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St Hilda’s Collegiate pupil Charlotte Reveley (18) said her set of three paintings, titled Vol 8, were inspired by her feelings during the Covid-19 lockdown.
"Life was a little bit messy and schoolwork was stressful."
The judges said at first glance, the artwork appeared to reference a magazine cover with "touches of surrealism and automatic drawing".
But with further examination, it suggested "a therapist’s doodling as they try to tap into the unconsciousness of their patient”.
Extending beyond the confines of a traditional frame, Vol 8 was rendered on discarded medical manila folders with "bold strokes and an unencumbered palette".
The judges were impressed by how the paintings offered "both an outward and inward view of the self" and how they "teeter on the edge of the metal, extending the feeling of unease for the viewer”.
Charlotte was delighted with the judges’ assessments of her artworks.
She said they had been eerily accurate in their understanding of the meaning behind the paintings.
"I think you can interpret it in different ways, and that’s what I like about it."
Charlotte received a scholarship to cover fees for the first semester of a second-year programme at Otago Polytechnic’s Dunedin School of Art.
The awards, now in their sixth year, attracted more than 70 entries from year 12 and 13 pupils at 11 Otago secondary schools.
The pupils were commended for their resilience and hard work during a disrupted and difficult year.
The effects of isolation and lockdown appeared as a theme in several works in the show, which featured paintings, photography, collage, sculpture and video works.
The top individual entries from each school also received a certificate of excellence.