Geoff kindly welcomed me to his home and studio in Tempe.
Rather than jumping into the interview straight away, we started by looking at some of the many works he has displayed around the house.
Geoff spreads the ‘fire painting’s on the floor in front of us.
These are small (A4) works painted on paper.
AP: is this in response to the summer bush fires?
Yes it is…. In fact it is a funny thing to say but these coincide with the fact that Tanya and I have a much bigger TV… at the time we bought the TV, the bush fires were raging.
I am used to a much smaller television and these appeared to me so much more dramatic! The images were so dramatic that I just sat there and just shot, shot, shot at the TV screen. Then I got a lot of them printed and I started working.
I think that one was the first one I did… and I just grew the idea.
Then I had to stop because of other things I had to do…prepare for Botany Bay [Rockdale sculpture are prize], Robin’s show, some commissions, and the drawing prize down at Ballarat.
… there is always these things that interrupt your flow. But I will get back to it. It won’t be in this coming show but it might be the next stage.
AP: what amazes me about fires in general is how people tend to minimise possible risks, thinking they can most likely fight it but then when it comes, it is immensely violent. Same goes with water and floods…
That’s right. I was up in Lismore at the same time they had the floods in Brisbane. I was living next to the river in a house on stilts and everything around me was getting flooded. And I knew for a fact that the house that was opposite had been washed away in a big flood a while before, because the flood was so big.
When such a flood comes, you have to open your doors and sometimes the windows and let it go through. But these people closed and sealed their house off. So the water lifted it off the plinths and took it away.
I was bit panicked because I am not used to natural disasters and I was there on my own and the water just kept coming and coming…
So when I was watching the fire I fully understood the strength and intensity of it, even though it was a totally different thing. I knew the fear of that intensity.
The thing is that you don’t get the noise on TV. The noise in a bush fire is terrifying.
AP: are you saying that you witnessed a bush fire as a child?
The only holiday our parents and us ever went on (because my parents didn’t have that much money) they took us to the country for a week and there was a bush fire. I really remember it very distinctly!
That was perfectly OK because it didn’t come anywhere near where we were, it was opposite the creek where we were staying, but I remember watching these massive big flames coming through the trees and thinking how amazing that was.
…..so that is my most recent body of landscapes….
[Geoff goes in a separate room and comes back with a number of small photo albums containing a very large number of photos of works painted over the years]
[Flicking through the albums and commenting]
…These are small works I do, on little canvas boards.
When I go to my brother’s place, he lives near Byron Bay, I stay in Lismore, which I really like.
When I return, I paint a whole lot of these canvases from memory of what I have seen. I do some when I am up there as well.
I go a couple of times a year.
That’s my only travelling really…
I don’t go many places and I don’t go specifically to do landscape paintings. But since I am there and I see all this landscape around me and I get locked into it.
I painted a series of these, driving through the landscape when the fog is lifting, it’s beautiful and the winter up there is quite stunning. I keep marvelling over it and my brother who live there just looks and goes “ah well, that happens all the time!….”
AP: your paint application changes a lot from a series of works to another.
Yes, it changes all the time.
Then I did a whole series on the container ships. When I was at university in Newcastle, these ships were on the harbour all the time. Surrounded by industry afloat, it is quite beautiful. I actually painted most of it many years after I worked there but I had
kept these images of the container ship in my mind.
And it keeps recurring in some of my seascapes, I reinvent it.
AP: what is it, in the container ship, that interests you, that triggers that interest?
Well…. Probably the industry afloat…. I haven’t really thought about it a great deal but I like the shape of it to begin with, it’s a massive big thing.
But also… being familiar with it… I’ve lived in Woolloomooloo for 10 years of my life, when they used to have the container ships and the big ships in the harbour.
I had a view into the harbour, so I think that constantly seeing these massive big ships being moved by tugboat leaves images with you.
AP: [now looking at a painting of a figure rowing in a small row-boat] I really like that one, it is almost abstract.
Yes, and that was what I liked about it. I saw a figure rowing that time I was by the bay and I thought it would make a nice little painting.. then I run with the idea and painted several…which I often do.
