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WILLIAM MACKINNON HIGHS & LOWS Paintings 2002-11

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Page 1: William mackinnon HigHs & loWs - Squarespace · William m ackinnon Hig H s & Lows William mackinnon HigHs & Lows paintings 2002-11

William mackinnonHigHs & loWs

Paintings 2002-11

Page 2: William mackinnon HigHs & loWs - Squarespace · William m ackinnon Hig H s & Lows William mackinnon HigHs & Lows paintings 2002-11

Willia

m m

ac

kin

no

n H

igH

s &

Low

s

William mackinnonHigHs & Lows

paintings 2002-11

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NO MAN IS AN ISLAND

I would like to dedicate this book to my four parents that have provided unwavering support and belief in my painting over the last 15 years. Katherine and Jim Morgan, and Dick and Susie Mackinnon have always taken me and my work seriously.

I would also like to thank John Brash for his brilliant photography over 15 years and more general support. I have been under the influence of many artists, but none more than Tim Maguire who I have learnt a great deal from in many ways from colour, surface technology and strategy and work ethic. I would also like to thank Jon Cattapan for his ongoing support in the difficult years following artschool.

Also a special acknowledgment must be made to the Australia Council for their generous funding that has made this publication possible.

Publicity:

Design: Plug2Studio, Melbourne

Editing:

Photography:

ISBN:

This catalogue is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission.

© All images and text copyright of the artist and authors

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HIGHS & LOWSBY

WILLIAM MACKINNON

ERRORS ECHOBY

LUKE SCHOLES

SEARCHINGBY

JOANNA BOSSE

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The Wild WesT / 2011 / Acrylic, ochre, oil and enamel on linen / 100 x130cm / Holmes Glenn Collection

SEARCHING - BY JOANNA BOSSE

In 2008 Will Mackinnon undertook something of an artist-pil-grimage to the foreign and removed world of community-based indigenous art-making. Through the support of a Marten Bequest Travelling Fellowship, Mackinnon left Melbourne to live and work in central Australia. He sought something more than what his current experience of the Australian art world provided, and many would consider his choice to spend time in an aboriginal art com-munity an extreme one. And in most ways it was; living is not easy in the desert, and witnessing the rough, raw reality that indig-enous Australians living on communities experience is something that changes a person forever.

Mackinnon returned to Melbourne in late 2010 wounded and struggling to make sense of the highs and lows he experienced in the desert. The beauty of its colours and its people, and the privilege of being shown the special places artists’ depict in their jewel-like paintings, contrasts shockingly with the pain, violence and aimlessness of community life. Like most thoughtful outsid-ers who visit these important artist communities, Mackinnon had difficulty reconciling his role as an arts worker and found it challenging to define his contribution against the face of past and future histories. When he inevitably left, the conflicting sense of responsibility and powerlessness weighed heavily. As an attempt to articulate the confusing, beautiful and inescapable reality of that time, Mackinnon produced an important body of paintings shown in an exhibition titled The lucky country.

This 2011 show was my introduction to Mackinnon’s practice. I was struck by his gusty, unapologetic paintings that contained both beauty and a hard, destructive energy. The paintings’ high-keyed palette and raw surfaces, their sensual stormy skies, and the rusted car-shells that sprout from the earth like desert flowers, convey a rare emotional honesty that is unusual in much contemporary art. I later learnt, when I saw more of Mackinnon’s work, that pathos is a consistent feature of both his paintings and his prints, and that while it’s hard to pin down, it’s this emotive quality that defines his work.

There’s undoubtedly a pervasive darkness in the paintings result-ing from his time in Kintore and Kiwikurra; hooded figures move through their landscapes like messengers of death. But there is also a hopefulness that sits quietly in these paintings, an intan-gible sense of survival and robustness that pushes to the side any feelings of pity. Mackinnon is compelled to paint this difficult subject, and he manages to embody an empathic observation that doesn’t come across as paternal or political. His approach is carefully even-handed, and through the detail of community life we’re shown the complex spectrum of human experience: the ab-soluteness of the rusted cars – their dead, immoveable presence in the landscape – is countered by depictions of lively games of

AFL full of energy and dynamism. Mackinnon’s sensitive handling of paint gives the lean, muscular figures a lightness as they reach for the glowing orange football suspended in the sky like the sun. Amongst the harsh red earth and detritus, the ruined houses and the dark skies, life pulses. This is the beautiful contradiction Mackinnon captures in his work.

