University of Canterbury Fine Arts Scholar and sculpture student Giselle Fortune returned to Hagley recently to talk to Level 3 Art students about the transition from school to university.
The path to studying sculpture hasn’t been a direct one, and given Giselle’s enthusiasm and curiosity, I’m certain it won’t be a destination in itself. In fifth form (Year 11) at high school in Auckland, Giselle wanted to study art but was persuaded to drop it in favour of ‘more academic’ subjects. She described how she watched and envied the continuing art students as they went through their schooling. Meanwhile Giselle continued down the eminently practical path of becoming a doctor. Alongside the substantial commitment of medicine, Giselle had four children – one of whom, Caspian, was in the audience and tech assistant for Giselle’s address to the printmaking class. Throughout the busyness of being a GP and parenting, she was driven to draw, paint and make things on the side.
In 2014 Giselle enrolled in printmaking, design and photography at Hagley. She remains passionate about how much she learned from teachers Ken Cartwright, Peter Gibson and Gavin Hewitt. As an example of her work, Giselle’s Level 3 folio about Aung San Suu Kyi is striking - one can see how it gained Giselle a scholarship. The three panels develop pictorial ideas, and also work as a narrative – with a beginning (introducing the character), middle (some of the happenings) and end (looking at a resolution and into the future). Of the process, Giselle explained that ideas and themes emerged on the way through. Her advice for current art students is to trust the process, and to try to get at least 2 panels finished early, to give yourself time to change pieces, exchange and rearrange.
Following on from her Level 3 success, Giselle started at Canterbury’s Ilam School of Fine Arts in 2015, choosing Canterbury because it’s local and because of the small group sizes: there are only 6-12 students in each discipline at each year level, working in the shared space of open studios.
The course has an intermediate year with short block courses in each of film, design, photography, painting and sculpture and two elected longer blocks. Sculpture immediately appealed to Giselle, with its freedom to experiment with different materials and the possibilities of including other media such as film and photography. One of Giselle’s second year projects in sculpture was creating a machine that interacts with viewers, combining a kaleidoscope with a camera aperture. Giselle described Art School as very experimental, all about trying things out and that that’s part of the fun.
Her advice for those going into tertiary study is to organise yourself, learn how to manage your time and take advantage of the help that’s available. Not unlike her art, Giselle’s message emphasised the importance of experimentation and her words reveal a real joy in the processes of making, of learning, and having fun. At Hagley, we will be watching her space.