One of the things I used to do a lot: I was a winter swimmer. I used to go and swim in the ocean in winter when I lived in Flinders street and I did it for years and years and I really liked that isolation.
I liked that while it was so busy in the city, you know, living in Darlinghurst, with traffic everywhere, I’d go down to the ocean and swim; I would be completely out there on my own, except for the few brave souls that were also venturing into the winter.
I liked that isolation.
So part of that is playing with isolation really… you get in a boat, you go on the harbour and you are out there, on your own….it’s a fantastic place to be.
Water imagery keeps recurring in my work.
Occasionally I paint without any preconceived plan or idea, and often the works that come out of this are the freshest.
In this one I was trying to break out of my colour set, to go somewhere else and to be bolder and flatter with the colours. It was a conscious effect to flatten them out like a Matisse, almost. Yes they were really a conscious effort and I did quite a few more to push my boundaries.
WHAT PROJECT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT PRESENT?
The project that I just finished was the Botany Bay Flock, that series of birds that I made specifically for Botany Bay [note: Rockdale open air sculpture prize]. Having been in the prize two times before I realised that the landscape was quite beautiful and that I’d like to do something that was integrated into the landscape, and more specific to that region.
I also like working with birds, having done all the “Oar birds” at Sculpture by the sea.
About three years ago I made twenty of those and installed them there. In fact it took me a while to find 20 good oars!
I installed them behind in the Canna lilies and in the three weeks they were there all the flowers came out and it was perfect for the birds.
The Botany Flock was a kind of extension of that.
I work relatively realistically…. you certainly cannot confuse what bird they are and I enjoy that challenge of trying to get the dimensions and the quality of a certain bird. But that happens after a long experimental period: I played with all the abstract concepts of the Oars, stacking them as elements, abstract suggested elements, which was a great mind play and very enjoyable but then I came back to what I like to do and the birds eventuated.
I relate things back a lot to my family and my childhood, my father and his bird, keeping the aviaries…My dad had such an interest in birds….he kept birds when I was young.
AP: were you helping to raise them?
Yes, he used to bring in a nest box and show me the little budgies and the canaries when they were being born. We had a bird sanctuary at Centennial Park, near were we lived. And dad used to take the seed of his birds and put them in a bag and every now and then would go down and spread them out for the birds in the bird sanctuary. He was a very caring man.
AP: was he raising them to sell?
No….that was his hobby. He would give them to people for pets…..but I think half the pleasure was to make the aviary and nurture them.…. that is part of my inspiration for the birds.
These were made specifically to go into the landscape [at Botany] and for me to be able to photograph them in the landscape. I did get a couple of great shots of a wind surfer, and plane taking off in-between the birds.. I spent a couple of days down there taking some good imagery.
AP: And now you are preparing for the coming show at Robin Gibson? Will it be sculptures as well?
It’s mainly sculptures, these paintings [showing some seascapes on the wall] and anything I can relate to the wood and the found object and the landscape. I do like to include paintings in it.
I can only choose paintings that relate to the particular sculptures. I have some paintings done on wooden panels and this raw wood framing and things like that will work relatively well with the sculptures. My portraits paintings wouldn’t works, like two artists showing at the same time in the gallery, I have to be consistent and be conscious I don’t contradict myself.
….although I do it all the time!!!
……Constantly in fact…. work on two things completely opposite. It’s just the way I’ve always been!
AP: it keeps you balanced?
Yeah, it balances me….
AP: well it’s a great transition!…
Do you use photographic material?
Photographic material is a large proportion of what I do: I have been trained as a photographer, and that’s what I did as a young man. I love the camera, I love photographing.
For instance, I photograph the sky almost every night! It’s unbelievable…..
When I see the sky turning red, around at the back, I stand on the shed and I take photos of it. And I run down the street, and I run over there, and I run down the highway, and I go out specifically to take photographs along the railway line ….
I’m constantly photographing things all the time….that is me, being in the landscape and being aware of the changes: I like that afternoon light, the early morning light, everything about that excite me.