Since Mackinnon’s his first solo exhibition in 1996, titled Bush, he has explored the capacity of the landscape to act as an emotional register. From early 2009, he has increasingly moved away from the imagined dreamscapes produced during his masters studies. These 2008-09 works read like stage sets, where the picture plane functions like a collage with related and disparate motifs shifting in scale and painterly treatment. Dripped, sprayed and flicked acrylic and enamel paint is combined with collage and glitter, displaying the artist’s enjoyment of exploring the possibilities and limitations of the painting medium.

Looking at these paintings is like peering into a private interior space that is constructed of composite ‘landscape languages’ referencing the canons of the grand landscape tradition. Draw-ing directly on the work of Eugene von Guerard and nineteenth century German painter Casper David Friedrich, these paintings are contemporary pop versions of Friedrich’s Romantic ideal of the sublime landscape. The awesome power of the landscape to transport us beyond the mundane. Unlike Friedrich’s charac-ters, however, Mackinnon’s figures turn away from the terrifying beauty of the unfolding landscape. In Highs and lows of painting (2008) a tiny figure peers like Narcissus into a black pool prefer-ring to look into the depths of his own reflection than towards the menacing rocky forms and rainbow skyline. The forlorn figure in the foreground of the 2009 painting of the same title is taken from Frederick McCubbin’s painting Lost (1907) and sits head in hand, dwarfed by immense mountain scapes and rocky monoliths with bold, graphic patterning. Like these figures, Mackinnon too felt overwhelmed by the weight of art history during this time, and these paintings are his acknowledgement of the need to pursue a unique vision. His titles give us further evidence: There are many ways up the mountain (2008) testament to his belief in the importance of finding his own way through the ever-expanding world of art.

European mountain peaks are replaced by overtly Australian subjects in works exhibited in the exhibitions Paintings conceived while driving (2009) and Crossroads (2010). The unpeopled land-scapes give a sense of the artist’s preoccupation with the interior states, and the achingly quiet nightscapes, solitary cars, and broad expanses of highway convey a sense of the lonely nature of an artist’s journey. Night-time driving scenes feature heav-ily in this body of work. Their glossy, layered surfaces reflect the

influence of one of Mackinnon’s artist mentors, Tim Maguire, for whom he worked as a studio assistant in London and France dur-ing 2004–06. Through the glassy and filmic quality of these large works, Mackinnon creates a pictorial space where he increasingly realises the potential for pathos in his work.

The paintings Cave painting and Potentino (both 2008) demon-strate Mackinnon’s shift in subject matter from the imagined to lived experience. These transitional works retain a little of the fantasy quality of the earlier paintings but with the inclusion of very specific details of observed reality, we see the introduction of personal subject matter that is the focus of his current work.

The road has become a key subject for Mackinnon, and has been a constant in his life since childhood when he began to travel reg-ularly between his parents who lived in Melbourne and western Victoria. During 2009-10, driving hundreds of kilometres between small desert communities was a major part of his employment as a Field officer at Papunya Tula in central Australia. The road is a powerful motif that symbolises adventure, freedom, escape, and the anticipation of arrival.

Mackinnon’s work conveys a powerful sense of anticipation and longing for something beyond what’s depicted. The feeling of longing returns strongly in his most recent body of work shown in the exhibition titled The black dog. The exhibition title overtly refers to the recent period of depression the artist suffered follow-ing his return to Melbourne from central Australia. The frequent inclusion of the horizon and curve of the road ahead in the driving paintings, and the mysterious light that bulges through the blinds in Cave painting and seeps through the ajar door of Woods Ter-race (2011) alludes to a undefinable presence just out of reach.

August 2011

Joanna Bosse is a curator at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne.

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PhOTO OF KiNTORe hOUse iNTeRiOR WAll

He lights a fire and he settles down to readHe pulls a letter from the sack, makes a pillow of his packThen hears a wild dog somewhere yanking on a rabbit trapGoing crazy as it dawns on itIt’s beat

Gareth LiddiardHighplains Mailman, Strange Tourist

The stunning landscape of the Western Desert, so clear the nation’s eye, is celebrated in our collective mind as our spiritual home, while for many remaining distant and untra-velled. For those that have ventured to its tenuous frontier it provides a mere backdrop to a brutal collision of cultures, the bitter gnashing teeth of two different beasts. Its pretty veil of red sand and blue sky does not disguise the absurd dysfunction of this most troubled space, suspended as it is, between an ancient past and a furious future unwilling to buckle and submit.

