A LUMINOUS painting by Catriona Cunningham reigned supreme at this year’s ILT Art Awards.
The Manapouri-based artist won the Supreme Award for her watercolour painting Invercargill, City of Water and Light.
Instead of attending opening night, Cunningham said she had decided to visit the exhibition at another time so she would have a bit more time to look around.
So it was a complete surprise to get a text message saying she had won.
“I didn’t believe it at first because I didn’t expect it to feature at all really.
“It was a bit surreal and very unexpected, but quite an honour really because of the people who’ve won it before.”
She was inspired to create the artwork after visiting Invercargill and driving at night in South City.
The area had a lot of interesting lights, she said, so she took a few photographs.
“Because of the rain on the windscreen it was distorting all the imagery so I had some really interesting photographs.”
She said she wanted to use the photographs as a base for a painting which would be about colour, shape, light and layers.
The idea developed in her head, however she was initially unsure how to go about it.
Then, after joining Watercolour New Zealand, Cunningham said she was inspired by the work of New Zealand artist Peter Coates.
“He does quite abstract watercolour.
“That sort of inspired me to push my own more towards abstraction.”
Cunningham said she had entered the awards previously, and liked the competition because it pushed the boundaries.
The accolade has been a huge pat on the back.
“It’s been a real confidence booster and it makes you think ‘well, maybe I am going in the right direction.’
“I do want to push my work along that style – with colour and with abstraction. I love all the American abstract artists.”
Cunningham said she studied art at university and worked in galleries in London, before becoming a teacher and working abroad.
Nowadays she tutors adult education and children’s classes, along with raising a family.
Cunningham said she had tried many different mediums throughout her artistic career, including animation, photography, acrylics and, of course, watercolour.
“It’s something that I really love and I can see a lot of potential in it.”
She said she was thinking of using part of the prize money to do some further art study.
“I think it’s important to keep feeding your skill-set no matter how many years you’ve been doing it.”