The trouble is that I over stimulate myself and I have too many things to work on, and then I try to do several things at once!
It’s partly a manic behaviour but I can manage to do a few of them…
I do go many places, as opposed to just being genuinely a landscape painter. I really admire people who believe that is their passion and keep working at it. I work with the landscape in my work and different elements all the time but it is not dominating everything that I do.
AP: you are not representing only the landscape, but the landscape underlines everything that you do, from sculpture to painting?
Even the found objects: they come from the landscape. They are weathered. I like the fact that they have a history, that talks about where they have been, what happened to them, particularly when I use particular raw materials like drift wood which I used to collect a lot of down at Botany Bay.
So Yes, it is underlying, but without being dominant. I can use it in many different ways.
AP: But you don’t particularly copy the photo?
No I use it as a starting point.
When I was photo realist, all those years ago, I used to paint a bit like Kevin [McKay, painter and friend of Geoff] and get the accuracy.
I used to rely on the photograph as a reference to some extent. I wanted that, I wanted to nail that discipline. It wasn’t really ‘me’ but for some reason I felt I needed that level of training. It has been beneficial because now I can mix any colour and I know what it will do.
There were years when I looked at those paintings and I felt horrified that I did it and how careful they were. Now I accept them. I rejoice in them. You know, I was a much disciplined young man!
At the age of 23, I was spending hours painting these pictures so carefully, when everybody else was out there being drunk and falling over !!!.. [laughs]
AP: it was like a musician doing the scales…
Exactly. That was my scales! And I am thankful that I did do it.
AP: What is you medium of choice (if any) and how does it influence your work?
I use acrylic mostly.
The terrible thing is, having been a printmaker and teaching printmaking for so long, I have become really allergic to turps and that makes me very ill! Even acrylic tends to make me sick. So I have to be very careful to work with windows open and ventilation.
I would love to work with oils…. Sometimes when I am with Tanya in a gallery, I look at paintings and I say “look at that surface! I can’t get that [with acrylics]”. That kind of saddens me that you can do this lush beautiful things with oil and make it do what you want to do, and if you try with acrylics it disappears, you have to reapply and really have to work to bring it to the same kind of surface.
A few years ago I did a series with bitumen once, I just loved the material but I got so “tox-ed” out by it that my feelings became almost psychotic and I had to stop.
Recently a friend of mine came and I had them stacked in the studio and he said “they are unbelievable!”
And I go: “ yeaaahhh, I know what you mean……sigh… I know! !!! But I can’t go there!!!!
So yes, I would love the pleasure to work with oils again.
Oh yes! All the time, absolutely!
Once upon a time [at art school], many years ago, we had a teacher called Kevin Connor. He was a prolific drawer and one of the things he instilled in us was the fact that you can draw anywhere.
And you can!
So I used to carry art books around and draw on trains, when I was teaching at the University of Western Sydney. I suppose I should have read but I found it much more interesting drawing and as a consequence my drawing became better.
I have different styles of loose ways of drawing; I have a Reg Mombassa cartoony style of drawing, and a very refined realist way of drawing as well.
Drawing is immediate and I do it all the time: I sit and watch TV and draw…
Turning 60 for my birthday, I did ten self-portraits recently while watching TV, because it is so natural. I do not think of them as works to be exhibited, but I do it because it’s enjoyable.
AP: do you do in preparation for a painting?
Usually I go straight into the painting. I am a very immediate kind of person and very immediate at knocking things out as well! If a painting doesn’t look right I have no qualms about washing it out straight away. I destroy as many as I paint, because I know the absolute gems or the almost gems and the ‘no-good’ones.
Figures come into my pictures, yes, not so much recently but they certainly do.
I was talking about the swimming series earlier: I used to have winter swims every day at Clovelly Beach and really enjoying it.
Then I found the isolated swimmer at the beach…So the water, the horizon and the skull cap, ready for the swim, became very strong and potent image for me. It was a play between the figure and the landscape there.
So yes, figures come and go.
AP: is it important at times from a shape / composition perspective only or has it another meaning?
