Beth Hill, NRCF art tutor, with *Richard, who is working on his linocut, “Brickz-'n-Steel”, for the “Limitless” exhibition. “At times, I wonder why, every time I close my eyes, I can see my home so clearly, I can reach out and touch the sky, but I know it is just an illusion, an oasis up in my mind, a frozen piece of history, that I carry to another time.”

Rap lyrics accompanying a graffiti-inspired artwork reveal the inner journey of *John, a prisoner at Northland Region Corrections Facility (NRCF), as he crafts his work and music for the upcoming “Limitless” exhibition in April at NorthTec’s Geoff Wilson Gallery in Whangarei.

“In prison, you tend to live in your thoughts,” explained *John, one of four prisoner artists participating in the exhibition, which also will feature work by various external artists on display.

“Even though we’re behind barbed wire, there are no limits to your thoughts and memories. They go beyond place and time. I’m from the country and I just need to close my eyes and it’s like I’m there: on the beach under a full moon, with the water like a mirror.”

“Limitless” is the brainchild of Beth Hill, director of Redemption Arts and Education Services, Northland, and NRCF art tutor. Beth submitted the idea to Alysn Midgelow-Marsden, curator of the Geoff Wilson Gallery, and NorthTec embraced the opportunity.

*Richard chisels the barbed wire, which represents a key element of his journey in prison.“The key theme of the exhibition is crossing boundaries and extending ideas to overcome limits,” said Alysn.

“We are excited to see what the results will be.”

*John used to get chased for his illegal graffiti and tagging. Now, his art is displayed in galleries and sold to support a worthy cause. Here he is working on “Sub-conscious Vandalism” for the “Limitless” upcoming exhibition. The exhibition comprises a unique, three-way collaboration between the NRCF artists, NorthTec staff and student artists, and a number of professional artists of note, including Beth Hill, Andy Kingston, Jeff Thomson, Piet Nieuwland, and Leanne Jackson, also an art tutor at NRCF.

A first for the prisoner artists will be critiquing of their work by the aforementioned artists. The prisoners will be able to respond, either through music, a piece of writing, or a painting.

“The main objectives of this initiative is to showcase the talent at NRCF, enable prisoners to exhibit alongside external artists, create opportunities for mentorship, and engage with the Northland arts and business community,” said Beth.

Some information evenings are also planned at NRCF where external artists participating in the exhibition will meet the prisoner artists and discuss their work.

The “Limitless” exhibition opens on 6 April 2017 at 7pm at the Geoff Wilson Gallery, and artworks will be on display to the public from 7 April to 4 May. To give back to the community, the prisoners’ artworks will be available for sale in aid of a Whangarei charity still to be chosen by the artists.

*Not the prisoners’ real names to protect their privacy.