The Good Son; A major survey exhibition of works on paper by Michael Zavros has opened at Gold Coast City Art Gallery. Zavros is highly regarded as one of Australia’s most significant younger artists and this exhibition brings together over 40 major works from public and private collections in an attempt to tease out the apparently diverse themes and subjects that he has pursued over the past decade – the leaping and falling horses, be-suited corporate men, high fashion, classical mythology, and French neo classical architecture.
The exhibition also seeks to reveal what the legacy of growing up on the coast may have had for the development of his ideas about investigating the allure and impermanence of beauty.
Lime Spider, 2009, charcoal and fluro paint on paper, 85 x 103cm, courtesy of the artist and GRANTPIRRIE
To accompany this exhibition Gold Coast City Art Gallery has commissioned a video portrait of Michael Zavros to be made by fellow artist and filmmaker Alex Chomicz. The video portrait follows the making of one of the major new works featured in the exhibition—Debaser/Dior—and takes the viewer up close in the studio to hear the scratch of pencil on paper and the click of the camera. The video can be purchased from the Gold Coast City Art Gallery A short segment of the video can be viewed below.
To visit Michael Zavros' website CLICK HERE
In The Real Art World interviews Michael Zavros about his recent exhibition, a survey of works on paper, The Good Son, at Gold Coast City Art Gallery
In The real Art World: You grew up on the Gold Coast, first exhibited as a high school student at the Gold Coast Art Gallery, now return with a survey of over 40 works. What is the Michael Zavros story, how have you and your art arrived at this point?
Michael Zavros I moved away from the Gold Coast to study fine art at Queensland college of art in 1994. I had had such a close relationship with the Gold Coast City Art Gallery, having worked as a volunteer there for a few years between finishing high school and starting tertiary study.
I loved working at the gallery - it was an entree into the art-world and gave me a keen understanding of a regional arts system. At the Queensland College of Art I studied printmaking which indulged my passion for drafting and for very specific processes. I also developed a love of works on paper via printmaking that has continued to inform my practice.
Some fifteen years later as I emerge out of the 'emerging' years of my practice, it seemed appropriate to bring a solo survey style exhibition back to my hometown. The curator of The Good son, Virginia Rigney and I decided to focus on one particular area of my practice - works on paper - and to present a really comprehensive exhibition of this work
Hall of Mirrors, 2008, 122 x 86cm, Charcoal on paper, Private collection
In The real Art World: This survey of works on paper brings together a body of work other than your more familiar precise and intricate paintings. How does the immediacy of drawing help inform your artistic practice?
Michael Zavros love drawing and it has always been central to my practice. I show more and more drawing alongside my painting in recent shows. There is certainly more of an immediacy to drawing than painting, that instant mark you can make with a pencil or a stick of charcoal. I particularly love charcoal for its rich velvety blacks but it is a very difficult medium to master. I've developed lots of little tricks to help me achieve some control over the charcoal and a full tonal range. Despite the rich contrasts, there is something wonderfully deadpan about charcoal, a steely matte quality that is impossible to create with oil paint. This compliments the airless narcism that so much of my work embodies.
Patent with Gold, 2009, 105 x 86cm, charcoal and gold paint on paper, courtesy of the artist and Philip Bacon Galleries
In The real Art World: Apart from the 40 or so artworks brought together for this exhibition, you also have drawn one work directly on the gallery wall. Tell me about this drawing?
Michael Zavros I drew the small trompe l'oeil taxidermic Springbok to 'decorate' the gallery wall. It 'hangs' above a suite of recent charcoal and spray paint works and plays with the notion of realist painting/drawing being considered decorative. The impermanence of this drawing which will be painted over at the close of the exhibition is also an extension of a recent body of work casting collectable artworks as hunting trophies.
Debaser/Belstaff, 2007, 122 x 86cm, Charcoal on Paper, Private collection
In The real Art World: Your art is concerned with concepts around the notion of perceived beauty as well possessing it's tangible aspects, whether it be in the subject's intrinsic nature, or it's surface representation in the form of an artwork. Can you elaborate on your interest in beauty?
Michael Zavros I do always seek to create something that is unashamedly beautiful to look at, to behold. I also consider beauty as a concept. My recent drawings of models with their ideal features erased manipulates the notion of 'surface' beauty - the currency of the model having been removed. But surface is important not just as a metaphor but literally in terms of the treatment of the drawing material on paper. The portrait having been lovingly rendered in charcoal is then aggressively removed but the features can't quite be erased - the charcoal stains the paper permanently. It is always important to me that what I am painting or drawing is reflected in how I am creating it; technique and subject somehow mirror each other.
Falling August, 2006, charcoal on paper, 123 x 86cm, collection of Grafton Regional Art gallery
In The real Art World: How do you go about finding the subjects for your paintings/drawings and what do you really look for when assessing it’s potential to make it as an artwork?
Michael Zavros I have tended to work from found images that I collect from books/magazines/catalogues. In the past I would crop these images or omit certain information but progressively, I'm completely constructing images that I work from in photoshop and other imaging programs. I sort of hibernate the resource imagery, leave it sitting in my studio or the vast inbox of my mind and if I still like it, if it still feels relevant after several months then it will enter my practice in some way.
Debaser/Burberry Prorsum, 2007, 122 x 86cm, Charcoal on paper, Private collection
In The real Art World: Tell me about your working process, how an idea becomes a finished artwork.
Michael Zavros As an artist who predominately works form photography, I am fortunate that I can pretty much see my work before I embark on creating it. The creative moment has long passed by the time I start painting or drawing and for some weeks afterwards until the work is complete, the process is just technical. Recently that creative moment has become a more drawn out process as I go to great lengths constructing the images that I work form. Part of this process is playing with various media and scale and how these elements assist in the delivery of the image or how it will operate. I usually find that the image determines what medium I employ. The media I choose, whether it is the steely deadpan quality of charcoal or the glossy luxe quality of oil paint, allows me to extend the visual possibilities of a subject or an image.
LV/L’Ennui, 2006,, Charcoal on paper, 120 x 85cm, private collection
In The real Art World: Who are the artists that at the moment you are looking at, or find their work resonates for you?
Michael Zavros I'm a huge Jeff Koons fan and am loving his work all over again as I pour over the images in a new book published to coincidewith his recent show at the Palace of Versailles. His wonderfully baroque and deadpan kitsch has intrigued me since I discovered his work as a student and I've long been inspired by Versailles - it draws me back constantly and finds its way into my practice. I love that Koons can be critical and complicit at the same time, and this is something I hope emerges from my own practice.
Fanta, 2009, 112 x 86cm, charcoal and fluro paint on paper, courtesy of the artist and GRANTPIRRIE
In The real Art World: Finally, what's next?
Michael Zavros I'm making a lot of sculpture at the moment. I work in plasticene and a local foundry takes molds and casts my work in bronze. I enjoy the challenge of making super realism and high detail in a three dimensional form. Bronze sculpture offers an impenetrable veneer in much the same way that oil painting does, and I love the manipulation of another very traditional medium in a contemporary context.