….mmmh, it is somewhat symbolic.
Shape, of course, but you know if you have a figure you can use a metaphor for what it means. Every picture has a different feeling to it and I use figure when I need to. I feel confident painting figures; I have spent a lot of time generating a style of figures that I like using.
WERE YOU ALWAYS A LANDSCAPE PAINTER OR HAS YOUR PRACTICE EVOLVED TO COME TO IT AS A CENTRAL ELEMENT?
Interestingly, my early works were about the urban environment where I grew up and went to school.
I grew up in Paddington so, it was working class area, definitely not the wealthy area that it is now.
Kids were playing in the back lanes, there were a lot of old factories, and it was fantastic, as a kid, to play in. Then I basically lived in the inner city all my life, In Darlinghurst. Now is the furthest afar that I have ever been [Geoff lives and work in Marrickville].
So when I started painting, they were all urban landscape: I used to paint Redfern at night (I lived there for a while and Kings Cross (I lived there years). I used to paint at night, looking across the harbour bridge, Woolloomooloo, looking up to the bay and the container ships.
And then my brother moved to the country and when he did, I started travelling up to see him. And that was totally foreign to me, I had no real experience of the country before.
So I know mostly the Northern rivers, Byron Bay and Lismore territory.
AP: so, what was your emotional response, at the time, being out back after knowing mostly the city?
The first time I went to the country I couldn’t cope with it! I was so urban, so….Darlinghurst, that I didn’t know what to make of it. [laughs]….it did freaked me out a bit. Then I got used to it.
I really like it now; I actually like it really a lot.
But it’s hardly isolated country, you know, Lismore is cosmopolitan: it’s got an art school, a music school, it’s got a lot of hippies and things too…it’s a good place.
But I don’t think I could live way out in the country isolated or anything like that. And when I am there I don’t often paint ‘plein air’, I mostly paint from the studio. It really does inspire me though, I take thousands of photographs and I always come back and do a lot of paintings
Anywhere I go, I come back and do some paintings from, for the first few months. I work from all the images that I’ve seen.
COULD YOU TAKE ME BACK TO YOUR EARLY YEARS AND WHAT INFLUENCED YOU TO BECOME AN ARTIST?
AP: Where were you born?
I was born here, my parents were Australians and my father grew up in Bondi. He had a real passion for Bondi and used to swim. I think my own passion for swimming comes from that. He was a really strong swimmer too! He used to swim across Bondi as exercise as a young man.
And my mother grew up in the country, around Gosford.
My childhood was mostly Paddington, and I didn’t have any exposure to the country at all!
AP: Were your parents interested in the arts?
My parents weren’t but my mother encouraged me to do everything and my dad was quite clever making things. He was a bush carpenter: in the backyard he made things for the house. My mother was very accepting of me having an artistic flair.
My brother was a photographer, a few years older than me and he was always taking photographs, then processing the films in the bathroom at night and printing them. We had a little dark room at home.
So I had all his images around me and I was fascinated when he projected slides on the wall for a slide at home, seeing the crystal clearness of these beautiful photographs use to send me in raptures of “that’s beautiful”….
So I picked up a camera pretty quickly. He showed me and pointed me in the right direction: “this is a good composition”, or “this is good light” or “get down low”…”get up high”… he gave me a visual training without me understanding it…. so every time I did a project at school I did it visually. Even though it was a history project or an English project, or even write an essay, I would go out and photograph things and put together images.
The teachers would find it amazing because they were not teaching art there, and send me to the head master who would also pat me in the back….all that was very encouraging!
And that’s great that they did, you know, it’s really fantastic that they were sensitive to the fact that I was doing these things.
I used to set things up in my bedroom and my brother would photograph them. I’d dress in period costumes for an essay about a certain period, and I would print them and include them in my essay. I really did things in the way I really wanted to do them.
In the same way, the best students I’ve had in years of teaching have always been the one who were self-directed, worked out what they wanted to do and found ways to make it happen.
I was lucky that my parents responded to it and encouraged it.
