Maria Stoljar talks with Australian painters about how they became an artist, their painting techniques, influences and current work.
Ep 109: Filippa Buttitta (with Louisa Chircop)
In early 2020, as COVID was sweeping the world, Filippa Buttitta (pictured right) was facing her own personal crisis.
She had been working on her entry for the Archibald prize when she had trouble with her eyesight and was finding it difficult painting the fine details of her work.
Thinking she needed an eye test, she visited her optometrist which led to a swift hospital admission and the shocking diagnosis of an aggressive brain tumour.
In the past year she’s had to make decisions which go to the heart of one's purpose in life and which also highlight the importance of creativity.
This episode is about those choices but it’s also about Filippa's life as a skilled artist. She's been painting for over 30 years, and has been a regular finalist in many art prizes including the Archibald (with a stunning portrait of the late Judy Cassab) as well as the Black Swan and Portia Geach and last year she was noted as one of the artists who had been selected the most times in Australian art prizes in that year.
Her entry into the Archibald this year is a fascinating portrait of her surgeon Professor Charlie Teo who has provided not only medical care prolonging her life but compassion and empathy along the way.
You’ll also be hearing from her close friend, artist Louisa Chircop (pictured above left), who joins us in this conversation. Louisa is a previous podcast guest and has been a rock for Filippa throughout this time. She is also entering the Archibald with a portrait of Filippa. She was one of seven artists who requested Filippa to paint her portrait this year and even though many portrait sitters have in the past agreed to having their portrait painted by more than one artist for the Archibald, Filippa has only said yes to Louisa.
We recorded this episode in Filippa’s studio in Sydney which also operates as a private gallery where she has exhibited her own work and that of fellow artists. From time to time you might also hear Filippas’ beautiful budgerigar, Sky.
To hear the podcast conversation click 'play' beneath the above feature photo.
A video of Filippa in her studio will be uploaded to this website in a few weeks.
Links to people we talk about in this episode
Filippa ButtittaLouisa ChircopJudy CassabTony CostaProf. Charlie TeoDawn Fraser
'Dr Charlie Teo Removing my Brain Tumour', 2021, oil on Italian linen, 140 x 155cm
'Judy Cassab - portrait of an artist', oil on Italian linen, 113 x 85cmFinalist Archibald Prize, 2015
'Tony Costa In His Studio', 2020, oil on Italian linen, 214 x 168cm
'Turbulent Waters', 2010, oil on Belgian linen, 214 x 127cm
By Louisa Chircop'Filippa Buttitta - Post second brain tumour surgery', 2021, pencil, watercolour, gouache, watercolour markers and photomontage on polyester, 200cm x 137cm
Ep 108: Guy Maestri
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.
Solo show 'short stories', Yavuz Gallery, 8 April - 1 May 2021Solo show and inaugural exhibition of the Mid-Western Regional Arts and Cultural centre, Mudgee, scheduled for August 2021
Links to things we talked about in the podcast
Guy MaestriGuy Maestri at Yavuz GalleryGuy Maestri at Jan Murphy Gallery Guy Maestri at Sophie Gannon GalleryJames DrinkwaterGeoffrey Gurrumul YunupinguJennifer ByrneJude RaeLuke SciberrasDavid GriggsNeo RauchSally Anderson
'The rain song', 2020, oil on linen, 198 x 244cmFinalist, Wynne Prize, 2020Collection: 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 138cmPhoto courtesy of the artist
'LL 16' 2020, oil on linen, 168 x 138cmFrom the exhibition 'the lane' with Jan Murphy Gallery, 2020Photo courtesy of the artist
'Wreck No 21', 2016, oil on linen, 51 x 61cmPhoto courtesy of the artist
Feral no. 13', 2015, oil on linen 61 x 71cmPhoto courtesy of the artist
'Shattered (Griggs)', 2016, oil on linen, 71.5 x 81.
Ep 107: Guy Warren
'National treasure', 'legend,' 'inspiration'. These were just some of the reactions from my Instagram followers when I posted that I would be interviewing Guy Warren.
Guy is about to turn 100 years old. He has no less than 5 shows opening this year. But he is also plain spoken, practical, down to earth and modest. In typical style he seemed pleased when I told him of the Instagram reaction, but he quickly changed the subject.
