IN THE STUDIO: ALEXANDER MCKENZIE ARTIST 'THE CAIRN'




  



Photos by Natalie Hayllar {eat read love}

IN THE STUDIO: WITH ARTIST ALEXANDER MCKENZIE


OCCUPATION: Artist
LIVES: Cronulla Beach, Sydney

I am thrilled to welcome Alexander McKenzie as our featured artist on the blog this month in the lead up to his latest Sydney exhibition 'The Cairn'. Alexander's newly imagined landscapes explore the terrain between the dreamlike and the familiar. "Inspired by the early use of cairns as sepulchral monuments, Alexander McKenzie’s new body of work is a combination of the urgency of creativity, the distilling of memory and McKenzie’s own wanderings and imaginings.  In grand, romantic settings, Alexander pays homage to 18th and 19th Century landscapes of the sublime. Yet buried in each image, subtle 21st Century motifs – power lines and street lights – transport the viewer back into the modern world"

It was an honour to spend time with Alex and his beautiful family at his home on the weekend. With strong influences from the old Dutch masters, and more recent influence from the ornate gardens of Japan and China, Alex's works have evolved over time into the most amazingly detailed, yet dreamlike landscapes. Alex revealed that there is always an element of light, and always a tiny touch of red in every painting - a symbol of positive energy, love, strength and danger, just like the bright red door of his studio and his favourite red leather chair. My interview began in the studio and inside the beautiful coastal home he shares with his lovely wife Simone, his three gorgeous young children and their fluffy family chooks!


Tell me a little about your family life, growing up, influences and inspirations? Growing up, my parents noticed a real passion within me for painting. They were extremely encouraging and from the age of 11 I had a specific area in the house set up as a painting studio.  Once leaving high school I went to art school, where I didn't like the structure of being told to paint a particular way or style, so I left after 6 months. I found I got more out of travelling and visiting art galleries where I could see in the flesh the old masters. I rented my own studio in the city here in Sydney, and this is where my work began to flourish. I got my first break at a gallery in Woollahra, where I snuck one of my paintings into a group exhibition. My painting was the only one to sell.

What is the inspiration behind your latest exhibition 'The Cairn'? These paintings continue with the theme of exploring the narrative within the landscape, though there is some influence of recent trips to China and Japan. At the moment I'm really loving painting formal and ornate gardens within a wilder landscape.

What is your favourite thing about your art studio? My leather lounge with my goat skin. It is positioned in a great spot, where I can sit back, have a cup of coffee and contemplate the work.

Any wow career moments? Being a finalist 6 times in the Archibald prize, Australia’s most prestigious portrait prize. Considering I paint landscapes, and only paint one portrait a year specifically for this prize, I am very happy.

Any advice for young artists? Stay true to your work. Don’t change what you want to do because it is not in fashion at that time.

What inspires you to get out of bed in the morning? Deadlines!

Favourite corner of your home? right next to my coffee machine (Alex does make a pretty good coffee I have to say!)

Early riser or night owl? Early riser, I like to get in the studio straight up in the morning.  

If you could travel anywhere tomorrow where would it be? Where do I start! I still have an obsession with New York, and hope to head back there soon, but at the moment I would really like to travel to the National Parks on the west coast of America. I have been researching Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks, to see the giant redwood trees.

Eating now: Since coming back from china, I am loving dumplings and BBQ pork. Reading now: I am reading a fabulous Sheila Hale book on Titian - an amazing 16th century venetian painter to Kings and Popes. Loving nowthe thought of having some time off once my show opens in August. That and my morning swim at Shelley Beach followed by an Espresso Cafe love... The Nuns Pool, at Shelley Beach Cronulla, it's 1 minute walk away

New projects on the horizon? After the exhibition I will be headed to Canberra where I have just been commissioned to paint a huge picture for the Australian War Memorial.

Alexander McKenzie has exhibited extensively in Australia and the UK. He has been a six time finalist in the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Archibald Prize – most recently in 2013 with a portrait of Toni Collette – and a seven time finalist in the Wynne Prize. 

For further information or images please contact the gallery on 02 9331 7997 or gallery@martinbrownecontemporary.com