AP: and then you went to art school…
Yes, but I must admit I left school early, although my academic background was pretty good and I could have gone to university. But I left. I felt I just …….needed to leave……
I worked in a lot of industries that were considered to be visual: I worked as a photographer for a newspaper, I worked in an architect office as a draftsman, I worked in a printing firm as a silk screen printer, I worked for a graphic designer for a while…realising that none of them were satisfying enough for my creative spirit.
So at the age of 20 I re-enrolled into art school, but I had already had four years of real world’s experiences. I went to art school I really knew that was what I needed. ….so I didn’t stop.
I think I really needed that worldly experience of doing all these different jobs to really appreciate what a great thing art school is, and the fantastic career you can create for yourself if you have an imagination.
AP: what was your major?
I majored in painting. We only had the choice between painting and sculpture. And at the time they had only those ‘hard core’ steel sculptors that made these geometric abstract works which I appreciate and completely understand but it is certainly not me, you know.
So I geared towards painting and thought I’ll teach myself sculpture if I needed it.
And oddly enough I ended up in printmaking, using my photographic skills; I became photo silk screen printer. I was very organised and tidy and did massive editions and all sorts of things.
Then, I realised my potential had run out for that area so I kept growing my practice.
I like to think about the art practice, how you can make it as big and as expansive as you want it to be. Or you can just follow what you need to…
if I need to become a steel sculptor, weld, then I’ll teach myself that and I’ll do it. I like that idea because it is inexhaustible.
HAVE YOU TRAVELED & USED OVERSEAS LANDSCAPE AS A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION? How did this influence the work?
Not very often, but I have. I haven’t used anything from Europe but when I came back from Indonesia several years ago, I was very impressed by the lotus flowers, large and big. So when I came back I produced many works in that series. I think it went on for two shows, of just lotus flowers coming to the surface.
I have been mostly to ‘ocean’ countries… Vietnam, and Cambodia, and came back with so many photographs of landscape and the people. So I did a series of works based on that as well. And then Indian imagery, from India, has filtered into my work.
…..but it only seems to last for a certain period of time….it doesn’t seem to be major….
AP: is it a way for you to extend the experience, to re-process it, to….’close’ it?
Yes. I think I do close it that way. I think such travelling experience is often amazing, ‘impressing’, and you LIVE it.
Then you come back to the studio and you are firing, your “engines” are going and you process a series of works, but it get fainter and fainter and a distant memory….and then the things around you that you live with and stimulate you all the time filter back into your work.
DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL CONNECTION TO THE AUSTRALIAN LANDSCAPE?
Yes I think mostly I’ve been an Australian artist.
One of my friends came back from New York and he said “Everything about your work is so Australian”. He didn’t mean that as derogatory comment, adding that it would be very fresh in an environment like New York! “There is a bit of naivety in your work, but it is your special naivety”
The imagery that I use is predominantly what I know. .. I am not that adventurous, I don’t do “artist in residence” and don’t travel that much and I certainly have been offered things and could have…but I don’t….I seem to feel that I generate enough interest in the things and environment that I live in and things I do for myself.
AP: would you say that you feel some sort of jubilation in doing the things that really please you, and be just yourself doing it?
Yep…embracing myself! I think that is totally true. I think I really agree with you.
When you are younger you kind of want to fit into the international art scene and you keep an eye on what’s going on and you watch trends… but I have seen so many trends come and go and it can be exhausting to keep up.
I think I am now mature enough to not feel threatened or even competitive with anything that is outside of me. It is a good thing. I just do what I want to do.
And I am really lucky that there are a number of clients and people who have followed my work, invested in it and collected it. It inspires me to keep making work. It is a really beautiful thing…they are the custodians of all these things that I have made with joy and pleasure and real emotions. And they are looking after them for me.
AP: So, where do the dogs, cats and birds fit in…because you do not own a pet?
No, that’s right.
Well, we had a cat but sadly she died the Christmas time…she was 16yrs old and the cat I had before that was 22yrs old. So I did have cats. … I also have doves that come and land on the roof and I feed them every day. Having a dog is difficult because you need to take them for walks every day and give them a lot of time.
