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In Conversation: Andy Pye

Andy Pye’s latest series is an exuberant portrayal of the Australian bush. He presents the landscape as he sees it, while drawing inspiration from myths and layered histories of the area to paint a window in to a colourful realm removed from the day-to-day experience of our lives.

We’re simply thrilled to present his works in the gallery for his first solo exhibition at Modern Times, Magma : Gamma.

Ahead of the exhibition opening in our Fitzroy gallery on Thursday 11 August, we recently spoke with Pye about creating this body of work, how modernism influences his work, and what the Australian landscape means to him. Dive in below!

You can also head inside his studio with his Studio Sounds playlist on Spotify here. And download the catalogue to view all the artworks in this brilliant exhibition.

Image shot by Jaccob McKay Photography.

‘Magma : Gamma’ is an intriguing title, can you tell us how you landed on it?

For a while now, I’ve been deeply considering the gravity in the world. So, all that rock, is held down by a spinning globe right? But literally, why and how!? I’m not even going to Google that (plus I don’t think anyone who claims to know actually does because its so phenomenologically-based), I’d rather stay in awe of that fundamental unknown. So that’s Magma, right? Rock. It’s history, it’s story, the way some rock faces sort of watch over us and the way some are distant and untouched.

Gamma – Light. I’ve been hitting the works up with some mad haze for these crazy days. Bent light, kind of like microwaves, refracting light on water and intermittently through trees.  

 

We underestimate how desensitised we've become to the things we rely on to be there but give no thanks for - like the rock and the light, the beautiful Australian bush. ”
— Andy Pye

It’s a title that deals in the relationship of these two elements in my art – not the elements themselves. Like there are artists who are certainly handling these elements visually in a far more sophisticated way – mine are like a kindergarten version I suppose. 

Pye has a natural ability to choose a scene of the Australian bush and capture it, continuing the work of the pioneer Australian Modernists, paying homage to their motif and legacy.

What drew you to the landscape of the Southern Grampians?

I was down and out in 2004 and lived in Dunkeld and painted in a shearing shed there. This show is a catharsis for me.

This is your first solo exhibition in Melbourne for almost 10 years, what are you looking forward to most about returning to the Melbourne gallery scene?

The people! My artist and gallery friends in Melbourne have been there fighting the good fight for a decade since I’ve seen any of them. I admire Melbournians so much. I used to live in Carlton/North Fitzroy/Collingwood and it has an allure. I know this sounds out there, but I can definitely see myself living in Melbourne again. It’s pretty brutal out there in the wilderness! I’m getting old! I’m looking forward to a couple of late nights at Builders Arms/Marion etc, early espressos at Marios, and seeing some galleries, general chills!      

Image shot by Jaccob McKay Photography.

In your artist statement you reference Danila Vassilief, often credited as the ‘father of Australian modernism’, as a strong influence on your work. Can you tell us a little more about how his work influences yours, and how you see your work fitting within the history of modernist art in Australia?

Perhaps it’s the connection we share in ethnicity, although I have a very mixed background. I think it ultimately comes down to a few factors with his art. Firstly, his use of line – he wasn’t afraid to outline form as though sketching. I had a senior drawing lecturer from NAS (National Art School) come up and give me a big hug at my recent solo show in Sydney. It was a lovely moment! She reminded me that drawing is still evident in my brushstroke, something I used to consciously apply from his style to mine, now just naturally occurring and I’d kind of forgotten. To this end, I keep drawings and pastels in production as part of my output. 

 

I suppose I have a romantic idea about Vassilieff, that we would have been friends. I'd have crashed at Stoneygrad some nights, and hung with him in Collingwood.”
— Andy Pye
Image shot by Jaccob McKay Photography.

Then there’s his use of expressive mark making, and colour as information and energy, not just to identify how colours of things are ‘in reality’. Through this skill of his, we view the art in the reality he allows us to be in, which is his. He says “come and look at this lane in George street as I see it,” and that has become my pursuit too. I’m simply disinterested in the commercial reality of art. I will make pictures whether I’m selling out shows or no one is buying.

Like him [Vassilief], I'm just going to hang out away from everyone, from everything that moves and buzzes and just paint. ”
— Andy Pye
Pye works out of his bush studio near Eldorado in northern Victoria, where he paints en plein air, capturing the native bushland.

Magma : Gamma will exhibit in our Fitzroy gallery from 11 – 23 August, and presales will open at 10am Thursday 4 August via email.

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