Putting pen to paper – Shanay Scarlet Manitzky

Written by April Spadina

For most of us, the extent of our artistic talents with a ball point pen goes as far as doodling moustaches on faces in magazines. But not for local artist Shanay Scarlet Manitzky, who creates the most exquisite hyper-realistic portraits with a humble blue biro.

Spread out on the table before her, an array of pages carefully cut from her sketchbooks shows a body of work spanning three years. The carefully selected pieces reveal delicate portraits drawn with pencil and pen, rendered with a steady hand and a meticulous eye for detail. Page after page have been selected for Shanay’s first solo exhibition at Gatakers Art Space in Maryborough.

The exhibition, titled “Mid-Sentence” is reference to Shanay’s current stage in her life, she feels she is standing at the end of one journey, and taking a deep breath before diving in to a new one.

As a young woman, Shanay has already had her fair share of complications in her life. A traumatic battle with appendix cancer resulted in a year in hospital and the removal of many of Shanay’s organs. Shanay turned to art to help with her recovery which helped her to stay focused on the positive future she dreamed of.

Shanay moved to Maryborough from New Zealand, married Byron, settled down to help raise her two stepsons Liam and James, and teach high school art classes. Shanay yearned of one day having her own child but after many failed attempts she had to come to the heart-breaking realisation she would be unable to conceive children naturally. That was until her sister Shanell gave her the ultimate gift – the donation of her own eggs, and tiny Bella was born, thus completing the beautiful fairy tale story that Shanay had always dreamed of.

Now, with a tiny bundle of joy to inspire her, Shanay can focus on her own art practices again. Her drawings have a way of making the viewer ask a question and try to figure out what the answer might be. The negative space around the faces means you must fill in the blanks and almost create the story ending yourself. This is another extension to the title Mid-Sentence, in which some of the characters Shanay has drawn, are in fact caught in a moment of reflection, frustration, tenderness… Every now and then, colour makes an appearance and almost startles the observer with its unexpected presence.

What Shanay puts into her art, and what she leaves out, speaks volumes in almost a game of cat and mouse. The viewer’s mind is left wondering what the question was to begin with and a certain amount of self-reflection can be felt while gazing upon the carefully constructed artworks. And it is at this moment that you might find yourself catching a breath, mid-sentence.

*The opening night for Shanay’s exhibition “Mid-Sentence” will be held on April 29 at Gatakers Artspace, Maryborough.