Closing out this year’s successful Contempo at KAB month is well known artist Maz Dixon. Her vivid artworks can be viewed at the Gallery all week. A must see, nothing quite compares to these colourful nostalgic works!
Since completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts (University of NSW) and Master of Studio Art (University of Sydney), Maz Dizon has worked as a full-time professional artist based in Sydney’s Bondi. Her career highlights including a two-time finalist in the prestigious Sir John Sulman Prize (Art Gallery of NSW), winner of the Waverly Art Prize, and two-time finalist in the Mosman Art Prize. She has also enjoyed several Artist-in-Residence posting around Australia and overseas.
Her style is uniquely vivid, echoing the lighthearted pleasures and historical commentary of pop art. Working with imagery of the past sourced from vintage holiday brochures, photo folders and postcards, her paintings transport the viewer to another time and place – a time spent on lazy summer holidays and road trip adventures. Her unusual reference material inspires Maz to create art exploring the gap between a traveller’s expectations and the reality. A painting trip to outback NSW early in her career has inspired her work since. “All the postcards, films and souvenir tea towels that had been my primary source of information on the Outback couldn’t prepare me for what an isolated place it is. Using the language of postcards and souvenirs, I’m going through a process of re-exploration, excavating and mapping the many layers of cultural detritus that bury the destination.”
While Maz Dixon has been working on this style for numerous years, her current series is her most exciting to date. The introduction of stronger colours has allowed her to interplay colour to create highly dramatic effects. The genesis for this shift is the highly saturated and washed-out colours in her vintage postcard source material, due to both the passage of time and the popular style at the time of their creation. Not only did Maz find this look to be fantasticly nostalgic but it also created an extremely surreal view to explore, perfect for an experimenting artist always keen to push the envelope!
However her work isn’t just an exploration of colour – they’re also both an exploration of and homage to our more laid back past. “Many of my vintage postcards and photo folders show ideal holiday destinations, some of which seem quaint or even dodgy to our current eyes. I can’t think of any amateur theme park owners that boast of catching their own dolphins today, for example! They can also be quite mundane, such as folders filled with pictures of a main street or a council building. It’s an interesting look at what the ideal was back then for the target audience of white middle class travellers, which still echoes in how Australia is depicted in the media today.”
Australia’s cultural fascination with Big Things, such as the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour (NSW) and Big Pineapple on the Sunshine Coast (QLD), has been an ongoing featrure of Maz’s work. “We went on a few driving holidays when I was a kid where stuff like Big Things or dolphin shows would feature. It feels like a bit of a lost world in my memory, so there’s a bit of nostalgia there as well as questioning what’s going on behind the sunny facades.” A favourite trip took the family past Ballina (NSW) and the Big Prawn, with this popular landmark therefore playing a key part in many of her earlier works. However lately the Big Pineapple has become a favorite, as its multi-faceted surface presents lots of possibilities in terms of palette.
Maz Dixon’s fascinating process starts by first creating a digital collage of her chosen source material. She then converts this into a digital line drawing, and projects it onto her canvas or board to trace the outline onto the painting surface. This outline is then the basis of the work, over which she proceeds to paint the scene (which in another nod to the past is created at the easel which used to belong to her Grandmother). Her creative vision is to make the transition of the images from mass-produced postcards to unique, handmade artwork plain to see. Unlike many Pop Art artists who use acrylics or even enamel, Maz prefers the feel and colour truthfulness of oil paint.
One of the artist’s favourite works from the KAB Gallery exhibition is Self Service (Oil and Graphite on Board, 60x60cm). “I made a digital collage from several different postcards of holidaymakers and coral. I picked the figures because even in the original postcard, where they were supposed to be relaxing, they looked really awkward and uncomfortable, so I thought they’d look even better perched on some coral. The coral postcards were pretty saturated in terms of colour so I used that as palette inspiration. I’d seen a battered old ‘Self Service Ice’ sign during a road trip earlier this year but I didn’t manage to get a photo of it, so I created one from scratch using Illustrator software. Once I was happy with the composition I used Illustrator to convert the picture into a line drawing, printed it onto a transparency and projected onto a board for tracing. From there it was a matter of painting, amping up the colour and editing the composition as I went along.”
We welcome you to view these great artworks at the Gallery now. See them for yourself to experience the impact of Maz Dixon’s unique palette, approach to painting, and explore her important themes.