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A Lesson in Resilience

Rachel Allen

When Whitecliffe art graduate Rachel Allen choose her theme for her end of year exhibition, little did she know that real life would indeed imitate art with the events of 2020 as a real-life virus swept the world.

What was going to be a full-on year of creativity in the Whitecliffe studios, surrounded by an abundance of supplies and resources became a year of adaptation and compromise in makeshift home studios.

“The year has totally been different on so many different levels. Because of lockdowns, we had to work from home which was very challenging. Not only because of working space and materials, but because we didn’t have that contact with each other to share ideas. The support we got virtually from our tutors was incredible, but it still isn’t quite the same as catching up in the same place.”

Much of Rachel’s graduation exhibition was crafted in her Pukekohe bedroom, with limited resources, teaching the 19 year old a valuable lesson in resilience and adaptability.

“I had to make do with what I had around the house, paper was taped together and attached to my wall, and because all the shops were closed i could only use what I had already. When I look back on what I have created, it is amazing to me that I have created something wonderful with very little. It taught me to have more belief in what I was capable of.”

Her final exhibition showcased finally at Whitecliffe last month giving friends and family the chance to share in her success.

“I have made lifelong friends over the last three years and I have loved every minute of it. The journey has given me the opportunity to grow as an artist and explore areas of art that I wouldn’t normally have experimented with.”

And whilst Covid has put paid to Rachel travelling the world to further follow her art dream for the meantime, she is looking forward to spending a summer relaxing, catching up with her friends before deciding on her next step.


“Have you ever had the feeling – that you’d like to go to a while different place and became a whole different self?”

— Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Since childhood, books have always been my escape. The way fictional worlds become built up in the mind fascinates me – dreamlike, only half there, sometimes hared to grasp, yet always expanding and changing. I believe these fictional worlds are a universal experience and something that is created for everyone who reads a book. This work explores these worlds and attempts to grasp the ungraspable. I work knowing that I will never quite capture the image, trying my best to glimpse it, to create an atmosphere close to it and provoke that feeling and memory of fiction.

Charcoal has a quality of immediacy that is perfect for this kind of drawing. Like the images being suggested, charcoal is a medium of sketchy, temporary and ephemeral acts.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami and House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski are the books drawn from here. Both books play with themes of perception and reality, the human subconscious and parallel worlds. These ideas are being emphasised in my work and reflect the way all stories stay in my mind – ever changing and shifting.

— Rachel Allen