For centuries artists have flocked to the desert interior seeking clichés before inevitably becoming one. Just like the journalists in their wake, they cast a lazy eye over the terrain and with a heavy hand render it dead, arid or worse, empty. For what’s been missing in this dialogue are the peo-ple themselves, too often erased in a catastrophe of guilt in favour of handsome hills and ghost white trees. There is danger in our occupation of this country as a religious land-scape. This is country you must not mistake for your own, for it is spoken for many times over and though the voice may sound distant its rolling song will echo forever inside those willing to listen.

But through Mackinnon’s eyes the elusive natural beauty of the desert, too often worn like a mask, has slipped to reveal a disquiet perhaps now impossible to ignore. For it seems that within this tall man is a curious boy seeking to unsettle us with his naked and telling paintings posed like questions to which we must respond. He has witnessed the border-land and has returned to pronounce its contradictions, its ecstasy and despair. Like any soldier who withdraws from the theatre of battle, he leaves with images and stories he will never speak of. Experiences so complex and tangled they are destined to remain as thoughts best submerged, experienced fleetingly or accidently.

These paintings are what has slipped through the cracks, the battle scars of an artist pleading for us to hold our gaze. Through the disbelief of his experience he has bravely captured the sensory dimension of a sad, silent war. There lies a menace in his melancholy as doomed figures move through their communities that much like the white goods that litter them, reek of planned obsolescence. Desperately underfunded and emotionally neglected since their incep-tion, they remain caught in the blind spot of a nation. In that same breath we glimpse a familiar image of football game

crowded with cars gathering in expectation. Young men setfree in the colours of their kin to forget, if only for a while, what lies beyond the final siren.

The description of Mackinnon as a soldier may uninten-tionally invoke a heroic image, but any man with a heart as big as his in a place like this is immediately at war with his desire to take fight or flight. Backed up against a wall, with the sun piercing from behind a heavy door, he steps then walks away, unaware of the paint on his back that has seeped through his shirt and into his skin where it will remain forever.

Luke Scholes was an employee of Papunya Tula Artists between 2003-07 and worked as a travelling field officer for Martumili Art-ists in the Pilbara region of Western Australia during 2008. He is currently Project Officer, Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Victoria.

ERRORS ECHO - BY LUKE SCHOLES

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KiNTORe sORRy BUsiNess

Acryilic, oil and enamel on linen

120 x 150 cm

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KiNTORe

Acryilc, oil and enamelon linen

100 x 130 cm

Private CollectionsiTTiNg WiTh NATAA NUNgURRAyA (PhOTO WilliAm mAcKiNNON 2010)

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KiWiKURRA BlUesAcryilc, ochare oil and enamel

on linen

100 x 130 cm

Private Collection

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hAPPy ANd sAd (Johnny Yungut Tjuprrula & Walangkura Napanangka Walking to the Art Centre)

Acryilc, ochare oil and enamelon linen

100 x 130 cm

Private Collection

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KiNTORe sPORTs WeeKeNd

Acryilic, ochre, glitter oil andenamel on linen

61 x 122cm

Private CollectionKiNTORe sPORTs WeeKeNd (PhOTO WilliAm mAcKiNNON 2010)

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KiNTORe Vs PAPUNyA

Acryilic, ochre, glitter oil andenamel on linen

61 x 91 cm

Private Collection

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NilyARi PAiNTiNg

Ochre, acrylic , glitter, oil and enamel on linen

48 x 91 cm

Collection of the artistARTisT ON PAPUNyA TUlA ARTisT - meNs TRiP (PhOTO WilliAm mAcKiNNON 2010)

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BReAKiNg UP

2011

Oil and automotive paint on linen

61 x91cm

Private Collection

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This PlAce is sO FUcKed UP...ANd BeAUTiFUl2011

Oil and automotive paint on linen

61 x91cm

Private Collection

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Time TO geT OUT OF heRe

2008

Oil on linen

180 x 360 cm

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geTTiNg AWAy

Oil on Canvas

50 x 70 cm

Private Collection

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geTTiNg AWAy

Oil on Canvas

50 x 70cm

Private Collection

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RAiNBOW VAlley

Oil on Canvas

167 x 205cm

Private Collection

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cOUNTiNg

2008

Oil on linen

61 x 91cm

Private Collection

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cAVe PAiNTiNg

2008

Acrylic, oil and enamel on linen

30 x 200cm

Stonnington Council Collection.

