Paul McGillick: Let's start with a little bit of background. Tell me a little bit about your family, and your early art training before you went to London in 1960.
Michael Johnson: When I was still at school, each time I came home for holidays from a boarding school, I came home for holidays, and the whole family would sit up drawing all night. My father said: No colour. A pencil. You were allowed a 2B, but no heavier that.
He gave me a skull to draw, and I drew that for six months. Finally he said, 'All right, now you can use colour. You can use ochre, ultramarine blue, flake white'. Anyway, there were about four colours that he allowed me, earth colours and a blue. He limited me to those for a year. This was mostly on holiday time.
Then, when he wasn't looking one day, I bought myself a box of pastels. He came around the back of me, and he was always busy making illustrations on the kitchen table, and putting them up on the fridge. Deadlines for the newspapers, illustrations, love stories, and so on, et cetera. He caught me doing full colour pastel drawings.
When he was sleeping I did a drawing of him and my sister. They were all lying about sleeping. Of course I was influenced by Degas, but he said, when he saw the drawing, 'Ah, you're a born colourist'.
I didn't know what he was talking about. But I was so frustrated at working with pencil, and pen and ink, that when I hit colour, I really celebrated. There is a texture of the pigment on the paper. He said, 'Ah, you've got nothing to worry about. You're a colourist. Don't worry about all that drawing'.
At art school, Brett and I ... Brett Whiteley and I, we all met. Brett, Tony McGillick, came later, and Max Cullen, but there was a gang of us and we would all go drawing in the Rocks and painting in Surry Hills, and so on.
I used to scout about the town. Brett and I were messenger boys. We saved our petty cash money for beers, and we'd run all over the city, delivering things to photographers, and so on. In the evening, there were sketch clubs scattered through the inner city, where all the cartoonists and illustrators would go to keep fresh with their drawing.
Brett and I used to go to all the sketch clubs, and if there were good models, we would go back there. If they were boring old blokes, we didn't go back. Then in the evenings, we used to go to the East Sydney Tech. Neither of us went to art school, but we would crash into a life class at night, and the teachers let us in.
I did go in the evenings to the Julian Ashton Art School. It was run by Henry Gibbons at the time. I went in, and I made a drawing, and he said, 'You can come to the school for free. You can draw! Go into the life class'. I said, 'No, but I've never drawn Rodin's statues, and I want to draw all these statues first'.
So, I drew all the statues, then I went to the life class. I used to like big lumps of charcoal with textured paper, which I'd knock off from the advertising company. I had materials for free. They encouraged us to paint on the weekend, and draw at night.
So I go down, hacking into a nude model, charcoal flying everywhere. Henry would come up behind me, and stroke his big beard, a very Victorian guy, and say, 'It looks rather like a trunk of a tree, very barky'. From then on when he came up behind me, I would tear the drawing up before he got to it, because I didn't want criticism. I was enjoying myself. That's where I went for several years.
Then, of course, on the weekends, Tony McGillick and Max Cullen, we'd all go drawing in the Rocks or something. I remember Max saying, 'Brett has done a whole exhibition, tourist exhibition'. Michael's put down six lines in the last four hours. Straight geometric lines on the rocks. Then on the weekends we packed the truck with claret, big rounds of cheese, tons of art material, in a tiny little Fiat and we'd head off to the bush.
We used to sleep on the ground if it was warm. Otherwise we would find a cricket stand or something. We used to sleep under the cricket mats. That was in Sofala. We went all over the western plains over the mountains, and checked it all out. We were always painting away. Gold in Sofala and Hill End. We'd also looked for gold, and we'd get gold with nail files, and when the river turned in the cracks we filled bottles full of gold, and th we had a punch up over the last tin of Camp Pie.
The gold would get scattered like high sierra, Humphrey Bogart situation. It was fun going up painting. We had real serious competitions about mixing colour. Brett, strange enough was better at matching any colour in Paddington and the Paddington house than I was.
I was more interested in the lineal thing at that stage. Painting actually came slowly to us. I like pastel, but painting I found... oil painting I found quite difficult. By the time I got to London I went into the interview, Italian acrylic paints and French paints, which I found a lot easier to handle, because I didn't have to go chiaroscuro.
I was anti any shine in the paint, because I didn't want nature reflected, or the world reflected in the paint. I wanted it pure, as it were. I'm losing my way here... for about 18 years I never painted in oil paint. I found it too difficult and I and I slowly evolved back to oil paint by working it up thin. Of course, now they're out of tube.
