A stunning Baroque inspired gown has led to World of Wearable Art (WOW) success for The Learning Connexion student, Daniella Sasvári.
Drawing on her Hungarian roots and growing New Zealand identity, Daniella’s design Regnum Dei has won second place in the Open Section of WOW, which is running at Wellington’s TSB Arena until 13 October.
This isn’t the first taste of WOW success for Daniella, who has been entering the competition since 2008. She won the Sustainability Award in 2015 with her hand-painted garment Templa Mentis, and won honourable mention in the Weta Costume & Film section in 2014 for Gesta Hungarorum (Chronicle of the Hungarians).
Daniella is currently undertaking the Advanced Diploma of Art and Creativity (Level 7), as a recipient of The Learning Connexion’s Janet Law Scholarship.
She has been working on Regnum Dei since beginning her studies at The Learning Connexion (TLC) in 2017, but first came up with the idea in September 2015, while attending that year’s WOW. Her husband Aaron La Roche assisted with the project.
“I knew then that Baroque would be my new subject. I was very excited as Baroque is a very opulent style, perfect for stage. This was a perfect offer for me, as I come from the theatre and opera industry. I was born and raised in Hungary, so I thought this was an opportunity to work with the rich Baroque heritage of Hungary, which differs from the mainstream Italian and French Baroque.”
One side of Regnum Dei tells the story of Hungary’s religious and political upheavals throughout the 16th and 17th centuries and reflects Daniella’s strong sense of Hungarian identity.
“I wanted to work with this significant story, but it instantly raised a design problem. How would I explain this story to a New Zealander, without words?”
To address this, the other side of Regnum Dei tells a story that most New Zealanders will be familiar with – the meeting of European and Māori in the 19th century – which was also a period of religious and political upheaval.
“I tried to learn about New Zealand history and the history of the missionaries too. I did a lot of research and noticed the hierarchy and the segregation, which was depicted on many of the images, remained from the period of colonisation. Hierarchy is a key element in Baroque style, so I thought I could easily transform these images into a Baroque image – of course with a little twist.”
The two paintings on each side of Regnum Dei intentionally have the same layout. “I tried to paint them identically as much as possible to give a visual translation or a visual clue about the narrative of the gown to the viewers.”
Daniella has lived in New Zealand since 2007, but before that she was a successful costumier in Hungary, spending 10 years working with a regional theatre.
Daniella says she came to TLC with some foundation skills in construction and tailoring, but the school gave her the extra creative push to take her work to the next level.
“Those 10 years in the theatre gave me a specific set of practical skills. However, I had reached a level on my own where I couldn’t grow further. I really wanted to improve my painting and life drawing skills and The Learning Connexion allowed me to do this.”
The ambitious nature of Regnum Dei required learning a number of new skills, including Baroque painting and Māori art.
“I thought that it is very important to learn about Māori art to be able to present it with respect and dignity. I learned to weave at Pākaraka marae, but I learned much more than flax weaving. My kaiako, Trina taught me a lot about Harakeke (flax), but her whānau showed me, introduced me, and included me while I was studying at their marae. The two years that I spent with her whānau became one of my most treasured memories.”
Daniella and husband Aaron La Roche, who assisted with Regnum Dei
Originally studying on-site and attending life drawing and painting classes at TLC, Daniella made the move to distance delivery study in 2018, and now does her study and costume making from her home in Upper Hutt.
Daniella says WOW has allowed her to continue developing creative work, and she has been able to use her WOW entries to gain publicity and recognition as a productive, successful artist.
“It’s been a very good journey,” she says. “It slowly built up every year as I learned more about the competition.”
Daniella refers to Regnum Dei as her latest “kid”, who she is happy to now let go of.
“WOW will treasure her and look after her from now on. Now I have empty space in the living room to start to incubate and raise a new one... or two. She looked amazing on that stage, and I got lots of feedback and support from people who saw her.”
WOW 2019 is running at Wellington’s TSB Arena until 13 October.
Want to follow your creative dreams, but finances holding you back? Apply for a Learning Connexion Scholarship. Find out more here.