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POTeNTiNO

Mixed media

46cm x 91cm

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highs ANd lOWs

Acrylic, oil and enamel on linen

200x 400cm

Private Collection

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TheRe ARe mANy WAys UP The mOUNTAiNAcrylic, Glitteroil and enamel on linen

200x 400cm

Schoefield Collection

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WOOds TeRRAceAcrylic, oil and enamel on wood

91x 61cm

Collection of the ArtistARTisT AT PARm VAlley

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RABBiT FlAT

Oil on linen

120 x 150cm

Private CollectionsKeTch FOR RABBiT FlAT

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The BlAcK & WhiTe dOgs

2011

Acryila, oil andenamel on Linen

160 x 200 cm.

Collection by the Artist

The BlAcK dOg2011

Acryila, oil andenamel on Linen

60 x 60 cm.

Private collection

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hAPPiNess / NOsTAlgiA

Oil, enamel, glitter on linen

120 x 90 cm

Collection of the artist

mT hOPe ANd mT disAPPOiNTmeNT

Acryil and oil on canvas

60 x 60 cm

Collection of David Griggs

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edUcATiON

1996 - 2000 Bachelor of Arts, Melbourne University

2008 Masters of Visual Arts, Victorian College of the Arts

2006 Post graduate diploma, Chelsea School of Art and Design London

2004 Internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Venice

2005 Internship at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas

eXPeRieNce

2010 Worked as a field officer for Papunya Tula Artists

2009 Artist in residence at Mankaja Arts, Fitzroy Crossing

2004-2006 Studio assistant for Tim Maguire

2002 Print-making assistant for Kim Westcott

1999-2001 Catalouged the Roger Kemp Estate

eXhiBiTiONs

2011 The Black Dog, Boutwell Draper, Sydney

2011 The Lucky Country, Utopian Slumps, Melbourne.

2010 I am a Mirror, Ryan Renshaw, Brisbane.

2010 Crossroads, Boutwell Draper.

2009 Paintings Conceived While Driving, Utopian Slumps.

2008 Mountains, Streams and Cave-dreams, Utopian Slumps

2007 The Covers Albumn. Joint Hassles, Melbourne

2005 Not Anxious, Pickled Art Centre, Beijing

2004 In and Out, Hewer Street Studios, London

1997 Bush, George Paton Gallery. Melbourne

Born in Melbourne 1978Lives and works in Melbourne.

ARTisT BiOgRAPhy

selecTed gROUP eXhiBiTiONs

2011 The Painting Group, Josh Milani, Brisbane

2010 The Painting Group, Utopian Slumps

2008 Contemporary Collage, John Buckley Gallery

2007 Under the Influence, Warnambool Regional Gallery

2006 Empire Strikes Back, Hewer Street Studios, London

2005 Chase. Royal College, London

2004 Line, A three generational exhibition.

2002 Homeshow, Next Wave Festival.

2000 Lup, Melbourne Fringe Festival

selecTed PUBlicATiONs

March 2011 The Sunday Age, “The Lucky Country” pp21 . Penny Modra.

March 2011 The Age, Life and Style, “The Lucky Country” pp33

April 2001 Homeshow, Ishil Morris, pp64, 3-d World,

2001 The Herald-Sun, - Arts and Entertainment. “Door to creation”. By Harbant Gill pp1.

2001 The Age, Domain Weds 31 August “ The Artful Dodgers”. By Steve Dow pp13

2001 The Age, Culture- Tues 22nd May “ The Art and Life of an Open House” by Carolyn Webb.. 2001

2001 Monument 44,The Next Wave, Morgan Richards, Oct/Nov

2005 Essay by Leigh Robb (MA Courtauld Institute): Making History Present, Published by Pickled Art Centre, Beijing.

AWARds

2011 Short -listed for Keith and Elizabeth Murdoch Travelling Scholarship.

2011 Finalist for Churchie Contemporary Painting Prize

2011 Finalist for Metro Painting Prize

2011 Finalist for Outback painting Prize

2010 Australia Council Grant. Artstart

2008 Winner of Marten Bequest Traveling Scholarship

2008 Short listed for ABN AMRO Contemporary Art Prize

2008 Short listed for ANZ Contemporary Art Prize

2003 Finalist for Brett Whiteley Traveling Art Scholarship

2003 Finalist for Metro 5 Art Contemporary Art Prize

2001 Awarded Cultural Development Grant from The City of Melbourne for the production of homeshow

2000 Awarded Scholarship in support of Lup from Ormond College

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