Paul McGillick: OK. You were in London between 1960 and 1967. Tell me a little bit about the significance of that period for you in London.
Michael: Well, the most important thing when I went to Europe I got a boat to Greece. The boat was going on to London. I got off at Greece and I went around the temples. I was so impressed that I let the boat go because I was so impressed with the frescoes that the crusaders had drawn grids on, and every inch had picked off.
But, I could still see the images of the dry PVC type egg tempera. I was so impressed with Greece; the Acropolis. Met an archaeologist lady. I was going to marry her. I never got the money to get back to her.
I enjoyed the frescoes of Greece, so I stayed. Then I got a job on a fishing boat. Some guy said 'Where do you come from?' I said 'You guess'. It turned out he knew my father used to go fishing at the spit in Mosman.
I went on the fishing boat. Retsina, garfish, tomatoes et cetera, ouzo, and small fish, mostly garfish. Then I took off on a boat across to Brindisi. I walked up through Italy across the Alps, through France, and then I got a boat to London.
Then Brett and Wendy Paramor and a few other friends, settled in a chateau in the south of France. The Lac St Jean way. So I got on a plane again, and went back over to... and did gouaches and watercolours with Brett in the hills around the town of the Lac, and I painted lakes. Mostly guaches and then back to London. In the meantime I was working at Robert Savage's framing shop, and he put me in charge of gold, and I really waxed the gold.
He wanted me to do... forge French Impressionists to put in the gold frames, and I wasn't that keen on that sort of thing. That was a good job, because I learned a lot. Fred Williams, previous to me, and the French guy that did the blue works, what's his name? Yves Klein. A whole history of others worked there, even Paul Partos Lots of Australians worked there, he liked Australians.
I enjoyed working there even though it was always late, he would get furious with me. It was a very Dickensian experience, but it was an art gallery underneath and frame-makers at the top. Most of the Australians worked in the gesso department, I worked in the finishing of the frames, like the gold leaf, etc., and staining them, and restoring.
Some lady came in one day with a brown pie bag and said, 'This is a Turner, could you fix it, Robert? Oh. Michael will fix that'. I shook the bag, and it was all just little chips. It took me 12 months to rearrange the jigsaw puzzle. It was the painting of the sky. No reference points hardly.
I slowly brought it together and I changed the colour. When I glued it all back on the canvas, I changed the tone of what I've touched up so the Turner was identifiable but the Johnson was anonymous, the negative, in other words.
Of course, I had other terrible jobs. Hudson Bay Fur Company. Then I got into cooking...Charing Cross, cooking, dishwashing, road sweeping, then finally Rollin Schlicht and Tony McGillick, they came in and said, 'You would be good for teaching, you know, the way you're working'.
At that point, I was renovating houses and painting cupboards and working for a builder to come in and pick me up in a truck and take me away to the job. Rollin and Tony said 'I know a guy who would probably get you a job, Barry Hirst'. I went around to all my other artist friends, and I said, 'What do you do, how do you teach?' They said, 'You'll be right, Michael'.
I wouldn't have a clue how to begin. So I went off to Croydon College, said 'Yeah.' They came to my studio, they liked my work, very severe, hard-edged sort of work at that stage. I got my first lesson. They said, 'You're going to teach colour theory and drawing. Then, eventually, you'll teach painting'.
I said, 'I don't want to teach painting. You can't teach painting. But I can teach drawing and I can teach colour theory'. So my first lesson at the art school, if this is relevant, I got them to get a compass and do a circle on a rectangular page, a half-imperial page. Then I said, 'Put it on the floor and get another imperial sheet, draw that circle in perspective on your page'.
They spent days doing it. 'Oh, make it brief'. A clock formation, like a cake, slice of cake, with pencil. I placed that around and said, 'Now, put that in a Ucello style too'. Then they struggled with that. Finally, the third day, I brought in a dozen eggs and I turned the eggs on their intersection of the circle, turned the eggs on an axis, like, you know, the waning and the waxing of the moon or something.
I said, 'OK, away you go. You can use tone now as well as line, not just an outline of the egg, you've got to use the tone, reflected light, the shadow, the form of the egg, and the turning axis'. And, uh, they're there for weeks. Finally I let them off the hook and I said, 'OK. Draw another circle and draw concentric circles within the circle and you're free to go. Put any colour you like, anywhere within the zones of the pathways. Then mix all the colours together and paint the background, or mix the colours you want on the background.
