RIPE winner's work acquired by Mortlock McCormack Law

News News & events

09 Dec 2015

The art work may have come down from CPIT's 2015 RIPE art and design exhibition, but it's going right back up for one student.

CPIT Bachelor of Design student Debra McLeod's award-winning work has found a permanent home at the offices of major RIPE sponsor Mortlock McCormack Law.

The Christchurch firm awarded her the $2,000 outstanding achievement prize in art and design for a project that was inspired by the human brain – her own.

McLeod has epilepsy. The neurological condition was the central theme of her third project, which also took out the CPITWilliam Cumming award for applied visual arts.The 41 year-old mum had her first seizure in 1995 and her first brain scan. She has had a few seizures since, but had two in succession this year.

"That's what got me interested in what is going on in my brain and the miscommunication between the neurons. I wanted to show the fragility of those neurons, and just how easy it is for things to go wrong, and the chaos it can cause."

McLeod turned trauma into artistic inspiration. She used the medical imagery and cross-sections from her own brain scans for a number of interpretations, which were created using various mediums, including printing, ceramics, plastics and resins along with 3D mounting techniques.

Unable to drive as a result of her seizures this year, McLeod spends many hours on buses, to and from Diamond Harbour and CPIT. However, she has used the time to write a diary – a year in the life of an epileptic artist, which also contributed to the themes around her winning project.

A photo of Deborah's brain artwork.

A slice of Debra's brain. CPIT Bachelor of Design student Debra McLeod's award winning artwork will grace the office walls of major RIPE exhibition sponsor Mortlock McCormack Law. She is pictured with law firm partner Andrew Logan.


Mortlock McCormack Law partner Andrew Logan said the piece was chosen not only for its uniqueness but for the story it told about McLeod's personal journey with her condition.

"It resonates with me because I have a daughter who also has epilepsy so I'm aware of the challenges Debra faces."

CPIT artwork has a special place at the law firm, which had been involved in sponsoring the institute's art awards since 2003.  Now retired, partner Simon Mortlock awarded the inaugural prize to CPIT student Hannah Page for her handbag-inspired entry.

The firm even adapted space and raised the ceiling at their former premises in Cathedral Square to accommodate the 2010 winner Casey Macauley's large installation artwork.However, the company lost much of the CPIT art collection, along with its building, in the 2010-2011 earthquakes and had been based in an Addington warehouse ever since. This year's RIPE exhibition was timely with the firm moving into a new building in Durham Street two weeks ago. McLeod's work would be the first to be hung on brand new office walls, Logan said.

"We've waited this long to get decent premises that we're even hiring a professional to hang the artworks because we want to make it look right, so Debra's work is extra special to us."

McLeod said she felt grateful and blessed that the firm liked her work. The project had also given her new skills and extended her abilities.

"The project's taught me to think outside the box, and also what you can do within that box. That's the wonderful thing about doing visual arts at CPIT. The tutors and technicians push you to think what else can I do, not what I can't do."