Living With Art: Euan Macleod

In this edition of ‘Living With Art’, 3:33 Art Projects speaks with New Zealand-born Australian artist Euan Macleod whose practice draws on base but elusive elements; humans and the natural world. Over the past forty years, Macleod has exhibited in Australia and internationally. His is an intuitive practice, so what is it like to create in lockdown when your inspiration (and plans) are literally and metaphorically, out the window? The verdict – ‘It’s been a weird time’ the artist shares, and yet he’s reinvigorated his love for painting and its potential saying ‘It’s really lovely when there’s something that you do and there’s a synchronicity.’

3:33 Art Projects collaborated on exhibitions with Macleod in 2015 and 2018, and welcomed him as a mentor in our Young Curators Program 2019. Fittingly, on the first day of Spring, Macleod launches a new body of work with King Street Gallery on William in ‘Figures in a dissolving landscape‘.

Euan Macleod in the studio, 2020

Tell us about ‘High Wire‘, your new book which launched recently in Wellington, New Zealand.

It’s collaboration with Lloyd Jones, and there’s an exhibition of the drawings. It’s been the most wonderful project because it talks a lot about the connection between New Zealand and Australia. We came over in the early 1980s; there were opportunities here that weren’t in New Zealand. That’s one of the things I played around with in the book, the links between the two. It’s an interesting relationship.

Given travel and home are on our minds it’s a good moment for a book like this.

Yes, travel and connections. It’s sort of talking about bridges and bridges being there and what if they’re not there. It’s incredibly timely. A lot of the work I’m doing is based on a trip I did to New Zealand where we stayed in a hut at the top of Tasman Glacier. Because of the terrain you need to be roped together to move around so there’s a sense of danger, but also of the connection and support of others. It’s been interesting thinking about these ideas which strongly mirror what’s been happening because of COVID 19 but it has felt like a natural process, rather than being contrived.

Euan Macleod, Monkey on Back, 2010, oil on polyester, 150 x 180cm

Euan Macleod, Stepping Across Crevasse, 2012, oil on polyester, 150 x 180cm

What is so intriguing to you about pairing humans and the landscape?

I try to keep it as open as possible, probably exploring that relationship and letting it happen. Almost like letting the human element find its place in the painting. It’s something that I love – I want to explore and I want to keep it fresh, so in a way, the figure has to find out what they’re doing. Even if they’re doing nothing they’re doing something. Often the figures are digging, or exploring and I guess to me it’s about ‘what are we doing?’ It can be anything there’s no right or wrong. I feel people will put their own meaning on the paintings. Hopefully they become the figure…

Your inclusion of the body and land are intuitive and elemental symbols.

That was the lovely thing about the collaboration on High Wire because the ideas Lloyd was bringing to the project would push me in different directions and I found that extremely stimulating. The basic premise of tight rope walking, that of walking the line, seemed to relate strongly to the basics of drawing. In the beginning there was the line…

Has the lockdown affected your motivation or inspiration?

I love painting, that’s what I do. COVID in a strange way took away a lot of the things we took for granted which, although horrible, seems to have focused us on what is important (like family), so painting towards something in particular wasn’t important. I could do whatever I wanted which was getting back in touch with why I originally painted.

This article is presented in collaboration with 3:33 Art Projects