All the other art teachers looked around and said, 'What is he up to? An infinite variation on the same theme. What is he doing?' But the kids all enjoyed it. Then, eventually, I got the kids to get a bit looser and I let them put string in gallon drums of paint, black paint, and I got a model in and they had to weave the line on the page with one piece of string.
So a continuous line that ends up back on itself like lines do, like Mondrian, if you took a Mondrian line, horizontal, vertical line, kept going, it would go around the planet and come back again. It goes back on itself.
Anyway, then I went into the painting class. Again, post-graduate painting and almost every student, it must have been just something in the air that year, all became quite successful. I won't boast and mention names, but they were successful in some way or other. Not necessarily painting, maybe record designing, colour theory, but they all seemed to make it out of that.
It's a bit like my generation. There was Les Murray, there was Robert Hughes. It was amazing the amount of people of that era that came through the universities and the art schools that sort of made a career for themselves. Enough said about that...
Paul McGillick: What about the artistic influences? Because on one hand there is the traditional stuff in the national gallery...
Michael: Well, when we ran into the art gallery. The first thing we did, there was a show where Brett and I first go, and we started going, you go in every Tuesday, or Monday. They were closed on Mondays, it was Tuesdays.
We go around, and there was a show on of vanguard American art from New York. It was quite early on in the '60s. And we went along with that. Walking up the steps, we both recognized Roger Hilton. So we went over to him. We said, 'Roger, we both admire your work'. And we walked around the show with him, and we were really fascinated by Mark Toby and Sam Francis and all this, Clyfford Stills, it was just an incredible shock to us, the shock of the new for us guys, because we're in to old art.
And Roger didn't even look at the art. He was pointing out the fire hydrants, the ladder and the floor. I thought that's amazing, he is aware of everything. He is looking at the art, but he's not commenting on it. And he was looking at the contrasts in the environment.
Then we went down to the National Gallery. Rushed in there, that was the first place we went to. Brett pulled up to a halt at Van Gogh, and I just kept going. I found Pierro, the Baptism and the Nativity, and I just couldn't believe the circulation within his geometry, the air in his paintings.
I still go back to see, visit those ... pay homage to those paintings. I never see them the same again because I've changed and I read them differently. They've always been a source of inspiration, but the one that really struck me in those early days was Italian primitives when (Bernard) Berenson managed to get all these things into the galleries.
The one guy that really ... the two brothers that knocked me out were the Lorenzetti brothers. And what I liked of their work was that they combined urban with rural. I thought it was beautiful, the architecture with the lake or plowed field and so on. I still, to this day, like the simplicity of those two artists. Especially Ambrogio Laurencetti.
I wasn't tugged at Caravagio, but I always like Goya, El Greco, and at some stage in London I met Bacon and used to hang about with Bacon. Anyway, the invasion of American art conquered me because I was in Europe and all the American artists were displaced Europeans that went to America apart from Pollock and Clyfford Still. Scottish I think they were.
They were all born in...But not many, but largely, the first generation of abstractionists were dominantly European, and of course, the work really appealed to me, but also coming from America.
I was very strongly influenced by Leon Pollock Smith. Some of this work, after the American embassy show, came to the commercial galleries in London, and was an absolute eye-opener, especially the hard-edged period, the restrained colour of that particular early '60s American New York art really bowled me over.
I strayed away from that Royal Academy gun treating, but secretly, I still like Scottish painting and Irish painting, but I try not to be like my father, because my father, as an illustration, he painted the Royal Family, he painted Captain MacArthur, he wasn't allowed to go to go to war because he painted the generals that came through Sydney. He used to paint them with petrol so they dry quick...So they could send them to print. The paintings, believe it or not, still survived. He painted with petrol.
Paul McGillick: I remember unpacking your 1967 show at Central Street, let's call it hard-edged for want of a better term, when did you start working like that?
Michael: I was coming home from a labouring job and my wife put the baby out in the pram outside the house, she was sitting on the stoop, and the baby, Matthew, who has grown up now, kept pointing to the sky. To the horizon. When I saw the Clyfford Still, it was like an altarpiece. All happening up there, tubed up, knifed up, and I went home and I built a canvas exactly the same size. I had had it in my studio for two years and I didn't know what to do with it.
My son said, look daddy look daddy and kept pointing. I kept looking saying yes, a waning moon or waxing moon cut off by the horizon, enormous, it was summer time. And then he kept pointing and I said yeah, the moon. Then I saw the corona around the moon, and it was cerulean blue. I said ah, that chopped off the horizon. So I went in my studio and I ruled a line where the horizon was on the base of the painting which still exists in my paintings now.
