Find out what Alexander McKenzie is doing while he’s staying at home in our ongoing series of artist interviews. Alexander McKenzie’s major survey exhibition, The Adventurous Gardener, was held at Hazelhurst in 2018. McKenzie has also been a finalist in the Archibald Prize, Wynne Prize and the Doug Moran National Portraiture Prize.
Alexander McKenzie is represented by Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney.
1. What are you working on in the studio at the moment?
Like many artists, I have been working on new work for the Archibald Prize, the Wynne Prize, Melbourne Art Fair and Sydney Contemporary. Oh wait…these have all been postponed or cancelled.
I’m also working on a series of new paintings for my upcoming show at Martin Browne Contemporary at the end of the year.
2. How have the social distancing measures affected your practice and the way you work?
It hasn’t affected me that much really. Artists are pretty good at distancing themselves most of the time normally. Studio practice is definitely a solo practice.
The big change now is that all of my kids are home, all of the time. So my solo studio time has now become family time. It’s great to be able to spend more time with my family, but not that great in terms of painting productivity to be honest.
3. Why do you think art and artists are important during the current global crisis?
The arts and artists of all media – visual arts, theatre, music, film, television etc - are what we reference when we talk about history, or travel, or visiting this place or that. It’s what’s important and vital about being human. I don’t know how it will manifest but art will reflect this time just as it has been a mirror to all times and crisis’s that have gone before.
4. Are there any particular artists you have been looking at during this time and why?
I have been looking at mostly garden designers at the moment rather than painters for compositional ideas and inspiration as the garden is central to my work. I’ve been looking at designers like early 20th century British architect and landscape designer Harold Peto, another British landscape designer Russell Page who worked across the UK, Europe and the United States and contemporary Australian landscape designer Paul Bangay.
5. We can’t visit galleries at the moment but there are many digital resources online. Is there a virtual exhibition, gallery, blog or insta account that you would recommend and why?
I have been enjoying spending more time trawling through Instagram. I’ve been looking at those that profile famous artworks, all the major international galleries. I’ve been especially enjoying virtual tours that zoom right in on details of paintings. Don’t ask me the names though - I can’t remember much tech stuff!
6. What are you listening to while you’re spending time at home?
When I’m in the studio I’m always listening to classical music. I’ve been listening to Beethoven mostly, as this year is the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, so I am re-listening to the full symphony cycle and the piano concertos on new recordings. It’s staggering to think that much of his late output was composed while he was almost completely deaf.
7. Artists are great at adapting and being creative. What’s one positive that you can take away from our current situation?
I think the removal of many of the regular features of our everyday lifestyle due to the restrictions around Covid19 has resulted in a lot of reflection and introspection for most of us. Artists usually do a lot more of that normally. This has meant a paring back of life and luxury but an increase in the amount of spare time, which is a rarity for most of us. This has been, in my opinion, a good thing and from this experience I will definitely take with me a more valued and considered thought around the use of time, what to do or what not to do with the time available to us into the future.