I have a lifestyle where I am busy a lot of the time and I feel the dog would be neglected. So I choose not to have one so I don’t feel guilty that I can’t take it out for walk. I always say that when I fully retire and move to the country, if I do…I would get a dog.
So these are all my surrogate animals and pets for me [pointing at the sculptures in the room]
When I grew up, I had dogs and cats and rabbits and chooks and tortoises and white mice, then dad had the aviaries and we had so many animals…
But first we lived in a flat. So they wouldn’t let me have a dog. That was the one thing I couldn’t have until we moved into a house, from when I was about 13.
The lease said we could have a dog! So I got one straight away..
AP: So, they’ve been part of you since then..
Yes, and I still love animals. I find myself looking at them all the time…whenever I go to the markets, there are people walking with dogs …I see the dogs before I see people….
I distinctly remember being a child, being about 13 or 14 and picking my dog up and feeling the weight in its chest. I remember feeling it. And I remember thinking “there is ‘volume’ there”.
Now, I wouldn’t have used words like that but I can really remember the feeling.
When cats get picked up they soften, but dogs ‘harden up’. .. And I remember so well the feeling and subconsciously working out the scale and the shape, the volume….without knowing.
And I think I do get the body language of them pretty much right.
AP: yes it seems you have an intrinsic knowledge of their body volume!
It came from holding animals.
WHAT ARE YOUR INFLUENCES (other artists) and why?
There are a lot….a lot….
When you are an art student you just devour everything you can see. That’s the thing I love about being an artist, there are always people out there making interesting stuff that you can attach yourself to and then leave it…
When I was in art school I liked Brett Whiteley. At the time I could identify with that. And then I moved on to people like David Hockney who I liked a lot… there was a form of ‘English pop art’ sensibility that was not in the American pop art. I loved Robert Rauschenberg, the fact he could pick up anything from the street and nail it together and put together these amazing assemblages, play with materials and screen printing. But then at the same time I liked Syd Nolan, fantastic landscape painter with a figure in the landscape…. There are so many artists that I like. But out of contemporary people, I really like Euan McLeod…..
There are so many people who I knew when I was at art school with and that have continued to make art…Reg Mombassa is an old friend and he is an amazing man.
AP: yes, I have only recently realised the width and breadth of his work… I knew mostly his pencils works and then I saw some of his gouaches that are just beautiful, so sensitive!
Yes he is a wonderful landscapist too. He was at art school one year ahead of me and he had his first show at Franck Watters. And I remember looking at it and thinking there is something magical about these pictures: there are landscapes from the mind, you know, as the landscape doesn’t have to be what you see but what your ‘mental state’ sees.
AP: yes, thinking back about what you said earlier about your paintings of “Rowing person in a boat” as a metaphor for the feeling of isolation: the artist often represent his or her place in the landscape…. By painting it, you reflect on your place of this earth. Whether it is a natural landscape or industrial, you reflect on that relationship you have with your environment.
Yes it is your reflection of it. You absorb it and it comes out again.
WHAT WILL BE YOUR NEXT PROJECT?
Oooohhh…. that’s a hard one!
Well I have been doing all these portraits recently….I would like to do a portrait for the Archibald….
I have been working with a guy called Ian Burns who just got the show on at the gallery Tanya is working at. He is a very interesting man.
He is completely the opposite to me in the medium that he works in: he works with electronics, music, lights and installation that move and light up, there are trillions of wires everywhere to get the electronics and programs of the computers running. He needed an assistant so I’ve helped him and have been introduced to his work: Well, he is as manic as I am!
The same personality… He has different passions but his personality, in a strange way, is very similar to mine. So I really enjoyed that experience, working with somebody that is insane as much as I am! I think that we are both driven.
So I think I might do a portrait of him.
…That’s a project that I may or may not do, depending on the time….
Then I have the show at Robin Gibson to get ready also, and there is a lot to do.
I have actually learnt to enjoy all of it: I don’t mind getting the show ready. I used to think I should focus on the making part of the art but now I see it as part of the process and I enjoy it.