Then I went up and I reached the top...Now hang on, how did I do it? I went from a straight line of the waxing of the moon up to the top. Then when I got to the top of the egg form of the moon, I came down smoothly, it was still the edge of the moon. Then I went ... I painted, gesso white of the ground which I left and the horizontal bar at the bottom with the moon sitting in the middle. I thought I might use cerulean or put some umber in the cerulean to make it more deeper, more mysterious.
This floated on a white ground. That was my solution to that canvas that I built, awkward Clyfford Still proportion, but it was ... it did have a sense of floatation of the moon. I left the bar, all the others said 'Cut the bottom off' I said 'No that's important'. That's where it's clipping the earth and it is emerging, not just rising up.
Paul McGillick: But the bars stayed in your work for quite a long time.
Michael: Oh the bars were born from living in places where you couldn't get a canvas through the door. So I started building bars in London so I could paint a colour and have it physically independent of the painting. I could walk around, and I was approaching it like, I was very preoccupied with sculpture and I was working for Anthony Carr and Brian Wall as a sculpture assistant.
I've always been a sculptor that paints, because of the problematic sculpture of trucks and everything. I liked the way I could carry a bar around and it became a zone, and I didn't have to paint up to the hard edge like my previous work. I liked the mobility of being able to carry colour around.
Also, I could dis-assemble and assemble it in a gallery and get it down the staircase from an attic and all the rest of it. It was a practical issue of not having to paint up to an edge or tape so I could just physically just put down the colour and work out proportions, contraction and expansion and so on.
Paul McGillick: So, from 1969 to 1975, you were in the United States. What were you doing in the States and what impact did that have upon you?
Michael: I picked up that there was lyrical abstraction taking place post Larry Poons, etc. I started using a spray gun here in Sydney, even though I was making three-dimensional paintings. I was also throwing down pinus radius planks. Instead of painting them I would throw them, flat, shallow paints around a big canvas the size of a room and I would spray gun, then I would take the planks away and put the planks under the canvas and spray again. So there was this sort of ambiguity thing.
There was one I did called Slow High, which the New South Wales ... was donated to the New South Wales gallery in the 60's, and I never told them that they always hang it upside-down, because I know where my feet were when I painted it. But it is so atmospheric you wouldn't know which way it went up, but there was my sneakers ... silhouette of my sneakers on the bottom.
When I got to New York, I had already exhausted the idea and there were too many people doing lyrical abstraction, but to my shock and horror, when I went around to the galleries every gallery had it. It's a bit like the video thing now, and the cameras, the photography. It was all slide shows, everything was slide shows from one end of Manhattan to the other. I wasn't getting into that one, so I went back to my three-dimensional things and slowly ...
I didn't have a lot of money so I didn't build the forms as much. I actually got rid of the rectangle all together and used the rectangle of the wall at Max Hutchison's (Gallery A), several shows I had there. I used that wall as the space frame for the paintings.
But my bars, there is evidence of that in them. Not in the book, but there is evidence around, and there were modules of varying proportions. One would be 12 feet by 12 inches, then nine feet by nine inches, and there would be a colour change. You see the first, bigger one, as a frontal. By the time they tapered it down, it started to look like steps, look like ...
I was interested in the English guy from France, (Roland) Penrose, who ... the impossible object. He used to make sculptures and paintings that you couldn't properly read, which was the hollow and which was the volume. I was interested in that ambiguous thing like Albers got into.
Paul McGillick: So you are living in New York all this time?
Michael: I lived there for seven years. In the meantime, I used to make a living in New York. I had to work, and I thought, oh, I've got to go back to damn advertising. But I'd burned all my specimens in freeway publication in 1961, when I thought I could buy a Rolls Royce. But I found it taxing and dishonest to be an illustrator. So I gave up illustration because my father was an illustrator and I wanted to be a serious artist.
And then when I got to America, I was offered a job doing semi-advertising. It was for doctors' journals. They would bring me a holograph, photographs, for an operation and I had to draw where the surgeon would go in.
It was mostly for medical journals. Exact thing, realist things. So the doctor could understand. Because a video or a holograph was all confusing and I had to do drawings, interpreted what they could do for the operation. Sometimes sex changes and breast changes and whatever. Facelifts, but that's all behind me.
Paul McGillick: You're an indefatigable traveller. Tell me, what kind of impact does that have on your work?
