Artworks testament to talent and perseverance

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Marina Pessione’s imagination and creativity have resulted in a body of artwork both respected and recognisable, her artist colleagues say.

It was art that came from the subconscious and Pessione’s artworks were testament to her talent and perseverance, fellow Alexandra artist Neil Driver said at the opening of a commemorative exhibition of Pessione’s work last week.

Pessione celebrated her 50th birthday earlier this year and the exhibition was a celebration of her art career, her mother Jan Pessione said.

Pessione, who has Down Syndrome, did not paint as much now as she used to, so her collection of artworks was becoming increasingly precious, Mrs Pessione said.

Her art had attracted much attention and a variety of accolades over the years. Her achievements were significant, Mrs Pessione said.

Pessione had always been interested in art and loved drawing as a child, but it was when she arrived at Dunstan High School in the 1980s that her art really took off. Under the tutelage of Dunstan teachers she passed school certificate and sixth form certificate art, and after she left school she did further art classes with Driver.

It was a turning point for Pessione, who responded to the “inspirational” influence of Driver and began producing prolifically, Mrs Pessione said.

For several years she had paintings accepted for the International Exhibition of Art by people with an intellectual challenge; she was interviewed on television by Angela D’Audney when her art was in an exhibition at the University of Otago; in 2002 she was commissioned by the IHC to produce a Christmas card; in 2003 she was one of the four winning entries in a national Special Olympics New Zealand competition; and in 2005 she was a finalist in the Telecom IHC Art Awards.

She had also exhibited various times in local exhibitions and received valuable support and encouragement from the Central Otago Art Society and other Central Otago artists, Mrs Pessione said.

“We’re lucky that we live in such a lovely, supportive community.”

Driver said he had only advised Pessione on how to create artworks with paints (she had previously worked in felt pen) and it was her own determination and perseverance that had led to her success.

“Her concentration was phenomenal. She would be in a two-hour group class and the others would need to get up after 20 minutes and have a break but Marina would paint for the entire two hours. She’s got a concentration that other people don’t have. She just gets lost in her art.”

Mrs Pessione said art had been a wonderful form of self-expression and the artworks had evolved over the years. They include pieces on paper, card and silk, and Pessione has also done spinning, weaving and cross-stitch.

All brought “fantastic images of her unconscious to light”. The detailed images, often including geometric patterns and rich, detailed backgrounds, included many seascapes and images of flowers and leaves.

Some of the silk works were turned into cards, cushions and items of clothing. One particularly special piece was a painted silk tie Pessione had given to Alexandra New World owner Kevin Ryan; the Ryans had employed her at their supermarket for 29 years.

Mr Ryan then thrilled Pessione by wearing the tie to her farewell ceremony when she retired from the job, and the Ryans’ support had been some of the most significant from the Central Otago community, Mrs Pessione said.

Marina Pessione’s art exhibition is on display at Living Options, in Ngapara St, Alexandra, from 1.30pm to 3.30pm today and next Thursday, October 13.