When I organised to interview local artist Malcolm Wallace, neither of us realised that he was about to win the Manning Art Prize. Great timing, I’m never quite sure what to expect when I go to meet an interviewee, but this meeting one of my favourites. By Amy Heague.
You moved here from England as a baby and spent your early childhood in Sydney. Do you have any fond memories from that time you’d like to share?
We moved from Sydney when I was 5. Those years are a magical time, when all is new and everything needs to be explored. I remember the neighbours had a pet cockatoo that used to call my name out loudly from their back yard. I think the cocky learnt it from my mum calling for me.
When you were 12, you moved to a small farm in Mudgee. How was that – growing up in rural NSW?
I loved it! I had our 25 acres of land with goats, dogs, sheep and a horse, with the next door property of 1,000 acres also to roam. This area was covered with huge granite boulders and a mountain; it was like living in Lord of the Rings land. My imagination could run riot.
You say that your art career started by accident. Tell us how.
I always loved art and studied it at high school. I was experimenting with clay and sculpture, and a manager from a winery in Mudgee saw some of my sculptures and asked if I would put on an exhibition at the winery during the Mudgee Wine Festival.
Over 2 weeks, around 2,000 or more people visited the winery and also saw my work. Most of the work sold. This made me think, “There could be a living to be made in this!”
You have exhibited extensively and sold quite a few of your works and when you moved to Taree in 1992, you developed a commercial art business. How did that eventuate?
The art world is a fickle creature. After the good times of the ‘90s passed, I realised I needed to diversify. I still continued to make and sell art works but if I was to survive and grow my business, I had to add other options.
Again, another quirk of fate saw me sculpting confectionery moulds for a friend here in Taree for a manufacturer in Sydney. After a while, he handed the business over to me – and I expanded it – adding more companies in Melbourne and Maitland.
It’s an odd job that people don’t even realise exists. With all the jelly type lollies we eat, someone sculpts the original and casts all the shapes that are used in the machine to make them. And it’s a business where I could use my artistic skills.
In 2006 you were commissioned to do a sculpture for the Taree City Council. Describe this work and the inspiration behind it.
That was a fantastic experience, that I feel privileged to have been asked to do. It was a sculpture to recognise the original Aboriginal people and pay tribute to the Biripi and Worimi elders of the area. The piece consists of three life sized bronze figures representing the dream time story of The Three Brothers.
Back in 2005 you began to dabble in photography. What led you to that, and where do you draw your inspiration for your work?
I have always photographed my sculptural work for my portfolio, and in 2005 I bought a digital camera to do this. Once I started playing with the camera and Photoshop, I very quickly saw the potential for creating art works. The ideas and motives for the photo-media works are wide and varied, ranging from heavy issues such as children caught up in war, and self exploration.
How is your love for music now influencing what you do?
Music was always being listened to in the house as I grew up. I used to get into Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and a few other artists. In later years, I started listening to bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Porcupine Tree. The art work I was creating was a bit like the music – a bit dark and full of angst.
I had listened to Electronica back in the late ‘80s but didn’t pay too much attention to it. A few years ago, a good friend introduced me to Trance and Techno – and I was hooked.
The emotions a good DJ’s set induces and the way you can just lose yourself in the music suited my needs perfectly. I still make works that deal with the big weighty issues we face today, but I have also given myself permission to explore the positive.
Now the works look inwards more, exploring emotions and experiences of an optimistic positive nature.
Are there any artists in particular who inspire you?
There have been over the years – people like Leonardo, Michelangelo, along with contemporary artists like Dali and Gilbert and George. These days there is no one in particular – I see images and works of all sorts of artists and I’m inspired.
What would you say to someone who is starting out on their artistic journey?
Dedication and persistence have to be your mantra. Most artists are successful because of these attributes.
What is it about living in the Manning Valley that you love?
The landscape is beautiful. We have wonderful beaches, where you can walk and be the only people there and wild forests – all within easy reach. The other advantage is Sydney is only a few hours away.
What are your favourite words to live by?
Life’s to be lived, and I’m dedicated to experiencing all I can. Oh … I also like “Live long and prosper”.
Where can people see and/or purchase your works?
At the moment the art works can only be bought when I exhibit, or from me. I am currently building a body of work and will be approaching galleries in Sydney. Also, I am setting up a website selling T-shirts with designs I’ve made inspired by Electronica and Dance music. Eventually, other products will be added. The website: www.Eu4ia-Rising.com will be up and running not too far away.