Chris Wills’ a ‘Love letter to New Zealand’ wins IHC Art Awards

Chris receiving his award in Wellington last week.

Chris receiving his award in Wellington last week.

An intricate map of New Zealand, embroidered on linen by Auckland artist Chris Wills has won the IHC Art Awards 2015 and a $5000 prize.

Chris, 42, who lives in Waiuku, used counted cross-stitch to illustrate the map, complete with the New Zealand Coat of Arms, place names and extras including boats and a lighthouse.
Auckland cartoonist and illustrator Dylan Horrocks, one of three judges of this year’s Art Awards, says Chris’ work is painstaking and thorough. “It’s kind of like a little love letter to New Zealand. It’s got simplicity, combined with this obsessive detail,” he said.
Fellow judge Denise L’Estrange-Corbet, co-founder of WORLD fashion, says she was really drawn to the map. “The work is exceptional.”

Boh Runga, musician and jewellery artist, another of the judges, says the piece is something she would love to own. “It’s just beautifully done and very detailed.”
Chris’ mum Gaylyn Wills says, his work is all the more amazing because, Chris is able to transfer a picture from a graph to fabric without appearing to count the threads, which is the usual way of working. Gaylyn says he seems to see a picture in pixels or tiny squares. These can then be transferred the linen or canvas he is working on. Chris has autism and has difficulty communicating, though he is able to say names. “His life revolves around people’s names and place names,” she says.
Gaylyn says Chris started doing cross-stitch when he was 21 after watching her doing it. She says he became fascinated by the patterns and symbols on the graphs.
“He seems to see the picture in the graph form much easier than you and I can see it. This enables him to transfer, even complicated images, to fabric.”

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