ARTIST INTERVIEW: PATRICK HARTIGAN
Artist interview: Patrick Hartigan - Art Collector
|5 September 2011|
|Currently showing at Greenaway Art Gallery in Adelaide, Patrick Hartigan talks to Australian Art Collector about his latest series of paintings and what he finds so fascinating about middle-aged faces. |
|Patrick Hartigan, Sisters, 2010. Oil on canvas, 72.5 x 70.5cm. Courtesy: the artist; Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide; and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. |
|Your current exhibition is called Mother’s Birthday. Why this day? And what was the starting point for this body of work? |
|The title of the exhibition was taken from one of the earlier portrait works I had painted and then re-painted almost a year later. |
Like a lot of the other portraits I was to paint, it was derived from a family snapshot from the 1950s. However, unlike most of the other images I have encountered from this time there seemed to be a psychologically ambiguous quality in the closeness of the two heads (mother and daughter). It was this quality which I attempted to tease out in the paintings.
This exhibition actually brings together paintings from the past two to three years.
The starting point was possibly a work entitled Woman which was first shown in an exhibition I had in 2009 called The Village Is Quiet (at Darren Knight Gallery) which drew on the time I have spent in my wife's village of birth in Slovakia over the past seven years.
|Above right: Patrick Hartigan, Mother's birthday (first version), 2010. Oil on canvas board, |
25 x 20cm. Courtesy: the artist; Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide; and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney.
|In your artist statement, you talk about the woman in the old snapshots you use as source material as having specific emotional qualities. Could you talk a little more about this & what you see in these photos?|
|I was referring to images specifically from the 1940s and 1950s. I found an intriguing tension between the female subject's vulnerability on the one hand and toughness or stoicism on the other. |
This brings to my mind some of the female characters in Patrick White's novels.
|Patrick Hartigan, Mothers of 1-3, 2009. Oil on board, 3 parts, each 18.5 x 12cm. Courtesy: the artist; Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide; and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. |
|Most of the works feature older women, which I find interesting because they generally don’t get all that much airtime. Was age something you were aware of when you were working on these paintings?|
|I was interested in the specific emotions which shape faces; older faces usually reveal this more explicitly. |
I am particularly interested in middle-aged women's faces for the way they manifest a certain malleability which I associate with a letting go of things. I think that there's a strange, underrated beauty to be found in a woman's face at this juncture.
Right: Patrick Hartigan, Mother and child, 2010. Oil on linen, 33 x 27.5cm. Courtesy: the artist; Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide; and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney.
|Painting seems to be your preferred medium these days. To ask a devil’s advocate question, why have you settled on this medium? What does it give you that other mediums don’t?|
|I'm not sure if I have settled really. Painting has been, and continues to be, central to my process but I continue to enjoy working across different media. |
Painting is a more visceral medium than others and therefore feels more suited to the mess and complexities of people.
|You’ve shown regularly in New Zealand too. What’s the connection there?|
|I visited the South Island of New Zealand many years ago after seeing some Laurence Aberhart photographs of Southland. |
I later showed my work in Dunedin (with Brett McDowell) and even lived there for a year recently.
I have an ongoing interest in New Zealand art.
|Patrick Hartigan, Woman, 2009. Oil on board, 49 x 40cm. Courtesy: the artist; Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide; and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. |
|You graduated from art school in 2001. What would you say is the most important thing about art and art-making you’ve learnt in the 10 years since you left uni and started working as a professional artist? |
|It might be the need to remain open to new ideas and ways of working. I think I have a very low boredom threshold which forces me to avoid working habitually at all costs. |
But I am discovering that painting alone is a vast wilderness to explore; the further you get in the bigger it becomes.
Patrick Hartigan's current exhibition, Mother's Birthday, continues at Greenaway Art Gallery in Adelaide until 18 September 2011.