MICHAEL BUZA­COTT

Michael Re­cently, stun­ning Buza­cott. two 2015 great Sur­vey Ter­ence es­says at Maloon’s have the Drill been piece Hall, writ­ten Can­berra, to ac­com­pany about is Syd­ney a nu­anced Buza­cott’s artist over­view of his sculp­ture from Buza­cott’s stu­dent days in the

Artist Profile - - PROFILE - STORY SO­NIA LEGGE PHO­TOG­RA­PHER STEPHEN OX­EN­BURY

Pan­the­ism is the be­lief that all of re­al­ity is iden­ti­cal with God, who is man­i­fested in the ma­te­rial world, as op­posed to be­ing tran­scen­dent, or sovereign.”

COULD YOU RE­FLECT ON THE PLACE MYTHOL­OGY AND the spir­i­tual im­pulse have in your creative life?

I’m a pan­the­ist, al­ways have been … it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that for me there’s no cen­tre, no pe­riph­ery: I see the “cen­tre” as be­ing ev­ery­where. That’s the only def­i­ni­tion of God I can come up with.

Is there a cor­re­la­tion be­tween pan­the­ism and art mak­ing?

A sculp­ture is made up of mul­ti­ple parts that all work at the tini­est level, mo­ti­vat­ing ev­ery­thing else. That in­ter­con­nect­ed­ness, the seam­less­ness be­tween one el­e­ment and the next, that’s the def­i­ni­tion of na­ture.

As for ac­tu­ally mak­ing … to get a sense of scale, I might lay the ma­te­ri­als on the floor, but I’ll be mak­ing the part-to-part re­la­tion­ships in my hands, build­ing up mul­ti­ple units which then be­come one big thing later.

Your ‘Syd­ney Sum­mer’ (2012), and ‘Family Por­trait’ (2016), are both large works that seem to sit in chaos, full of ques­tions. But on re­flec­tion what’s re­vealed is an un­der­ly­ing har­mony, which is very dif­fer­ent from “or­der”.

Or­der is rigid, some­thing im­posed. Har­mony is re­sponse in the mo­ment to what’s hap­pen­ing around it. Har­mony has mu­ta­bil­ity to it. Work­ing is a kind of prayer; for me, there’s a direct con­nec­tion. I can’t dis­tin­guish – why should there be a dif­fer­ence? And I don’t make art, I make sculp­ture: a phys­i­cal en­tity, suf­fused with thought.

Your re­cent, dark, at­ten­u­ated fig­ures re­mind me of ear­lier sculp­tures, such as ‘Num­ber 4’ (1977).

Ter­ence Maloon did me the most won­der­ful favour: in prepa­ra­tion for the Drill Hall sur­vey he forced me to look at pre­vi­ous work … We each leave be­hind us a lot of un­fin­ished busi­ness, and we have to come back to it some­how. When I saw that 1970s work again I thought there’s an as­pect of this that I still want.

From your most re­cent ex­hi­bi­tion there’s a ‘Tall Seated Fig­ure’, a ‘Lad­der Fig­ure’, a ‘Chair Fig­ure’ … is fig­u­ra­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion their sub­ject?

I spent years ask­ing my­self what “sub­ject” meant. You can’t have story and form sep­a­rately, there is no hi­er­ar­chy. That’s what sculp­ture is – a ma­te­rial per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of in­tan­gi­ble feel­ing, force, emo­tion ...

As this year went on I was feel­ing in­creas­ingly sad­dened by the fact that my son and grand­chil­dren are over­seas, ab­sent. Some­how that darker feel­ing, that un­hap­pi­ness, man­i­fested it­self in these very tall fig­ures that seemed to rep­re­sent their far-away­ness. I painted them black only at the end, feel­ing black would make them dis­ap­pear.

