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Shapeshifter - A solo exhibition by Carmen Brown

01 Oct 2019
Through funding and the willingness to take a leap, Hamilton art teacher Claudia Avril has taken her arts practice to the next level. Find out how she did it...

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Ōtautahi Creative Spaces
Sep 18, 2019

Like many art teachers, Claudia Avril was in a familiar predicament, pondering the question; how to continue a teaching career and maintain an arts practice?

This Hamilton Girls’ High School art teacher was managing to make art through early starts and dedicated studio time, but she wanted to take her practice to the next level and achieve a consistent art identity.

The answer came in the form of a funding grant from the Ministry of Education which allowed paid leave from teaching and with this support, Claudia enrolled in the Master of Arts programme at Wintec School of Media Arts. She began her study in October 2018.

The first step in her study was all about becoming aware of her aesthetic direction.

“During the first quarter of the programme, I was testing and exploring to clarify my creative direction,” says Claudia.

She also attributes delving into the theory component of the Master of Arts programme to be, “very significant to my work - more than I thought it would be”.

Claudia’s Master of Arts project is now an exhibition, titled Fourth Wall at Ramp Gallery on Wintec’s Hamilton campus. The exhibition investigates notions of perception and explores the figure-ground dynamics at play within paintings. 

“I’m interested in the way paintings are activated by the participation of the viewer, and the subtle play between the way dimension is rendered in both the virtual and the actual world of things.”

The exhibition is centred around paintings on shaped boards and dimensional folding.  Her process includes capturing the very small differentiations of tone from real-world surfaces as data and bending this 2D visual data into 3D form.

Ramp Gallery curator Wendy Richdale says, “Claudia’s paintings are dynamic – they can appear to shift toward the viewer and generate a visual reverberation between illusionistic and actual space”.

Students undertaking a Master of Arts programme at Wintec School of Media Arts, have two supervisors (one theory and one practical), who both guide the student’s learning and the development of their project along the way.

“You get so much feedback and ideas from your supervisors that you normally wouldn’t think about. You need to be challenged so you can progress,” says Claudia.

A highlight for Claudia was meeting other like-minded creatives.

“I’ve met so many other artists through Wintec, it’s really connected me with the creative scene in Hamilton.” 

As well, a painting Claudia developed during her Master of Arts study was selected from more than 300 entries and is a finalist in the 2019 National Contemporary Art Award. The Award exhibition is at Waikato Museum until 10 November 2019.

When asked to share some insights to others thinking of continuing their study to postgraduate level, Claudia lists some key learnings:

“Balance your own ideas with the input from others. Engage with the process of working with supervisors, it is so rewarding. Have discussions and make the most of every opportunity and the resources available.”

Claudia’s Master of Arts project may have come to an end, but it really is just the beginning for her artistic career.

“I’ve consolidated a body of work, and it gives me the confidence to keep moving,” she says.

“It’s just been life-changing.”

Find out more about the Master of Arts programme at Wintec, Find out more about Wintec School of Media Arts, Find out more about Ramp Gallery