Guy has had an extraordinary career. He has won numerous awards including the Archibald prize, exhibited in over 50 solo shows and a phenomenal 6 survey shows (with more to come this year), and received two honorary doctorates, the Order of Australia and the Australia Medal. His work is included in many public, private and corporate collections across the world.
Although his paintings include portraiture and abstraction, much of his work is concerned with the landscape. His paintings reflect his interest in the idea that we humans belong to and are part of the landscape. This is a view which he formed when posted in Bougainville in World War II and it has echoed through his work down the decades.
The fact that Guy will soon be turning 100 meant that I was one of many requesting an interview. Even so, he was generous with his time and shared his recollections of the Great Depression and WWII, of the tumultuous changes in the artworld in the 50s and 60s, and of his travels to Alice Springs, New Guinea and London. We talk about the successes but also a couple of regrets.
To hear the podcast episode click on 'play' beneath the above feature photo.
I'll also be posting a short video of Guy in his studio on the Talking with Painters YouTube channel and to this website soon.
'The 100th year', King Street Gallery on William, Sydney, 16 March to 10 April 2021'From the Mountain to the Sky: Guy Warren drawings', National Centre for Drawing, National Art School, Sydney, 17 April - 22 May Gallery Lane Cove, Sydney, survey show, date TBAUniversity of Wollongong Gallery, Wollongong, date TBASolo show, Nicholas Thompson Gallery, Melbourne, 30 November to 18 December
Links to things and people we talk about in this episode
Guy Warren at King Street Gallery on WilliamGuy Warren at Nicholas Thompson GalleryTony TucksonKlaus FriedebergerErwin FabianFred Williams Bert FlugelmanIan FairweatherJoanna Logue David Attenborough
'To Jamberoo with love #1', 2020, acrylic on linen, 40 x 50cm Image courtesy of King Street Gallery on William and the artist
'Time out #1', 2020, watercolour on paper, 57 x 77cmImage courtesy of King Street Gallery on William and the artist
'Bush walk', 2015, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60cmImage courtesy of King Street Gallery on William and the artist
'Gaia at Badgery's', 1990, synthetic polymer paint on linen, 274 x 274cmImage: National Gallery of Australia Collection
'Flugelman with Wingman', 1985, oil on canvas, 225 x 178cmWinner of the Archibald Prize 1985Image: Art Gallery of NSW website
'Prisoner', 1962Image: Canberra Museum and Gallery collection
'Hobart series no.8', 1979, watercolour on hand made paper, formed and manipulated Collection Art Gallery of NSWImage: Art Gallery of NSW website
Ep 106: Vincent Namatjira
The name Namatjira is a famous one. Vincent Namatjira’s great-grandfather, Albert Namatjira, was one of Australia’s great painters, uniquely depicting Australia's desert landscapes in vibrant watercolour.
Although he didn't know about his connection with the famous artist in his childhood - he was in foster care and removed from his culture - Vincent has made his own way to success. But this time it was through portraiture. Painting for the first time in 2012, he would soon become a regular finalist in Australia's most famous portrait prize, the Archibald, ultimately winning it in 2020.
He was the first indigenous artist to win the Archibald but, as Vincent would say, 'it only took 99 years'. His winning painting, 'Stand strong for who you are’ was a portrait of the artist with Adam Goodes, the indigenous AFL player who became renowned for speaking out against racism. Vincent saw parallels between Adam's life and his own which he talks about in this conversation.
The subjects of Vincent's portraits are wide-ranging; from his great-grandfather, aboriginal elders and politicians to the Queen, Captain Cook and Vladimir Putin. Painted in an expressive style, his works also encapsulate his unmistakable humour. In one work he places himself in the royal carriage with the Queen and in another is cutting a birthday cake with Donald Trump. Everyone is on a level playing field.
Vincent lives in the Indulkana community in the APY lands, about 400 km south of Alice Springs and is one of about 30 artists connected to its arts centre, Iwantja Arts.
He has received significant acclaim. Apart from winning the Archibald Prize, he won the Ramsay Art prize in 2019, has received an Order of Australia for his contribution to indigenous visual arts, his works have been acquired by the British Museum and significant institutional collections across Australia and he has exhibited in solo shows and international art fairs.
I interviewed Vincent at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia where he had been commissioned to paint the museum’s Foyer wall. It’s a huge 15m work called 'P.P.F (Past-Present-Future)' and depicts people who have been influential in his life. It is a spectacular work and will remain in the foyer for the next two years.
