Ep 108: Guy Maestri


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A riverbank in the Australian bush would be the perfect plein air location for many artists. A rushing stream, long tree trunks and a deep vista where the artist’s eye can gather information into the distance. But what is more fascinating for leading Australian artist Guy Maestri, is what the substance he is applying to the canvas is capable of doing in response.

Ever since art school he has been exploring the materiality of paint, whether it’s an Archibald-winning painting, a non-descript laneway or a bird as roadkill, it’s this passion which drives the work whether it’s in the landscape or back in his Sydney studio.

Although some might think of him as a portrait painter – he’s an Archibald Prize winner – his subject matter lies more in his expressive landscapes and breathtaking still life works. He’s also a sculptor and his various interpretations of the classic bust are captivating.

He has exhibited in over 25 solo shows to date and the Art Gallery of NSW has just announced the acquisition of his fabulous work ‘the rain song’ which was a finalist in last year’s Wynne Prize.

After years of plein air painting, Guy’s studio work now plays a more significant role. The result is a growing body of outstanding works created through observation, imagination and a letting go of previous constraints. His show ‘short stories’, opening on 8 April at Yavuz Gallery in Sydney, is a testament to this way of painting.

We recorded this interview outside Mudgee in country NSW, near the banks of a river among the sounds of birds and the wind in the casuarina trees. Guy had planned a day’s painting after the interview and he set up a large canvas near the riverbank which he fixed to an easel to keep it stable. I was fortunate to film him setting up and painting that day and I’ll be posting a video to the Talking with Painters Youtube channel of that work in the coming weeks.

After the interview we also had the opportunity to see the construction progress of the spectacular new regional Art Gallery in Mudgee which is almost completed. Guy was born in the town and spent the first few years of his life there. An exhibition of his current works will hang on its walls when it opens its doors to the public. That show is scheduled for August this year.

To hear me talk with Guy about how he became an artist and his approach to painting, click on ‘play’ beneath the above feature photo or listen however you get your podcasts.

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Links to things we talked about in the podcast

‘The rain song’, 2020, oil on linen, 198 x 244cm
Finalist, Wynne Prize, 2020
Collection: Art Gallery of NSW, purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery of NSW Society.
Photo: AGNSW website

‘neo’s tree’, 2021, oil on linen, 168 x 138cm
Photo courtesy of the artist

‘LL 16’ 2020, oil on linen, 168 x 138cm
From the exhibition ‘the lane’ with Jan Murphy Gallery, 2020
Photo courtesy of the artist

‘Wreck No 21’, 2016, oil on linen, 51 x 61cm
Photo courtesy of the artist

Feral no. 13′, 2015, oil on linen 61 x 71cm
Photo courtesy of the artist

‘Shattered (Griggs)’, 2016, oil on linen, 71.5 x 81.5cm
Finalist Archibald Prize 2016
Photo: Art Gallery of NSW website

‘JB reading’, 2020, oil on linen, 43.5 x 43.5cm
Finalist 2020 Archibald Prize
Photo: Art Gallery of NSW website

‘Dr Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu’, 2009, oil on linen, 203 x 172.4cm
Winner Archibald Prize 2009, Art Gallery of NSW
Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Australia

‘Self -portrait (for posterity)’, resin, 64 x 40 x 25cm
Finalist Wynne Prize 2017
Photo: Art Gallery of NSW website

‘Facsimile (colour therapy), no. 1’, 2018, unique painted bronze and concrete, 50 x 22 x 20cm, Edition of 4
Photo courtesy of the artist

‘North from Luke’s lane 3’, 2013
Photo courtesy of the artist

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