Written by Joanne Barrett
She is not afraid to reach beyond what she ever thought possible! As she tells it, “I like to challenge myself.”
You see, Allyson lives with Cerebral Palsy and despite this she is not one to sit back and do nothing. She says, “A few years ago I remember thinking, what do I want to do with my life. Things were generally going pretty well, but I was ready for my next challenge.”
It was around that time Allyson met with a friend from Focus 2000 (the Cerebral Palsy Society), a charitable company that aims to provide a range of services to people with disabilities and assist them to reach their full potential. She had an interest in art and so her friend suggested she look at what Panacea Arts had to offer. Consequently she was introduced to Māpura Studios (formerly Spark Centre of Creative Development) located in Western Springs.
Māpura Studios is a creative space and art therapy centre where they provide art classes and art therapy programmes for people of all ages living with disability and diversity. It is an independent organisation, administered by Panacea Arts Charitable Trust and funded by grants and programme fees. Allyson explains, “I’m so pleased I went along to have a look at Māpura Studios. This was the exact opportunity I had been looking for. I thoroughly enjoyed the first few classes and soon realised I had some talent, but I wanted to extend myself further and really learn how to draw and paint.
Initially Allyson started out painting city/urban scapes inspired by an American artist, Sarah McEneaney.”
“I liked to create depth and perspective. It’s always fascinated me how an artist can transform a two dimensional piece of canvas into something that looks like one could step into it.”
“I remember the first painting I sold, it was at an exhibition held at the Aotea Centre and mine was hanging in the main entrance. With this first sale I thought to myself, ‘I could be good at this.’ It was an abstract image of the city and the sea, probably based on the idea of either travelling to or from the city on the Devonport Ferry.”
Whilst Allyson enjoyed painting city/urban scapes and still does, over the past four or five years, she extended her practice through portraiture classes at Māpura and has developed into a competent portrait artist. Allyson works mainly with acrylic on canvas, she uses charcoal to help sketch out the initial work and sometimes she likes to use pastels at the end just to add highlights and a bit more texture to the work.
“It’s the masters, Picasso, Monet, Manet, Degas and Van Gough who inspire me. I love their work and in terms of my own art I think, ‘how on earth to they do that.’ Interestingly though, one of my latest portrait works has been compared to Picasso.”
It is these and other memorable moments that have kept Allyson motivated. She recalls when in 2009 she was part of a group exhibition at North Art in Northcote and they were showing works from their first portraiture class. “I walked in and the curator of the show knew exactly who I was from my self portrait that was on show. This made me more determined to keep going in this direction.”
More recently, Allyson took her mum along to an exhibition held at Studio One -Toi Tu on Ponsonby Road, where the painting she entered was a portrait of her mother. To her delight a member of the Studio One staff took a photo of her mum next to it. “At the time,” says Allyson, “I wondered what my mum’s reaction would be to the portrait - fortunately she loved it!”
Most of Allyson works are created from her experiences of the world. Each piece has real meaning for her, and she says, that adds to the enjoyment she gets from the process of creating the initial sketch to the completed work. Allyson is currently working on a new series of works inspired by when her parents lived in Waimamaku in the Hokianga. She has just completed the work ‘Waimamaku Garage’ the third in the series of Hokianga images.
Allyson surrounds herself with the creative people at Māpura Studios and she loves being part of the community there. Apart from her artistic pursuits she works as the Māpura Studios media assistant and is responsible for writing artists profiles for the their website www.mapurastudios.org.nz
She is also kept busy with cataloguing the artwork so Māpura has an electronic version of the artists’ work and considers herself to be in a unique position of being a student/artist as well as part of the team. In addition she is co-chair of the Local Advisory Committee of CCS Disability Action Auckland, and has recently joined the board of Outline NZ again.
“I believe creating art allows people the time to view life from a different perspective, to use their imagination to create the world around them.”
“I think I have an important role to play as an artist and that is, to show people in my work and home community a different way to see the world.”
“I am most grateful to be living in Ponsonby because it means I can I walk to most places. I love the energy the cafes and bars around Ponsonby bring to my life, particularly my local café Cézanne in Three Lamps. I’m not sure what my long term goal is yet, but I do know, for now, I love all that I’m doing!”