Graham McKenzie is a Melbourne based Australian landscape painter and teacher. His teacher training was undertaken in Melbourne. Following this he taught for two years in a Victorian Wimmera school. On his return to Melbourne, he taught in a city school before accepting a teaching position in Canada. He then moved to England and obtained a position working at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London. During these periods, McKenzie continued to paint and explore the new landscapes of North America, England and Europe.
Graham’s painting, over the last three decades have taken him to many remote Aboriginal communities across northern Australia, as well as many other regional and local destinations. The paintings he has developed from these trips have been inspired by the Indigenous culture and its relationship to the land. These paintings continue his exploration of the beauty within the landscape, not as copies, but rather through a personal and emotional interpretation that he brings to the viewers in his exhibited works.
Graham’s output has ranged across different media and these works have played an important role in his artistic endeavours. Over a fifteen-year period he designed sets and costumes for such companies as the Australian Ballet and Ballet School, the Australian Contemporary Dance Company and in 1987 he created and designed a full-length ballet for Human Veins Dance Theatre in Canberra during the Bicentennial Celebrations in 1988.
Throughout his artistic career McKenzie has successfully held 26 Solo Exhibitions and participated in numerous group and prize exhibitions throughout Australia.
FROM THE ARTIST:
"I developed my interest in art at a very early age. It began even in the years before I attended school. My mother had an association with some of the artists, who became known as the Heidelberg School, often visiting them maintaining a friendship first established by her artist stepmother. I was aware of numerous small paintings, usually hung low on the walls, which many years later I realized were the famous 9 x 5 paintings. To me they were paintings made for children to look at due to their size and position on the walls.
This interest in the landscape has also been strongly influenced by the relationships people have to the land and how we respond to it. I have explored these relationships through the various subjects or locations I choose to paint. Most of my paintings over the last two to three decades have come from trips I made to outback Australia, specifically visiting many remote Aboriginal communities.
The paintings are primarily all aerial views giving the landscape a flatter appearance, some devoid of a horizon. In these works, the random marks of nature are often contrasted with the grids (symbolized by airplane windows, roads, fences etc.), which overlay the landscape, reflecting our need for ownership. In some works I explored the idea of changing viewpoints in the one work. These differing viewpoints are linked together through the colour and texture in the paintings. The surfaces also reflect the rugged, harsh experiences in these landscapes, but they also explore the fragility and beauty of the outback.
My interest in painting the outback also lead me to a four week residency on a Bush Heritage Australia property in northeast South Australia during 2004. This was my longest period of actually working continuously in a specific remote landscape.
In late November 2007 I badly injured my right shoulder. Unfortunately the damage to the shoulder was much worse than originally diagnosed and the rehab’ was greatly extended. Painting at an easel was out of the question so I started experimenting using my left hand. I complete a large body of works on paper and canvas, inspired by the local area along the Yarra River between Abbotsford, Kew and Fairfield. The change in style has subsequently carried through into (much of) my more recent paintings.
In all my years painting I have referenced and explored our notion of beauty: our meanings of and how it has been applied, and how we state and determine this through a personal rating system. Not every painting carries this as it main theme but it always lies close by.
I believe that beauty is determined by nature. It will always provide society with a starting point, yet it is soon overlooked when a constructed beauty is talked about. Our roads, our bridges, our buildings and all that we create, are considered in a gauge of beauty yet it is what we see in nature that stands the test of time. When challenged, we always return to the idea that this is the most beautiful place on earth, a place that it is separated from any reference to human habitation. This influence has been guided by my many visits to the remote Aboriginal communities and learning about their culture.
I am not painting a canvas that directly copies the beauty I am experiencing but rather I want it to challenge each viewer to seek out their own understanding of beauty from the memories they carry."