A prisoner art maker's response

10 December 2010

A complex and detailed pencil drawing made by prisoner DM of Christchurch Men's Prison was in the last stages of completion when he was approached by Chaplaincy staff about participating in the ICCPPC International Prison Art Exhibition/Competition Signs of Life 2009 in Austria.

Pencil drawing of a rose budThe pencil drawing of a rose in bud with many thorns took over 220 hours to complete. It was an important work in the life of this man because it reflected to him some of the earlier impacts in his life.

More importantly, the work marked a critical point of decision-making for his life ahead.   
DM’s work was one of the five New Zealand works submitted to the ‘Signs of Life’ exhibition. Three of these works were highly recommended by Austrian judges and feature on page 90 of the ICCPPC Art in Prison II Catalogue.

“At first I was quite blown away by the response of the Austrian judges to my works, especially out of 1200 works from all over the world. I was rapt.

“It made me look at the possibilities of where my art could lead me and I started to take a lot of interest in all the arts. And the more work I made, the more it was worth, not in money, but to me.

Focused on not coming back to prison

“I then went on to study art with The Learning Connexion, which has been a blessing. For the first time, in my life whilst in prison, it kept me focused on not coming back to prison. I spend most of my time making art instead of buying into prison life.

“I’m very committed and passionate about making art and disciplining myself in painting and in other areas of my life where I have tripped up and stumbled. I am getting it right.
“I have just recently been awarded a scholarship with The Learning Connexion. I was really surprised at that, blown away and yet more hope. Once released, I will continue making and exhibiting work and I pray it could lead to something excellent.

“If I could make a living through art I would be rapt. It is a step towards a more positive life with the best outcome for my family and children.
“It fits in perfectly with the journey I have already undertaken, also meeting the goals that I have set.

“Since I started that work that went to Austria (I have had a sense that) it is all meant to be. My intuition is telling me it feels like something else is at play here.  I have been blessed.  It is changing the person I was -- to the person
I am.”


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