Alex Maciver: Art with a Social Conscience
~ Michelle Saleeba
Deep thinking and reflective with a strong social conscience, and a roguish sense of humour, artist Alex Maciver's years of hard work and authentic engagement with subject matter are really paying off. Split tone backgrounds, and incorporating both representational and non-objective elements in oil, acrylic and spray paint give a distinctive signature to Alex's current work.
Alex has a number of high profile exhibitions coming up throughout 2019, including Over the Hill on until March 3rd at Buratti Galleries.
MS: Why art?
AM: As a teenager, I began going to Life Drawing classes at the evenings and the weekend instead of hanging around the streets. From there I took a further interest in what artists were doing, saying and most importantly why they were doing so. I became intrigued how Art could be a vehicle to provide a voice for those that are not privileged enough to be given one.
MS: Have there been any formative experiences, or lessons along the way that have impacted on your art making?
AM: I once had a Professor at Dundee University tell me that ‘A Celebration is worth so much more once you have achieved something’. It was a direct comment to my hard partying days, but has continued to motivate me and my developing practice.
MS: What is the inspiration behind your current body of work?
AM: At present, my paintings are focused on challenging preconceptions on social and sexual identities and the way that these kind of structures affect or manipulate the interactions of people and the way we reveal ourselves to the world.
I guess this inspiration came from experiences I have encountered along my travels, current politics, observations of social media and how we interact with each other.
MS: Tell us about your choice of medium?
AM: I firstly develop mixed media collage works that re-examine the various functions of the photographic image: as documentation of truth, purveyor of memory, and symbol of modern society. Each collage is specifically compiled of found images from celebrity magazines, websites, idyllic Scottish landscape photographs, where the placement of found imagery form an abstract assemblage and create a space of contradictions. There is an apparent layering of text and images that represent many complexities that are often not considered in the final interpretation or may even be overlooked.
MS: What does a typical day of creative work look like for you?
AM: Every day I am working on constructing a conceptual resolution or even a direction to take a new series of artwork based on the materials available to me. However, I mostly enjoy studio time where I listen to music or the radio whilst flicking through Frieze magazine to see what is happening out there in the arts. The physical act of painting or creating comes round at particular moments but is always the culmination of a lot of preparation.
MS: Who or what are the strongest influences on your art?
AM: At present I am really enjoy the work of Anke Weyer, based in New York, where she has the most incredible approach to painting and the most amazing titles for her paintings. I however love and am inspired by many movements and individual artists like Peter Doig, Wilhelm Sasnal, Luc Tuymans, Jimmie Durham and Isa Genzken to name a few.
MS: What do you aim to say through your art?
AM: Through painting, collage, film and installation, I often use humour to challenge preconceived notions and their impact on thinking and behaviour. I keep returning to focus on developing series of artworks that question societal attitudes towards work ethic, privilege and social class. In exploring cultural identifiers in fashion and developing trends, my ongoing research is focused on questioning the stereotyping of individuals and how it affects decision making along with identifying the signifiers of class.
MS: What’s essential to you being able to produce art?
AM: As I am not of a wealthy disposition or have unlimited resources to support my ambitions, access to materials and a place to make art are what is most essential. I have to work with the materials that are available and therefore sourcing materials is the most time consuming part of my artistic practice.
MS: What role do you see artist’s having in society?
AM: The role of inducing lateral thinking, not being confined by restrictions and offering an alternate perspective to the conversation on how and why we do things.
MS: Does your own work make any social commentary?
AM: Being based in Perth WA, I often shares experiences of frequent alienation or disregard amongst my emigrated surroundings. Although respectful as to not enforce a perceived ‘foreign perspective’, I often share learned experiences through critical discourse and open dialogue. I believe this is an appropriate way for me at present to be able to provide social commentary.
MS: Do you have any exciting news to share about your art practice?
AM: In 2013, I won the Fremantle Print Award and in 2014 won FilmFreo24.
In August I will be doing a solo exhibition at STALA Contemporary.
MS: What’s the most memorable response you’ve had to your artwork?
AM: Somebody once described my painting that won the Fremantle Print Award as looking like ‘Duck Shit’. I always found that amusing.
MS: I’m wondering if there is a quote, piece of writing or music that particularly inspires you?
“When we steal what we can, with the courage to be free, And I've found where I belong among the poorest company.”
Kris Drever, John McCusker, Roddy Woomble Lyrics
AM: A Scottish song about enjoying the company of others with a survival mindset. I’ve always been able to relate to this song, but I don’t condone theft!
MS: What is something most people don’t know about you?
AM: I’m a very supportive and encouraging person. I will do what I can to help others.
Super helpful indeed, thanks so much Alex.
Check out more of Alex's work at his website and follow the links in text to for exhibition details.