by Al Williams
Robert Westaway left school not being able to read or write.
He has recently completed Master of Visual Arts degree at Ara in Timaru through the Otago Polytechnic and plans to move on to a doctorate next year.
Mr Westaway, a mature student, has been studying in Timaru for at least 10 years. He completed graduate diplomas in computing, photography and visual arts before taking on post graduate study.
A grandfather, Mr Westaway said education and learning had always been a “hunger” in him.
“My greatest support has been my mum who recently passed away and who I am proud of.”
Studying at a New Zealand Qualifications Authority level 9 meant essays of up to 40,000 words, he said.
“I got distinction with a post graduate certificate in visual arts.”
Mr Westaway said he was preparing for exhibitions in Dunedin at the Dunedin School of Art and the University of Otago next month.
“The technology for my styles of painting is biomorphic, consisting of organic abstraction.”
Mr Westaway said he combined oil and water-based paints and “supercharged” them with carbon dioxide.
His work is partly inspired by the late Jackson Pollock, an American who led the abstract expressionist movement and was known for his unique style of painting.
“The carbon dioxide stabilises things and these painting will look no different in 100 years’ time,” Mr Westaway said of his work.
The work was time-consuming and costly.
“With the exhibitions coming up in August I’m trying to transport my art, it’s likely to cost about $2000 to get the whole thing to Dunedin. I have invested a lot of time and money in all of this.”
Mr Westaway returned to study in 2006 at Aoraki Polytechnic in Timaru where he studied web media to level 7 and became “fluent in all computer languages”.
” The Timaru campus is where my head is. This is where I began my journey.”
His computer study was followed by a certificate in digital photography in 2008 and he returned to visual arts in 2013.
“I think everyone has got dreams, talents and gifts. We have to step out and believe in ourselves.”
Ara Timaru fine arts tutor Mike Armstrong said he had known Mr Westaway for many years.
“I think Robert’s story shows that in a community the size of Timaru we can foster students who would otherwise miss out on an education, people who have the potential but can’t leave town . . .
“I think he has a natural talent. He has completed a thesis, proving he has worked very hard to understand what is required at each level.”