Palette drawn from two lands

Australasian artist Euan Macleod will give a floor talk at his exhibition "Painter'', which ends on July 27, at Central Stories Museum and Gallery in Alexandra today at 10.30am with writer and art critic Gregory O'Brien. Mr Macleod was born in Christchurch and moved to Sydney in 1981. He talks to Jono Edwards about his work.

What will be happening today?

We'll have a talk in the morning.

There's a floor talk with me and Greg.

There's no strict format and we try to keep it fresh.

It's usually best when Greg asks me different questions, as he has a pretty fantastic understanding of it.

He's the straight guy and I can wax lyrical and say stupid stuff and he can pull me back.

It works quite well really.

Have you been inspired by a mixture of Australian and New Zealand landscapes?

I very much have. I go to a lot of places and a lot of my paintings have been based on what you call home.

Being a New Zealander living in Australia a lot of people say "What are you?'' and a lot of people have difficulty answering that.

Greg, who wrote the book on me, placed me in the middle of the Tasman Sea.

Sometimes that feels right.

A lot of the painting I have been doing deals with that question of where you live.

I have done paintings where the figure is painting New Zealand, but is in Australia, and vice versa.

How would you describe your paintings?

It's about the relationship between the figure and the landscape.

It's always difficult, because a label kind of confines something, and you want things to be open-ended rather than confined.

Early on I didn't see myself as a landscape painter, I didn't want to be a landscape painter.

I was a painter of figures and the landscapes crept in, New Zealand crept in.

There's been a backlash where people feel landscape doesn't have any relevance in the art world any more.

Have you painted Central Otago landscapes before?

I have over the years, but I've always found it very, very difficult.

I brought over a group of Australian artists at Easter this year and it was very interesting. I think they had difficulty with it.

I think there is a lot of subtlety to it that doesn't give itself immediately.

The more I think about it, I think the place itself isn't important to me, it's more of an internal place.

There are beautiful places, but certain terrains don't interest me as a subject matter.

Did you train to be an artist?

Yes I did. I went to Christchurch Polytech and did a graphic design course and went to Canterbury University and did a diploma of fine art in the 1970s.

Do you think it is useful to have training as an artist?

I think any generalisation is really difficult.

Some people thrive in that situation, but with some people it stifles them.

I would say yes, but it's very, very dependent.

I think the teaching of art is a one-on-one thing.

It's very hard to come up with things that are going to be helpful to everyone.

Early on there are some technical things, but it's about everyone finding their own way of expressing themselves.

Do you feel your art is accessible?

I would say yes. Some people are turned off by it, but some people are turned off by anything.

The majority of people can recognise there's something there.

They might initially find it awkward and clumsy, but I don't mind that.

You're trying to engage them, make them think a bit.

If someone comes in and throws up, that's better than not noticing it.

How long does it take you to create a painting?

Some paintings take years to complete, and others are finished in one sitting.

There is one painting in the show that I did in an hour.

But it's the only one that's ever happened like that.

There's another painting in there that took four or five years.

They finish when they're finished.

Sometimes you let them go, sometimes you just slash them in anger, sometimes you put them away for a while.

Often, the paintings that are the thickest, with the most paint on, are the ones that have taken the longest.

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