Allyson Hamblett: stories of people on the edges of society
Allyson Hamblett, an artist at Spark Centre of Creative Development in Auckland, is fascinated with the stories of the people she paints – often people on the edges of society.
Changing attitudes about disability is something Allyson aims to do with her artwork. “Society holds many preconceptions about
Allyson, who has cerebral palsy, is one of five artists participating in the national I’m an Artist Campaign happening in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
Arts Access Aotearoa is organising the campaign with funding from the Ministry of Social Development’s Making A Difference Fund. It aims to change attitudes and behaviour towards people with a disability, sensory impairment or lived experience of mental ill-health.
It also promotes disabled people as artists who make great art with the support and guidance of community-based creative spaces.
Allyson has been an artist at Spark Centre since 2002 and also works there as its media assistant. She attends Spark’s Studio Practice classes, which enable her to keep developing and learning new techniques.
Valuable exhibition opportunities
“Spark has allowed me the time and space to develop my creative self,” she says. “It’s also provided me with valuable exhibition opportunities.”
Allyson’s main interest is in portraiture and figure drawing, and she often paints self-portraits or portraits of other disabled people.
“I become so focussed when I’m making art about something that is relevant to me that I almost become a part of the work,” Allyson says. “In 2010, I painted a portrait of Todd Fernie, a really good friend. Painting his portrait was a way of dealing with the grief of losing him through suicide in 2009.
“A recent work was from my holiday in the UK last year when I was visiting my sister. In the painting, my sister is feeding her daughters. It allows me to remember that moment vividly.”
Taking every opportunity to develop her art practice
Suzanne Vesty, Director, Spark Centre, says Allyson takes every opportunity to develop her knowledge and her art practice.
“There’s a whimsical, ethereal quality that belies the fact that Allyson’s art is deeply considered and thought-provoking,” she says. “She explores a range of subject matter from still life and urbanscape through to her personal experience of living with cerebral palsy.”
Over the years, Allyson has exhibited her work at the Corban Estate Arts Centre, Artstation (now Studio One), Mairangi Arts Centre, CCS Disability Action and at Pah Homestead in the TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre.
“It’s been particularly great to have had two exhibitions at the Pah Homestead because it’s such a prestigious place to exhibit art,” she says.
Experimenting with different artforms
Allyson likes to experiment with different artforms, including writing and composing her own music. “I record music with the help of Sam Benge, a professionally trained musician. We’ve been working together for about five years now, and have composed and recorded 17 pieces of music.
“I’ve always had an interest in music and playing the piano. A piano teacher once told my parents there was no way she could ever teach someone like me. So when I found out what she’d said, I decided to teach myself. I was ten at the time.”
Last year, Allyson participated in Arts Access Aotearoa’s Making A Difference Arts Advocacy Programme, which included a series of workshops aimed at providing practical tools to disabled people so they could advocate for improved access to the arts in Auckland.
“It was about rocking the boat and creating social change to improve everyone’s lives,” says Allyson, whose art is often political and reflects her commitment to building a more inclusive society.
About Spark Centre of Creative Development
Spark Centre is an inclusive creative space that provides visual arts, dance movement and art therapy programmes for people living with disability and diversity. It delivers person-centred learning in art making and creative therapies. It provides exhibition opportunities for its artists to promote and advocate for artists living with diversity. Visit the Spark Centre website.