“Mrs Monet” always on the go
4 July 2014
By Jackson Mulder
Lower Hutt artist Gail Rattenbury, known as “Mrs Monet” at Dudley Arthouse, is always on the go. Alongside her art making, she belongs to a knitting club, attends weekly kapa haka and drama classes, and goes sailing once a week.
And now, the 60-year-old artist has received a $2500 Making A Difference scholarship to attend The Learning Connexion's inclusion class. Beginning the one-year course in late July, Gail will work towards a Level 4 Certificate in Art and Creativity.
Jules Hunt, Team Leader at Dudley Arthouse, says that Gail is at a stage where she needs to be challenged further in her art practice and has much to offer other artists.
Gail is hearing impaired and uses a mixture of Makaton (a communication programme) and New Zealand Sign Language to communicate. When asked if she would like to apply for the scholarship, Gail burst into tears and signed “friends”, “painting” and “yes, yes, yes”.
Monet is Gail’s favourite artist and the most influential on her work. She’s working towards a solo exhibition titled Mrs Monet, which will showcase her art and its references and interpretations of the French nineteenth-century artist.
Gail is also participating in Dudley Arthouse’s entry into IDEA Services wearable art competition. She’s also a regular entrant in the IHC Art Awards and has been selected as a finalist in previous awards.
Describing the inspirations behind her work, Gail explains: “People, faces and personalities spring to mind as I am a very social person. My love for birds and colour also reflects in my work.”
Gail has been attending Dudley Arthouse (and its predecessor in Petone) five days a week for the past 15 years. Her art spans a wide range of mediums and influences, including oil on canvas renditions of Monet, wax crayon drippings, pastels in painting and metal wire in knitting. Influences of Aboriginal art are also present in Gail’s work.
“Gail is an artistic sponge with a strong passion for process and materials,” Jules says. “She has a wonderful give-it-a-go attitude about anything involving art or art-making.”
Strong ties to The Learning Connexion
Before taking up her scholarship to study, Gail already had strong ties to The Learning Connexion and is a regular visitor to end-of-term student exhibitions. She has also been mentored by Sapphire, an honours student at The Learning Connexion. It’s a process that gave Gail some skills to mentor a fellow artist at Dudley Arthouse.
When asked about her goals, Gail opens her workbook. The list of goals includes holding the Mrs Monet solo exhibition; exploring new artistic techniques; learning about photography; and attending more art-focused outings.
She hopes her time at The Learning Connexion, and the friends she will make there, will help her achieve these goals.
Gail once had to deal with significant vision impairment. Jules recalls Gail trying to rinse her brush in a water container while she was painting, only to completely miss it.
Only in the past year, following surgery, has she been able to view her work clearly. In conversation with Jules, Gail said: “Barriers are what you make them.”
No statement seems more apt to sum up Gail’s attitude to life and art.