Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Endless Options: The Paintings of Andrew Mezei


Tradition seems to be a word that is shunned in contemporary society as the pressures of new technologies and media dominate our culture. As the realism and technical accuracy of the Old Masters gave way to other forms of expression - from Impressionism to Cubism to Conceptualism - Art became more open-ended than ever. Yet as we amble towards the digital future, many artists still embrace the tactile conventions of the past.

Melbourne-based painter Andrew Mezei mirrors the dedication towards naturalism that signified the style of the Old Masters. Using traditional pigments, resins and oils, Mezei creates incandescent surfaces exploring the composition of our world and our position within it. Mezei's paintings evoke not just a scene but also an emotional reaction - we are drawn into a feeling through his mastery of materials and forms.

Town Hall Gallery curator Mardi Nowak recently had the chance to chat with Andrew Mezei after his work "Dominion" was added to the Town Hall Gallery Collection.

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Andrew Mezei, Dominion (2012) 53 x 83cm, Oil on linen, Town Hall Gallery Collection.
 
Mardi Nowak [MN]: Tell us about yourself!  Where are you from?
 
Andrew Mezei [AM]: I grew up in Hawthorn, Melbourne. My parents worked from home in a leather-goods workshop, making fine handbags and wallets. They escaped Hungary during the 1956 revolution, with few possessions, but they survived and prospered on their craftsmanship. They worked very long hours, so my playground was often the workshop, which I loved.

Antonio del Pollaiuolo and Piero del Pollaiuolo, The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, completed 1475, London, National Gallery

I was always drawing cartoons as a kid, but when I was ten my mother took me to London. We visited the National Gallery there, and I stopped in front of the Martydom of St Sebastian by Antonio and Piero del Polliauolo (pictured above). As I stood in front of that picture, I knew I wanted to be an artist, and from then on I tried to paint.

[MN] How would you describe your work?  What materials do you work in?

[AM] My work is about our place in the world; from both the personal perspective, and from broader perspective of the human journey, which is embedded in the story of all living things. I work using traditional materials and techniques. This way, I know the works will stay vibrant for centuries. 

[MN] What attracted you to work in the medium that you do?  

[AM] I like the medium because of the extraordinary beauty made possible by generations of refinement. Yet, it still allows for endless innovation.

[MN] What achievement are you most proud of to date?

[AM] I'm very happy with my portrait of Professor Penny Sackett now in the National Portrait Gallery. 

[MN] If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be and why?  Who inspires you?

[AM] I would like to collaborate with two musicians; Bernie Krause an American innovator who records natural soundscapes, and Scott Dunbabin, an improvisation jazz musician who created a remarkable instrument. Both evoke the presence of a world, which I find very visual, and their music could enhance the worlds I try to create in painting.  

[MN]What's your work practice like?  Do you work in a studio/home? What gets you in the mood to create?

[AM] I work in a very effective little studio, but could always do with more space. As soon as I get an exciting idea, I'm motivated to paint.

[MN] Is there a soundtrack to your creativity?  Do you have music or silence?

[AM] Mostly I work in silence, but towards the end of a long day I need music to keep me going; Gregorian chant, the Armenian duduk, Monteverdi. If I'm really struggling, Beethoven's Pastoral can save the day but I save that for emergencies!

[MN] What do you think people will take away with them from seeing your work?

[AM] I hope my work gives people a little space to step out of the immediacy of life, and reflect on the question of how their lives are shaped, and what forces shaped them. I feel that in most cases, we have far more options open to us, than we ever permit ourselves to consider. 

[MN] Where do you want to be in 10 years time?  What's your dream?!

[AM] I would like a studio on the Saphire coast perhaps, and to make stunning, powerful works designed specifically for various gallery spaces. 

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You can check out more of Andrew Mezei's work by visiting his website at: www.andrewmezei.com

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