A blessing in disguise

By Rhonda Dredge

Art students at the Box Hill Institute’s city campus are learning how to get viewers to connect both emotionally and intellectually with their work.

Daniel Matina’s grandma Maria died six weeks ago and he’s memorialising her in a painting of her last walk in the park.

The view, which is from the back, is both sad and amusing.

Artists rarely paint little old ladies out for a stroll. Old people with their walking frames are familiar but often overlooked. 

Daniel, who is enrolled in a diploma of visual arts, said he had lived with his grandmother since he was six. 

“For me there’s a lot of fond memories walking with her,” he said. His mum died when he was 11. “It was just one of those things.”

Daniel and other diploma students have access to well-equipped studios on the seventh floor of the CAE Degraves St building. 

Art teacher Toby Dutton is enthusiastic about the location. “There’s an art shop down below and 50 galleries within a five-kilometre radius,” he said. “It beats taking a mini-bus.”

Artists need to learn how to disrupt the everyday thoughts of viewers to get them to look at their work. Toby had an exhibition at the City Library in 2013 called Back and Beyond in which all the portraits were also from the back. 

“They challenge the perception of the viewer walking into a gallery,” he said.  “It’s almost as if the subject is walking away.” 

The method works well for depicting people in the CBD as they hurry past, or street people who may not want to be identified. Anonymity is preserved yet the presence of a person is still recorded.

One portrait was of Marcus The Big Issue seller, who was a popular personality at the corner of Flinders Lane until he disappeared two years ago. 

Daniel is coming to terms with his memories of Maria as he paints. “Whatever time I was able to have with her was a blessing in disguise.” 

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