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Faith, family, art and education are inextricable facets of Darryn George’s life, providing endless inspiration for his work.

His latest exhibition, Prayers and Progress, is on at the Ilam Campus Gallery, School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury until Thursday 23 March.

Prayers and Progress is a combination of work created in 2012, in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes, and more recently, as the city begins to make headway in its recovery. “These two series work well together, one called Prayers, the other Progress. Prayers is like a cry for help for a devastated city and Progress is about where Christchurch is now, coming out of its time of trouble and moving towards something good.”

As HoD Art, Darryn juggles organising College’s art department with running his own art studio. He enjoys the balance between studio and school. “For me, it’s very important to keep up with what’s happening at the cutting edge of contemporary art. I’m always researching, creating art, testing ideas in exhibitions … and then getting back into the classroom and focusing on the boys. Lots of boys here have amazing skills, they’re prepared to take risks, fearless in their approach. Being an artist brings a freshness to my teaching, but the boys bring a freshness to my art, to the way I approach painting, and that’s something I really value.”

Well known for using bold, abstract, geometric patterns and Te Reo in his work, Darryn is aware each painting will mean different things to different people. “A painting has a whole raft of meanings depending on the context and Te Reo is very similar – one word can mean a multiple of things. Using Te Reo is a lovely way to add layers of meaning. It provides a rich source of inspiration and is my way of getting into the language and expanding my vocabulary.”   

Darryn trained at the University of Canterbury and sees the invitation to exhibit on campus as a kind of homecoming. “The School of Fine Arts calls on past students to put on an exhibition and it’s a real honour to be invited. It’s been 25 years since I last had something in that gallery.”

In the intervening years, Darryn has held many exhibitions in many locations. One of the highlights of his career was taking part in the Venice Biennale in 2013.

Darryn wants his students to see art as a viable occupation, to know it can be a real and rewarding career. “If you love it, if you’ve got a passion for it, you can make it work.”

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