Michael: I've always been quite restless. When I became a teenager, there was less bush walking and birds egg collecting, fishing. When I started getting into galleries, I was fascinated to see things in the flesh. After my eh ... how can I put it ... I'm fascinated because when I was a boy, my father would bring home lonely American soldiers. This was when I was quite young. They'd bring for me, or for my brothers, genuine artefacts from New Guinea and that kind of thing because they had been through New Guinea bombing and whatever.
The tribal thing has always fascinated me because we're all tribal and they make art not for money, they make art because it is part of the ritual of their lives, and to enrich their lives; recall their ancestors etc. Primitive ... tribal art, not primitive, tribal art has always fascinated me and that's what's behind my traveling. You know, Italy feels very different to France. Scotland to Ireland etc.
So I've always liked to relocate myself to open up new avenues, thought processes. Getting back to inspiration, every day or night, I spot something. I think oh that's problematic, I must make a note of that and try to explain it in a painting.
And so when I travel, I always carry paper and some water colours and crayons and those paint drawers over there are filled with drawings that are drawn in planes or in hotel rooms. And fundamentally, I like being ... as the Chinese said years ago, if you don't know where you are going, go by a road you don't know before the discovery.
Every period of my work, where I back track or I am going forward, has come from spontaneous ink drawing where often I will sit down and discover my brushes and rice paper and ink and with a brush I will breathe out and make some marks. And I think I'm doing a sketch for a painting and then I completely ignore...it sort of like, puts my nerves at ease in order to start a painting, rather than go straight in.
And so everywhere I've ever been I've done drawings or calligraphy ... in the Arab language we call it Alif. Brush hits the surface blob, head, body and tails off when you take it away. De Koening's is at 75 miles an hour, we got some good time but an Alif, it is like head, body, tail, like insect like a bird, like human form, it is the dance of the brush.
And when you think about it, if it is a big drawing or a big painting, it starts with the finger tips and goes to the wrist, the elbow, the shoulder and then the spinal cord and then it becomes the dance and the respect of where you're standing and where ... on the earth and space around you.
What am I trying to say...? Anyway I often do black and white crayon. And sometimes I was in [inaudible] and I wasn't allowed to watch television because my daughter was busy writing I needed some ink drawings then 10 years, 12 years later, I cut cut, rectangularised them then and cut them into sections and I looked closely at them and analysed their geometry, and also was provoked by their association of forms. Seal, mollusc, there was always animals, or leaves, or forms in my work that sparked my energy to paint.
Like they say, the path of the moon, the path of the sun, the way the moon pulls the water up, drops it down. It's related to the fishing experience where you're blind, but you can feel everything at night. The way the sun illuminates on the horizon, and goes out.
I can just be sitting in a backyard somewhere and watching a leaf unfurl over a period of days, and I might look up at the sky, and I think, 'Oh, there are three pathways of wind at different latitudes. That's west, that's east, and whatever'. I can't believe the puce, the pink, the blue, the violets, the whites, you know, Naples. All that is fascinating, too.
Fundamentally, my work is about not being asleep. Being awake and aware of everything around me. It's abstract, but it's not representing those things. Those things spark the evolution of the paintings.
Paul McGillick: I always thought the seven large pastels you did, those really big pictures under glass, like a turning point. They became very gestural, and very spontaneous marks on the surface.
Michael: They're funny, I should mention (Eddie) Mabo, but when.. He came in the studio. I had pigment all over my feet. Pigment I had picked up in Queensland with a geologist in riverbeds, and scratching out grains you had never seen before, and so on.
But I used to ... there was a marble yard nearby, a timber yard, and all off-cuts. I brought in this Balmoral piece of marble, and I just sat the heavy weight on the paper. I went round with the colours of the marble with my feet, to occupy the ground. Then I lifted the marble off, and that was a blank negative which became a positive, of course. Ambiguous thing.
Fundamentally, I wanted to put something in the weight of the surface of the painting, to occupy the surface. I did it with my feet because it was on the ground. Then I would lift it off. I would have to fret and worry about what energy I could put in the negative zones, and that's how that came about, anyway.
Then, of course, I was doing a lot of sculpture, pulling off-cuts from timber yards out into the bush in Queensland. I was at the university up there, and I assembled them across the various national parks, because I didn't like the idea of them shredding or wood-chipping the off-cuts. They're the nicest parts of the tree, like the trim and the bark.
