by Michelle Ripari
The year 2020 has been an incredibly difficult and challenging one with Covid-19 effecting the world. The art world has changed especially, with many artists forced to approach their arts practice differently. Many artists I know have lost income completely and others moving to teach classes and workshops on digital platforms. Personally, I felt relieved that I had already made the decision at the end of 2019 to take a break from teaching, after running weekly classes and workshops from two separate locations for over three years. I never aimed or wanted to teach digitally.
Although I was not teaching, I was still heavily involved with local council art events and activities, and the administrator for one studio’s website and newsletter. But as soon as restrictions were put into place in Melbourne, my income from these things also ended.
“The year 2020 has been an incredibly difficult and challenging one with Covid-19 effecting the world. The art world has changed especially, with many artists forced to approach their arts practice differently.”
I felt like I was struggling enough with no work, remote learning at home with my four children, lockdown restrictions and the day to day uncertainty of the Covid-19 world. Then in April, I lost my beautiful dad from leukaemia. I was heartbroken. Later in August my father-in-law also passed away after contracting Covid-19 in hospital.
In early July, I was surprised and excited to be invited by the Wyndham Art Gallery, located in Werribee in Melbourne’s Western suburbs, to take part in an exhibition titled, LEGACY. Featuring the artwork of six artists including myself, the artworks would encompass a range of mediums including photo montage, photography, video installation, sculpture, and drawing, with the artists to be presented in pairs. Another local Wyndham artist Emmet Davies and myself, were commissioned to draw a self-portrait in our usual medium of coloured pencil and graphite in size A0 (33.1 × 46.8 inches) which was to be the largest I’d ever completed and in the shortest time frame.
It was difficult at times to work on such a huge drawing over the 5-6 weeks it took to complete, while also keeping on top of my four kids throughout their remote learning and holidays. I worked on the drawing for most of the day except going for a walk or bike ride which was the only outing we could take. But the kids were suffering from cabin fever much of the time and that made it difficult to focus on drawing. Although every time anyone would walk into the room where I was drawing and see my huge face staring back at them, they would have a giggle.
The exhibition was due to have an opening event on 10 September and unfortunately, due to the ongoing restrictions in Melbourne we were unable to have this. Alternatively the exhibition was launched digitally and will remain open until 11 October.
“I hope other coloured pencil artists can see the pathway to galleries and more inaugural exhibitions becoming smoother and more accessible.”
Part of the exhibition was also something called Artist in Conversation, in which co-curator of the gallery, Emmet and myself had a conversation, as our work was paired in the exhibition. As we were not able to attend an event where we would speak about our work and be asked questions by the public, the conversation was recorded digitally and launched later on 24 September.
I was absolutely thrilled to be invited to be part of the LEGACY exhibition at the Wyndham Art Gallery, and this by far has been my biggest accomplishment not only for myself, but for the medium of coloured pencil. I hope other coloured pencil artists can see the pathway to galleries and more inaugural exhibitions becoming smoother and more accessible. I hope that being part of this exhibition will provide even further opportunities for me and the confidence to challenge myself with more large-scale drawings.
By Wyndham Art Gallery:
What will we leave behind? In a time of generational change, we ask what is a ‘legacy’?
Artists are at the forefront of inciting change, but they’re equally connected to the past through their practices. In this exhibition their work opens a dialogue to consider what do we keep, what do we share, and what do we leave behind.
Presented in pairs, the works of six artists respond to the legacies that inform their lives as creatives: the visual and social languages used in their work, the shared narratives of history — many of which are being questioned by younger generations; and the legacy of the creative self.
A local artist living in Wyndham, Ripari is known for her coloured pencil artworks that cover a range of subject matter. For LEGACY Ripari took up the challenge of producing a large-scale portrait, which given the laborious nature of coloured pencil drawing, was no small feat.
Stripped down to only the face, Solitary is a striking image. Without ears, hair, neck, and any background the viewer’s eyes gravitate to the subject’s gaze like a magnet. Wide open and nearly as white as the paper, they verge on fearful. This work was produced recently during the Covid-19 pandemic. A global crisis would impact any artists work, let alone a rendering of the self; but is the viewer recognizing fear in Ripari’s gaze or seeing their own?
ABOUT MICHELLE RIPARI:
Michelle Ripari has loved working with coloured pencils since 2014, participating in numerous selected and group exhibitions, including as Napier Waller Art Prize finalist, Wyndham Art Prize four-time finalist and awarded Highly Commended at the prestigious Camberwell Art Prize. Michelle has been a judge, teacher and facilitator for classes and workshops, including school and corporate art workshops for over three years before recently deciding to focus on her own arts practice.
See more at: https://michelleripariart.com/