This month we caught up with Suey McEnnally, an artist who draws her inspiration from the local landscapes and loves to escape to her hideaway in the hills of Elands when she can.
What is your connection to the Manning-Great Lakes region?
I have lived in the area for over a decade and currently own a converted tractor shed (like a big warehouse) up in the hills. Good studio … even if the winters would freeze certain body parts off a brass monkey .
What inspires you about the region?
The rich light of the landscape.
Has art always been a passion of yours, and if so, was it a passion that your family encouraged while growing up?
Always has been. Spent my time drawing as a kid, but it was certainly not encouraged or considered a profession in any way. I don’t think my family were aware of art at all really, although my father was a wonderful photographer. There certainly were no paintings or reproductions in the house – the only exception being portraits of my mother (a really beautiful woman) in a silver blue dress, that I saw as a fabulous and elegant work of great genius. Unfortunately, I saw it years later and it was a shocker … amateurish and badly drawn … innocent eyes.
You graduated from the University of NSW with a Masters in Art in 2001. What made you decide to pursue a Masters degree?
A degree now is a good way to bring you up to speed, not only with what’s happening in the world, but also to centre you in your own work.
You then developed a medium and method for your paintings. Tell us about this …
A lot of my work is about light and dark (life’s great metaphor), so I wanted to make a surface that actually reflected light and changed in response to the available light source. I have experimented with light reflective materials and often make my own colours with pigments etc. (I would say more, but may have to kill you afterwards!)
You have been represented in many of Australia’s most prestigious Art Prizes over the years, including the Sulman and Dobel Prizes, as well as the current Manning Art Prize. As an artist, what do you see as the value in these kinds of competitions?
Competitions allow people to see a range of pretty good work that is being done now all over the country. And as an artist, the first prize that I won 10 years ago allowed me to give up the day job and work full-time on my art.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given in regards to being an artist?
Must not have heard it, because I’m still doing it!
Many people dabble with paint and dream of becoming a full-time artist; what does it take to cross that line?
Obsession and constant, unremitting work.
Are there any artists or paintings in particular who inspire you?
Lots that I love, lots of Aussies mostly, painterly painters, Harding, Maestri, Ryan, Wolfhagen, Godwin, Matthews, Tomescu, Jones, Macleod and Quilty, and some not so painterly, Guan Wei’ Barton, and always Emily.
What are you working on now?
I’m experimenting with oil paint and pigments on linen and doing more drawings of weeds, clouds and figures in the gorgeous light of the Elands area.
Where can people find out more about your work?
Mostly on the net … There is a website sueymcennally.com.au but it hasn’t been updated for 3 or 4 years. I’m currently working on things for a new gallery, but can’t say as yet.
What are your favourite words to live by?
Don’t be afraid to destroy the best and most beautiful parts of your painting in your search for the truth of the image.
Find what you love and go for broke.
Life is short; eat dessert first.
When in doubt, draw.
And … beware of beige.