Bring your own meaning, says artist

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 08:03 24/08/2012
Jasmine Middlebrook
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ

RECOGNITION: Jasmine Middlebrook, who won the Grand Prize at the ILT 2012 Annual Art Award, works on a painting in Invercargill’s City Gallery.

Jasmine Middlebrook
Fairfax NZ
NEW CHALLENGES: Jasmine Middlebrook in her New Plymouth studio working on her next exhibition that will open in Dunedin in November.

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Don't rely on an explanation from Jasmine Middlebrook to get a deeper understanding of her oil painting On Iron Crutches.

The 25-year-old James Hargest College graduate - who won the grand prize at the ILT Art Awards last week, impressing judges with the depth and uniqueness on the canvas - is coy when she talks about the dark title of the piece. Or most paintings that she hangs on gallery walls around the country, from Dunedin to Taranaki.

"I do like a little mystery," the 25-year-old says, when prodded for its origin.

She can say it was from a poem she liked- she's not sure of the author.

But that's beside the point.

"I like people to figure it out for themselves," she says on the phone from New Plymouth, where she works out of a spare classroom at her nephew's school where there is light and space to stretch her canvases.

There is hardly any rest for Middlebrook - her next exhibition opens at Dunedin's Gallery De Novo in November.

"There's a meaning for me - but I want everyone who sees it to find out their own meaning.

"Relationships, images I come across, everything from that, I draw from for each painting. I have a really busy mind."

Getting the award was not just a $8500 prize, but an assurance that the hard work and years of making the sale of each painting stretch as far as possible were paying off.

"Because I've chosen to be an artist as a career, this has been validating for that choice.

"To win a prize on that scale is just awesome."

Middlebrook says she never strayed far from portraitures as a student in Invercargill, but had her eyes opened to the work of artists like Salvador Dali and Jeffrey Harris when she left for Dunedin School of Art.

"It opens your mind," she says, describing her experience of being dumped in the middle of Dunedin's art world.

"I came in as a traditional painter and it opened my eyes up."

She began selling work in her final year of studies and has since relocated to New Plymouth, where she alternates painting out of her grandfather's house and the schoolhouse down the road.

While she has dabbled in sculpture, she has always gone back to painting.

"I think this is an evolution of what I've been working on," she says, going back to On Iron Crutches.

"I started with portraiture but it wasn't as satisfying, not as challenging. I think the way I paint now is more engaging."

Jasmine Middlebrook's painting - along with the other ILT Art Award winners - will be showing at the City Gallery in Don St until August 29. Her exhibition at Gallery De Novo in Dunedin opens on November 9.

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- The Southland Times

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