And I have a lot of other projects going, including the “Fire wall” [pointing to all the paintings scattered on the floor and inspired by the recent bush fires]. I am not sure where that is leading but at some point of time I want to do a whole wall of fire paintings so that the inferno is felt. These are all small images at present and I am not sure of how big I need to make them but I want to get the intensity and glow of these ones.
So you kind of have, as an artist, many projects in the back of your mind or in the process of being started, but you are waiting for the time, and the catalyst, the right moment to leap into it….and then you leap out of it sometimes as quickly, at least that is what I do.
Sometimes I bring a painting out from…. say… ten years ago and try to comprehend “how do I arrive at this?” because it was the result of a process and a certain point in time and you can’t decipher fully what it was about. With a painting, you kind of live in the moment, with it, you live on the passion of the moment and work it through and you can’t re-ignite that passion somehow.
Yes, that’s what it’s about. You actually feel ‘Passion’ for the things that you make when you are making them, you actually live that emotion, that passion.
AP: yes, and that is what I am trying to investigate with these conversations with you and other landscape artists: what sparks that passion? Why did this passion attach itself to the land?
From my own history I know it came from images and impressions of my childhood. ..
Yes, absolutely. It is that impressionable image that I was talking about. Once it’s landed there [Geoff is pointing to his head] you’ve got it. It meant something to you that was very impressionable.
I have heard about the time of being an adolescent and how experiences are very heightened when you are of that age. For me, luckily having my brother being visual and photographic at the time, a lot of images of that adolescence period really meant so much more to me, and set me on a path.
AP: I suppose that also gave you a good habit in recording your works, like many photographers do.
Oh yes, I have everything on record. I even take photographs of the classes that I’ve taught and the works they’ve done.
There are many sides to me but one of them is actually ‘recording’. I like to keep records and I am very organised. I have a filing cabinet with all the shows I’ve been in, and all the works in them. In the old days when we had only photography on paper I’d print them and file them neatly in. I pride myself on how well I keep my archives. And I like to look at them, I like to look at something I did thirty years ago, I can remember what my head was at.
IN CONCLUSION WHY THE LANDSCAPE?
Why the landscape….
…because I live in it. It is me, it is what is around me and like you were saying earlier about these impressions of the landscape around Normandy, when you were a child, the impressions of the landscape have their effect on me. They are….what I see.
Even yesterday on the bus, going to the city: I saw that building in King street that I’ve always admired and I’ve taken hundreds of photographs of it, the light was perfect and I thought: “this is the day, and this is the time, this is when I get back to it, this is what I find perfect”. And then that will just go into a file, and I won’t probably do anything about it until the time is right and then I’ll do something with it. But I know that I’ve caught what I’ve seen in my imagination and what I want from it.
….It’s why I rush out every afternoon to take photographs of the sunset…. I’ve seen millions of sunsets and I still run down the lane, I run on the highway, I run down the street, I get in the car and I drive places specifically to get light. It’s what I do.
I just stock pile, they are on file. I know that they are there; I revisit them all the time and know that one day I’ll use that.
I leave photos out to remind me that I actually want to do something with it…then I might start it (and have to stop something else), but it’s because it is all around me and continuously stimulates me.
I continuously see things…like “that is unbelievable! I’ve got to do something with that!” and when it does that to you…you are compelled by it, really….
And it’s inexhaustible.
Geoff Harvey has been a practicing artist for over forty years.
His practice moves across the disciplines of painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, collage, assemblage & sculpture. He has exhibited widely in Australia including fifty solo shows.
His work is held in the collection of the Australian National Gallery, State and Regional institutions, corporate & private collections. He has been the recipient of many awards including the Blake Prize & the Gallipoli Art prize and is a regular exhibitor in Sydney’s
Sculpture by the Sea.
For the past 35 years he has taught in many Sydney art schools & Universities and regularly conducts art workshops for institutions including the MCA & AGNSW.
He tries not to take himself too seriously.
For more about Geoff’s process and artworks: