Monday, January 12, 2015

In Conversation: Tony Lloyd

If you've popped your head into Town Hall Gallery recently, you may have experienced a hive of activity. Gallery one holds the wondrous works of Ilona Nelson; gallery two has been transformed into an artist studio; and gallery three contains recent acquisitions to the Town Hall Gallery Collection. With the support of the City of Boroondara, we've had the opportunity to acquire some important and significant works of art from artists who have strong connections to the area. Tony Lloyd is one such artist and we recently spoke to him about inspiration, ideas and daily routines.


LLOYD, Tony, The Other Side (2013), oil on linen, 66 x 92cm.

Tell us about your connection to the City of Boroondara.
I’ve lived in Hawthorn for ten years now. I’m quite near the yarra and I love the trees and the bird life that surround us where we live. I love watching the bats flying over our balcony every night, hearing kookaburras in the morning and going for epic walks through Studley park. We’ve seen frogmouths, goshawks, sacred kingfishers, turtles, snakes and once a very lost kangaroo. It’s fantastic to have all this so close to the city. I also enjoy being 4kms from the city with all the cultural advantages that inner city living has to offer.

What inspires you as an artist?
What inspires me most is experiencing an artwork, whether it be visual art, music, film or literature, and realising that it is expressing something in a way that is novel and completely unexpected. It makes me realise that there are an infinite number of ways of describing the world and it reminds me to look at things more closely, especially the things I think I already know.

CARAVAGGIO, The Conversion on the Way to Damascus (1601), oil on canvas, 230 x 175 cm, Image via Wikipedia.

What’s your favourite artwork and why? (Can be from any time in history)
One of my favourite paintings is The Conversion on the Way to Damascus by Caravaggio. It is a high contrast painting of impenetrable shadows and bright light showing a horse led by an old man stepping over a young man lying on the ground, his eyes closed and his arms reaching upwards. The body of the horse and outstretched arms of the man create a circle which continually guides the eye around and around the picture. I’ve done two artist residencies in Rome and both times I was living close to the church where this painting hangs, almost every day I would go into the gloomy interior of the Cerasi chapel and stare at this painting. It was painted to tell a biblical story to an illiterate audience but what I find mesmerising is the unusual circular composition and the illuminated fragments of bodies that stand out in the darkness. Caravaggio’s paintings are like jigsaw puzzles with pieces missing, you need to use your imagination to complete them.

Two of your paintings are on exhibition at the moment; can you describe how they came to be? What are the ideas behind them?
The Other Side is a painting of Mount Kailash in Tibet. I travelled to Tibet in 2010 and was struck by the combination of grandeur and starkness in the landscape. The Tibetans imbue their landscape with mystical stories and Kailash certainly has an other worldly strangeness about it even without knowing those stories. I wanted to paint a mountain landscape in the tradition of romantic artists such as Eugene Von Guerard and at the same time capture the strangeness, the starkness and the grandeur.

LLOYD, Tony, Here Is Everywhere (2012), oil on linen, 92 x 71cm. 

In Here Is Everywhere I have used an image from the 1955 film Night of the Hunter of a farmhouse and barn on the edge of a pond. It’s a strange and beautiful film with many enigmatic scenes. In my painting the buildings are not reflected in the water but instead there is the upside down reflection of a snowy mountain (Mount Kailash). The idea for this work came after coming home from a fairly arduous trip to a part of the world that seemed impossibly remote compared to my life in Hawthorn. I was trying to imagine different locations on the planet existing in the same moment, and imagine here as not just my home, my country but in a much broader sense.

Describe a typical day in your art studio, eg, do you have a particular routine?
I am afraid it’s not that interesting, I get to my studio around 8:30am, I paint til 1pm when I go home for lunch. My studio is in Richmond, a short walk from home. A break is very important, I need to go outside to look at something different, painting is very tiring for the eyes. After lunch I go back and paint til 6:30-7pm.

While painting, I alternate listening to music with podcasts. The music is mostly instrumental. I like podcasts about science, art and history. Sometimes I require silence, it depends on the level of concentration required for the part of the picture I’m working on.

What does it mean to you to have your artworks acquired into a private or public collection?
It means a great deal to me to have my work in public collections. It is wonderful to have someone collect my work and hang it privately in their home but to know that my work will continue to be seen by new audiences, or be able to be revisited by people who enjoy it, is something to be proud of. I acquired my knowledge and love of art largely through public collections, without access to physical art works shown somewhere where I could sit for hours and stare, I may not have learnt enough to become an artist at all.

What can people learn from public collections of Art?
People can learn how to look at art, how artists look at the world and how to look at the world in new ways.

You have curated a number of exhibitions in your career as well, can you tell us about Notfair and how that project started?
Notfair is a small art fair that began as a utopian concept that would only show artists who we thought were under-represented regardless of their age or career stage. We wanted to try to raise their profile and sell their art for them. It was a huge success, we had thousands of visitors over the four day event, and we sold a lot of art. Since then I have gone on to work with a scientists at Melbourne University to curate an exhibition about chemistry and art and I am in the early stages of planning another curatorial project for late 2015.

LLOYD, Tony, No Time Left (2014), oil on linen, 61 x 122cm.
If you could give one piece of advice to emerging artists out there, what would it be?
Make work, keep trying to make better work, and when you believe your work is good enough, show it. It will take people time to understand it but the aim is to show to best of your abilities, how it is that you see the world.

If our readers want to learn more about you and your artworks, where can they go? Eg, websites, books, galleries, etc.
New Romantics. Darkness and light in Australian art by Simon Gregg Australian Scholarly Publishing. 2012

Finally, what’s coming up for you? Any big projects or exhibitions on the horizon?
At the moment I’m working towards a solo show in Hong Kong in early 2016, as well as various smaller projects.


For more information on the Town Hall Gallery Collection, please visit

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