The Australian - Wish Magazine
PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST
Michael Zavros explores his best self
Michael Zavros started his work for this edition of
WISH by cutting the head off a store mannequin. It is not the usual way the Queensland artist begins a project – he is best known for his hyperrealist paintings and portraits – but the 45 year old has been recently exploring different mediums, and for our cover that included sculpture, painting, 3Dprinting and photography.
“I found it really challenging as I was having to do a lot of things that I have never done before,” he says. “I sculpted a head and 3Dscanned it, and then printed it and worked with an airbrush artist. The photography, I found, was easier, I felt really rewarded after having gone through the rest of it.”
Zavros – dubbed “Brisbane’s Da Vinci” by newspaper The Courier
Mail after $1.2 million worth of his paintings sold in one night – was commissioned by WISH to create a piece illustrating the rise of the conscious consumer in the postpandemic world. Our cover story (see page 26) explores the future of luxury after COVID19 and looks at how we will become more considered in our purchases and value products that are well made, ethical and environmentally sustainable.
For Zavros, who lives half an hour out of the city with his wife and three children, this meant creating the conscious consumer as a better version of himself. He bought a mannequin, cut the head off and then created a sculpture of his own head in the same dimensions, 3D scanned it and then 3Dprinted it in plastic to make it lighter. He sanded it back, painted it to look like himself and photographed the mannequin in situ around his property.
“He is a better version of me,” the artist says. “He is six foot three, he is really ripped, he is a little bit younger, he is a lot smoother, so he is sort of my ideal of a perfected avatar. And what I have done with him so far is basically just cast him in my role; as a dad, that’s my car and that is our street and that is my horse. It is my clothing, my accessories. I have just explored my own life in an avatar form.”
Zavros is known for his hyperrealistic paintings and the examination of narcissism in his work. He has won multiple awards, including The Bulgari Art Award at the Art Gallery of NSW in 2012 for his work The
New Round Room, which depicted a beautiful room at the Grand Trianon in the Palace of Versailles with gym equipment at the centre of it. The judges described the work as a contemplation of narcissism, vanity and desire. “There is no one bench pressing weights but the equipment awaits the user and suggests a contemporary pursuit of physical perfection that has echoes in the earlier pursuit of architectural perfection in the building,” they noted.
The artist has also won the $150,000 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2010 for a painting of his daughter lying down and draped in an Alexander McQueen scarf (with skulls on it) called Phoebe is Dead. Zavros has also been a finalist in the Archibald Prize multiple times, including for a painting titled Bad dad that has him looking at his own reflection in his pool. His pieces have been shown at major galleries around Australia and he has also held exhibitions around the world.
“A lot of my work plays with ideas of personal vanity or narcissism or cultural narcissism,” he tells WISH. “I keep coming back to cautionary Greek myths [ Zavros has GreekCypriot heritage] and the myth of narcissism, and I am making a selfportrait and I am cast in the role of narcissist.”
He also has an unabashed love of luxury. “I have always been drawn to this perfect utopia that a fashion magazine or a magazine like
WISH articulates really beautifully,” he explains. “I have always been fascinated by that, and manipulating that has always been central to my practice.”
Like everybody else, Zavros and his family have been in lockdown thanks to COVID19, but he has found his daytoday life has not changed that much (apart from the obvious havoc the pandemic has wreaked on the art world) because he already works from home, in his studio, He has also tried to enjoy the enforced slowdown and having his kids (aged 14, 12 and 9) around more, as well as preparing for his upcoming exhibition at Sydney’s Sullivan + Strumpf gallery in October.
Zavros believes that we may come of the pandemic better than when we went in. “This crazy thing happened and suddenly we had this opportunity to do what we have been talking about for so long and really make some choices about what is important,” he says.
And is this reflected in his creation for WISH? Is this an optimistic take on what the future may hold? On that he is not so sure.
“I am fascinated by shows like Westworld and a book called Machines
Like Me by Ian McEwan [ both set in the future], where the protagonist has bought this robot called Adam and he was too perfect for the world he inhabited,” Zavros says. “I am intrigued by what I think is around the corner. I can’t quite tell if it’s dystopian or utopian. It feels a bit like that with the thing I made. It’s very creepy but it’s perfect. I don’t know whether it is good or bad. It seems to be both of these things at once.”