I'm wandering around too much. Going back to the earthiness of nature. There were a lot of the Kooris having lunch, and they weren't their eating sandwiches. They said oh, they're too sweet, with the white bread and everything. So I took them all back to my loft when I was living over in Forest Lodge, no I was at North Sydney, and I sprang through the door and said set the table with the pink porcelain, whatever, and a table cloth.
I drove all the Kooris home in my Land Rover and said what do you want? There's a [inaudible], the hip of a beast or something. Then we walked into the house, I went straight to the fire and sat down, I was burning some logs from the bush, they didn't want to sit at the table. So I cooked and we talked about their childhood and their life and the tribe and such.
David Malangi and his wife Mary Ginja, I said what are you doing Mary? She said 'I'm in charge of possums because I'm the tallest. I've got a pole and bring the possums down'. I said 'Totems, what about totems David?' David Malangi was the guy who did the dollar bill which is no longer in existence. His painting was on the dollar bill. David said 'You ... you ... your totem cormorant. I said why am I cormorant? You know, that black bird, that snakebird.
He said you are cormorant because you like swimming under water and have a voracious appetite for fish. You're a cormorant. I go back to, you know, you've sort of got to go back in history to track up the tributaries, to get back into the river and out to the ocean and the sky and everything. But it's about coming and going I suppose. You're always searching for weightlessness or weight.
You can imagine a painting but the process of making a painting is really tricky until you can step out of that painting and be an audience too. But it's so engaging that you can't detach in the actual process, it's part of ... it's not like giving birth, but it's like being in the water when eventually you have to get out of the water. Or you drown.
Paul McGillick: For a long time now, I think your work has shown a very close connection with the natural world. For example, it seems to me it's very much about water and where water meets the land. Can you talk to me a little bit about that?
Michael: A student once said to me when I was teaching at the National Art...Alexander Mackie...he lives in New York, this guy, and he always had his dog with him. He said, 'You're teaching drawing, Michael. How to account with a pencil, this clear water, the edge on the sand?'
Well, it was transparent. I said, 'It's transparent, right, and the only way you can reveal that is by texture, opaque and transparent'. And I said, 'But it's a really good question. It's very tricky because the edge of the line is invisible'. That's what we're always trying to do, make things visible that are invisible or vice versa, if it's too visible, you're going to make it invisible.
Paul McGillick: The pictures also on the one hand are drawings, and on the other hand are paintings.
Michael: The great thing about drawing, take Matisse, for instance. It's not the ink or the charcoal that's impressive. It's the way he celebrates the energy of the page itself, in its divisions. Some of my paintings get a bit like building a jar.
I believe that there is a spider that can make a six-foot-wide web, but there are about five layers. There is a sticky layer, the structure layer, there is the web. It's a bit like spinning a web. You sort of let yourself go, and you're swinging in the air. Is there a connection or do you climb the tree again?
That fractional grid formation thing, you do need some geometry to hold on to. But you can't depend on pattern and geometry. Because it's semi-invisible, the secret code of Golden Means, et cetera. You can't depend on the structure but sometimes...I always have a super-preoccupation with the structure.
Before, I went along the way. I try to obliterate it, but sometimes I get habitual, like everybody does. It's like trying to cook the same dish twice. It's easier to reinvent, make a different dish do. You don't want the same curry every day, do you?
Paul McGillick: The other thing is, like the pictures are both drawings and paintings, but also on the one hand, you're looking down on something, on the other hand you're also looking across to the horizon lines, and so on. So they're multidimensional in that regard.
Michael: I've always thought it is not. Like Kooris it's on the ground, and it's finger in the dirt, and it's got nothing to do with tracks or place. Where I was brought up, and I think of the painting like an altarpiece. It's north, south, east, west. There is a sense of gravity. There is a weightlessness. And I like to come up and drop down a painting.
I don't think of them as aerial views at all. I don't think of them as looking through the trees to the mountain. I think of them as a fluctuation space that honours the surface of the canvas. The one that's sitting behind you is called deep space, and that's an attempt to dissolve the tension of the surface.
Then, it's braced by the bars. A lot of people don't like my bars, but I tell them if they count the bar, that is how many paintings they get cause they can be combined. The bar works independently of the neighbours, but it has to fit in there somehow. Like a person sitting in a car, doesn't get out unless you get in the car.
Paul McGillick: All right, we might stop there, because I think we have heaps of material, unless there is something we haven't really covered. But then, I guess we've gone further...
Interviewer: Dr. Paul McGillick
Camera, lighting & sound: Cameron Glendinning
Video editing: Dr. Bob Jansen
Technical & asssembly: Dr. Bob Jansen