07 July 2011

Gallery Interview | Michael Cusack

Michael Cusack has been in Melbourne these last few days to launch his new exhibition Transverse Series at Karen Woodbury Gallery. We caught up with him for a few quick questions about his life as an artist...

Michael Cusack

Describe your work in 5 words.
Abstracted, reduced, interrupted, optimistic, autobiographical

Tell us about this new body of paintings? They seem a lot ‘looser’ than the works in your 2008 show. Once you make something its made, then you have to make something else. It can apply to a body of work or to shapes within a work. I took a slightly different approach this time, a more vigorous approach. I used bigger brushes and rags to make marks. I was also toying with ideas about when a painting is finished and I wanted to use the whole canvas again. My last exhibition I was moving shapes around on a flat background and the shape making was more contained. On this occasion I wanted to change the way I made paintings. I introduced line and made structures or frameworks to support the shapes. The large dark shapes are still there but they are getting older and heavier now they need frames or scaffolding to support or hold them up.

top: anchor 2011, bottom: fig.11 2011

What are your influences at this time?
Hard to say, as the process is internal and widespread. Everything from photographs by Cartier Bresson, to architectural plans, to images of ship building. Any old stuff on the street I find inspiring. It can be anything from a cardboard box shape to oil marks on the road. As an Art teacher I do a lot of research into other artists and artists practices, so these too are influences. There is also studio research of course.

Who or what inspires you to keep making? I think Jasper Johns said, “Do something and then do something else to it, and then do something else to it.” And there you go; you’re painting. The act of painting and the use of materials is its own inspiration, I guess you choose to do it. Being in the studio is not always about painting but research and converting the sometimes mundane into something poetic or of beauty. I really haven’t solved all the problems I am trying to work out in the studio and I am inspired to work on that. I believe in the work and that it changes every year and I am curious enough to stick at it to learn new things and to try and make the best work I can. I haven’t finished working out things yet and that is inspiring.

top: stone wall in Ireland, bottom: paintings at home

Tell us about your background. What path led you to become an artist?
I grew up in Ireland and moved to Australia when I was 21. Early on in Dublin I had no inkling of becoming an artist, certainly not a painter. We were exposed to a lot of literature and I was inspired by a lot of Irish writers Beckett, Joyce, O’Casey etc. Apart from musicians, they were the creative people I was attuned to early on. When I was 16 or so I took up photography and spent those early years wandering the streets of Dublin taking photographs. I think photography taught me how to look and examine. I still find it incredibly inspiring. Much later after moving to Australia all my negatives were burnt in a fire and soon after my cameras were stolen. I took that as a sign and so I gave up photography per se. I did draw from an early age but didn’t go to Art school until 1995 (when I was thirty five) at Hunter Street Institute in Newcastle NSW, which I loved. That was the beginning of painting making sense to me, now I teach painting trying to make it make sense for others.

What does a typical day in the studio involve? There is nothing typical in the studio though I always listen to music, but closer to an exhibition I will be in there day and night. It’s sort of like: paint, paint, paint, sit around and read, do some drawing, experiment, paint, paint, paint, tidy up, jump on the computer, sit around again.

top: studio inspiration, bottom: the studio

What is your dream project? I don’t really have a dream project as such but I love travel and it feeds the mind so guess a few residencies in odd locations might be something.

If you could live with any artwork ever made what would it be?
There is too many to choose from really though I would like a Thomas Nozkowski painting. I do have a lovely drawing done by my daughter who has drawn me with a scruffy beard and the words ‘my naym is dad’ written on it. I am happy to have that one.

my naym is dad'

1 comment:

  1. I love Michael's work. It's subtle and restful. I wish you every success with your upcoming exhibition.