Art a life­line for award win­ner

Central Leader - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET

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 in New Zealand – high­lights that 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.’’

The award cer­e­mony saw Mr Blythe speak­ing 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 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.

At a mere 1.12 me­tres tall Ms Davies was se­lected for the top award for her ‘‘will not quit’’ at­ti­tude.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

In­de­pen­dent artist: An­drew Blythe is en­joy­ing new-found recog­ni­tion af­ter re­ceiv­ing the At­ti­tude Award for Artis­tic Achieve­ment.

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