There’s a lot of psy­cho­log­i­cal mean­ing at­tached to space: how close you are to some­body, how dis­tant. A work of sculp­ture is al­ways here, but the sub­ject mat­ter can be about re­mote­ness. So there’s a ten­sion be­tween the phys­i­cal en­tity and what it rep­re­sents. You can touch some­thing that is ac­tu­ally too far away to touch. Sculp­tors are tan­gi­ble peo­ple. My hands, my brain, are fus­ing right here, where my arm ends.

Sec­tions of ‘Two Fig­ures’ al­most dis­ap­pear …

I think it’s some­thing to do with how my anx­i­ety is ex­press­ing it­self. I’m de­ma­te­ri­al­is­ing it all. Mat­ter is full of holes. What’s an atom? It’s al­most no mat­ter at all – we are il­lu­sions of solid sub­stances! Lately I’ve gone back to Gi­a­cometti … he comes out of Cezanne. Cezanne and, be­fore him, Giotto, they de­picted space in a way we’ll spend years analysing, work­ing out im­pli­ca­tions of what they did. You look at a Cezanne wa­ter­colour; although he’s rep­re­sent­ing solid en­ti­ties there’s a thin­ness to the sen­sa­tion that the medium trans­lates. Look, maybe the world is be­com­ing less and less con­crete for me as I get older. I’ve be­come more conscious of the fleet­ing­ness of things. But I can’t make sculp­ture out of that – sculp­ture is a phys­i­cal en­tity you bump into ...

Your house is alive with ob­jects and the work of other artists, and the se­lec­tion of your own work down­stairs is beau­ti­fully dis­played. The ef­fect is of an en­vi­ron­ment full of family …

Pitt Street Unit­ing Church is a rare com­mu­nity; go­ing there is partly an­ces­tral. My family came out from Devon in the 1950s. Some worked at the David Jones department store and prob­a­bly at­tended Pitt Street. When I went look­ing for a com­mu­nity to be­long to, that was the place. We come out of other peo­ple. You can’t live without a com­mu­nity, without a sense of con­nect­ed­ness. And the art world is a pretty nasty place, ba­si­cally.

A num­ber of your sculp­tures’ ti­tles in­clude names from Greek myths and bi­b­li­cal sto­ries: ‘Europa and the Bull’, ‘Suzanna Bathing’, ‘Fall of Icarus’, ‘Herod’s Feast’, ‘Ac­taeon & Artemis’, ‘Ac­taeon Spies Diana Bathing’, ‘Ganymede’s Run’, ‘Cas­siopeia’, ‘Io’. These aren’t just names. In Western cul­ture they point to very big themes (chaos, creation, trans­for­ma­tion, power).

These themes are a way of ac­cess­ing parts of my­self that I can’t put words to. One of the first things I made, around 15, was a fig­ure carved out of wood. Rather than Daphne be­ing turned into a tree, I was turn­ing a tree into a fe­male. Greek mythol­ogy is about psy­chol­ogy, about how the human brain works. Gods and god­desses rep­re­sent all the in­stincts and forces within the human be­ing. They’re like family ...

These myths are not about re­mote times. I of­ten see my friends’ chil­dren ... one day the girl was get­ting her own back against her brother and the dog was jump­ing up – and that’s what ‘Ac­taeon & Artemis’ is really about: a scrap in the kitchen that sud­denly re­minded me of an­other story with wider im­pli­ca­tions.

I’ve been think­ing about my par­ents a lot, try­ing to re­solve things that are still un­re­solved. My fa­ther had a farm; I go to the Easter Show ev­ery year and look at the bulls ... and in my stu­dio there’s a lad­der that be­longed to my fa­ther that I’d al­ways cov­eted. So I re­alise that when­ever I make a sculp­ture with a lad­der in it – ‘Lad­der Fig­ure’

02

02 Suzanna Bathing, 2011, steel, 57 x 32 x 15cm, pho­tog­ra­pher Keith LoBue

03 Nymph and Satyr, 2011, steel, 106 x 85 x 38cm, pho­tog­ra­pher Keith LoBue 03

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