachelor of Arts and Media degrees at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, topping it off by jointly taking away the Jens Hansen Award of Excellence in Visual Arts and Design.

Both are smiling widely but say their lines of study during the course brought up definite challenges which have made them stronger people and better artists.

Lawson has a background in strategic business planning and brand development which she says has hugely influenced her art work. She makes comment on the effect and control organisations have over people's identity issues and desires. Through her work she questions whether we are just consumer "suckers" at the mercy of big brand organisations.

"Images are recognisable symbols in popular culture which I have used in my work," she says. "In the past we belonged to a church, a football club, went to Sunday School and so on, since the fifties and sixties there's been a collapse. Now we relate our identity to brands."

In her series titled Beauty or Beast, Lawson uses logos from big brands like Nike, Rolex, Microsoft and Apple, scans them into her computer, then manipulates the images into screen prints on lengths of paper, to form a "wall paper."

"We purchase and morph ourselves into a symbol," she says. "Just like walls to be papered, people decorate themselves with the symbols and logos of the other they wish to emulate."

Lawson's future plans include carrying on with art, but she is currently working out in what shape or form.

" I'm thinking about my own brand and where I fit," she says. "My previous brand training is part of where I will sit within it."

Clayton's work is deeply personal, being driven by the need to share her traumatic experience of having the gynaecological condition endometriosis over the past 20 years. She felt her story was something universal, with so many women affected. "It's the invisible disease, so many women suffering," she says.

Sometimes she could not go into school, for a day, a week, or more.

"It's a daily thing, it never really leaves me," she says. "I had no idea that using this in my work would get so personal, revealing so much of myself, but it was cathartic."

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Clayton chose potent metaphors to represent what she refers to as "nothing less than World War Three."

"It is a battle played out on all fronts, mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally," she says. Her end-of-year exhibition featured black and white photographs, chosen to emphasise content, colour being too distracting.

A series in a bedroom depicts a woman lying on her bed. Ambiguous in some ways, the woman could be asleep, relaxed and content and yet there is an uneasiness of pose that suggests pain, and discomfort. Clayton chose the bedroom as a familiar place where she has spent many hours, days and months lying in excruciating pain, alone.

"I'm naturally a very colourful person, but here, I wanted to strip it right back," she says. "It was me and what I was doing. It's a make or break situation, incredibly debilitating, hence the black and white."

What is next for Clayton? "I know I have something to say through my work," she ponders. "I have a couple of photographic ideas, but right now, I just want to have some free-fall time and enjoy my family and friends."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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