To hear our podcast conversation click on 'play' below the above photo. Scroll down for images of works we talk about on the podcast.
Above photo of Vincent Namatjira by Daniel Boud, standing in front of P.P.F. (Past-Present-Future), 2021, commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2021, supported by Veolia Environmental Services, image courtesy the artist; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; and Iwantja Arts, South Australia © the artist,
Vincent Namatjira at Iwantja ArtsVincent Namatjira at This is No Fantasy Albert NamatjiraKunmanara 'Jimmy' PompeyAdam Goodes'The Final Quarter' documentary
'Stand Strong for who you are', 2020, acrylic on linen, 152 x 198cmWinner Archibald Prize 2020, Art Gallery of NSWImage: AGNSW website
'P.P.F. (Past-Present-Future)', 2021, synthetic polymer paint, commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 2021, supported by Veolia Environmental Services, image courtesy the artist; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; and Iwantja Arts, South Australia © the artist, photograph Daniel Boud
'Studio self-portrait', 2018, acrylic on linen, 152 x 198cm, Highly commended in the Archibald Prize 2018, AGNSWImage: AGNSW website
'The Royal Tour (Vincent and Elizabeth)', 2020, acrylic on linen, 67 x 91cmImage courtesy of the artist and Iwantja Arts
Ep 105: Summer Series – Tony Costa
Tony Costa won the Archibald prize in 2019 with his stunning painting of contemporary artist Lindy Lee. I caught up with him a few weeks later in his studio in Sydney and our podcast conversation from that day is episode 70 of the podcast.
I also recorded video in Tony's studio which I edited down to about 5 minutes, with lots of painting wisdom ending up on the cutting room floor. So in this episode I'm bringing you the full conversation.
Tony has been painting for over 50 years. Apart from winning the Archibald prize, in portraiture he is a regular finalist in the Doug Moran and Kilgour prizes as well as many others, but it’s in landscape that he is particularly prolific.
He has won the Paddington Art prize for landscape painting and repeatedly returns to the Royal National Park in Sydney’s south where he has found endless inspiration.
His first solo exhibition since winning the Archibald opens at Art Atrium in Sydney on 15 May 2021 and will consist of oils, watercolour and ink works based on areas within the Royal National Park.
To hear our 2019 conversation click 'play' beneath the above photo of Tony in his studio.
You can see the video in Tony's studio below. I also filmed an interview with Tony in the Art Gallery of NSW not long after the Archibald announcement was made and you can see that video below also.
Tony Costa talks with me in his studio
Tony Costa talks with me at the Art Gallery of NSW shortly after winning the Archibald Prize
One of two drawings Tony made in preparation for his winning portrait
The second drawing
The hospital bed which serves as the working surface
Head study of Lindy Lee
Tools used in painting
The one paint brush in the studio
'Hacking River No 5 Royal National Park'
Ep 104: Summer Series – Susan Baird
In 2019 I travelled 4 hours west of Sydney, past the Blue Mountains, driving through winding bush roads until I arrived at Hill End, the historic goldmining village which is now also known for its inspiring artist's community.
It was there that I interviewed Susan Baird who a few years earlier had fallen in love with the town and now has a home and studio there, deep in the bush.
We recorded a previous podcast interview where Susan talked with me about how she became an artist and developed her career. It's one of the most downloaded episodes on the podcast and you can hear it here.
We also recorded video which I edited down for a YouTube video. I've since realised, though, that those video recordings are just as valuable as the podcast interview itself and that's why I'm bringing you this 'Summer Series' of longer recordings from videos. What you'll hear in this episode is the full audio recording from the video shoot.
Susan's next solo show is coming up in June 2021 at Arthouse Gallery in Sydney and she has small works in the Gallery's current group show (January 2021). She is also represented by Flinders Lane Gallery in Melbourne and it was in the lead up to her last show with Flinders Lane that we recorded this interview.
You can hear the podcast interview by pressing 'play' below the above feature photo or listen on your favourite podcast app.
Scroll down to see stills of the places and works we talk about in this episode as well as the 2019 YouTube video.
'Bowman's Cottage', Hill End, NSW
The shearing shed
Susan Baird in her studio (formerly the property's hay shed)
‘Studio Window, Bowman’s Cottage’, 2019, Oil on linen 137 x 97cm Finalist Calleen Art Award 2019
‘Bush Telegraph’, 2019, oil on linen, 102 x 102cm