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Intellectually disabled artist reaches finals of art award

Posted at 9:09am Tuesday 01 Oct, 2019

A Warkworth class for artists with intellectual disabilities has seen one of its participants achieve national recognition for her work.

Julia Quelch was one of 30 finalists in the annual IHC Art Awards.

Julia flew to Wellington for the awards gala event last month, and although her painting, Forest Fairy, failed to win an award, it subsequently sold at auction for $245.

Her mentor Ursula Christel says Julia used delicate blue washes to create soft layers of colour on paper for Forest Fairy, creating a painting that exuded an ephemeral mood.

“Julia's works are always minimal and light, reflecting the gentleness of her personality,” she says.

Ursula is a painter, sculptor and printmaker herself and opened up her studio last October to guide intellectually handicapped artists from various homes in the Mahurangi area. Her art class meets on Thursday mornings. Ursula says she doesn't force participants to do things in a certain way, but instead helps artists find their own niche.

“Some are instinctively colourists, some love to work with line, some love paint and some love three-dimensional objects,” she says.

She says unlike most people, those with intellectual disabilities are not self-conscious about their work.

“They are freer and looser and less restricted and judgmental about their own work. Because of this they develop their own style and energy,” she says.

In addition to developing their artistic talents, Ursula says the class is also a wonderful opportunity for participants to get out of their respective homes and socialise with one another.

“The carers step back and let the artists do what they want to do. Just like other adults in any other art class,” she says.      

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