Focus speaks with artist Graeme Macey about his art, inspirations and the experience of getting to draw on the walls of the Manning Regional Gallery, Taree.
Name: Graeme Macey.
>Where do you hail from?
I live at Smiths Lake, on The Lakes Way between Forster and Bulahdelah.
> What’s your career background?
I worked for major architectural practices on projects such as the Capitol Theatre and the Sydney Recital Hall, as the architectural auditing authority for the City of Sydney and on major hospital projects.
> How long have you been exploring your artistic creativity?
Eighteen months ago, I decided to enrol in the second semester at the Great Lakes TAFE to test an unrealised lifelong interest and ambition for drawing and painting. Being really pleased with how I went, I decided to enrol in the full time Fine Arts Diploma course.
In the late 1980s, I’d had some success with cartoons published in the now defunct Bulletin magazine, and before that in the very last issue of the Mirror newspaper. My work was political and drawn in ink line and felt tip markers.
> You are now based out near the beautiful Smiths Lake. What do you love about living there?
Smiths Lake is characterised by some of the most beautiful Australian bush and wildlife, with iconic stands of beautiful mature trees. There is a colony of the Grey Headed Flying Foxes, which we treasure.
> Describe your style …
My work is a form of realism and is all intuitive. I start with a concept in mind, but once I have started, the work develops itself. In drawing, I have developed a style that retains and expresses all the sensed construction lines. I enjoy allowing the drawing tools to express themselves – like using compressed charcoal sticks on their edge to make texture and lines, which produces a very sensuous line effect when you try to form curves.
On the other hand, with the acrylic washes I like the expansive areas of either intense colour or transparent loose washes, with no sense of the brush or tool used. Thick or impasto applications I apply with paint scrapers, to emphasise the effect of the paint with the accidental effects when combined with charcoal.
My work is minimalist, as I have no patience for the fully detailed work in, say, ink drawings or fully rendered work or decorated surface. If the work stays with basic lines and colour and what I want it to do, then it is finished.
> You are currently doing the Fine Arts Diploma stage 2 at Great Lakes TAFE. How are you finding the course?
The course has been brilliant. I absolutely love it. The staff and other students have been fantastic – the experience highly motivating. Contrary to what I imagined, I do my best work in the school studio surrounded by other people, as opposed to the privacy and comfort of working at home on my own. Life drawing I have engaged with a passion.
TAFE has set me on a fantastic journey with many media, materials and ways of expression. I am still on that path of discovery. I really enjoy drawing on paper with charcoal, pencil and acrylic washes and last year was successful in getting second place in the TAFE regional student association art competition with a work in those media. Currently, I am experimenting with large scale drawings in charcoal and pastels of small objects or body parts like hands, blown up in scale to enormous size.
TAFE has opened the door to opportunities in fine arts which I intend to exploit to the full potential I can.
> Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I like beauty wherever it is to be found – in the natural world, or be it man made. Be it a piece of machinery, or a plant or animal, or a photograph. I want my work to be distinctly of our time – to be modern. There are so many artists and works that inspire, both contemporary and historical.
> Who are some major influences on your work?
Early art teachers in my life, Lorna Nimmo and Heather Doroough, ignited the passion for drawing. The major influence on how I draw is the cartoonist George Molnar.
How I think about art, Brett Whiteley. I am easily influenced, and there is so much wonderful work from many artists.
> You have recently done a large scale installation at the Manning Valley Regional Gallery as a part of the TAFE exhibition, where you drew and painted on the walls while the gallery was open. How did you find that experience and working on such a large scale?
This was totally out of my comfort zone into a completely new experience. Drawing in public is both anxious and rewarding at the same time. You cannot get too precious about something that is going to be painted over. I loved talking to people, and people found it very engaging to watch. People got a thrill in watching a surprise encounter.
> What is one of the highlights so far in your artistic career?
Drawing on the walls of a regional gallery has got to be right up there; not many people can say that they got to do that.
But when a drawing you do is better than anything you have done before, it is so exhilarating.
> Where do you hope to be with your career 5 years from now?
I am at this stage doing my art for myself. I hope to develop to a professional level producing beautiful works that people enjoy.
> Thank you Graeme.