Art Sets.

The art that made me: Laith McGregor 

By the Art Gallery of NSW
Image: Laith McGregor

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Image: Laith McGregor

In The art that made me, artists discuss works in the Art Gallery of NSW collection that either inspire, influence or simply delight them. This selection by Laith McGregor first appeared in Look – the Gallery’s members magazine.

‘I see my work as a long drawn-out continuous
narrative, slowly unravelling and revealing
aspects of myself, my immediate surroundings
and thoughts,’ says Laith McGregor. Although
the Melbourne artist has work across media,
drawing remains at the centre of his practice.
‘The line as a symbolic gesture dates back to
our primitive origins and filters into the fabric of
our everyday lives,’ he says, ‘It’s a primal instinct, used to map, guide, express and converse.’

They created the ‘Magic Happens’ bumper
sticker for a reason. Sol LeWitt is the artist
I dream of being and his oeuvre is beyond
amazing. If I’m honest, I couldn’t pick a favourite work of his; they are all perfect. But if I had to, I’d go for this one – even the title is fantastic. This work was made the year I was born, but still feels current. Whenever I’ve visited the LeWitts at the Gallery, they have stayed with me for days. I meditate on their simplicity, and their divine, nearly spiritual perfection. I have deep love and respect for his work. Is it wrong to want to draw one on my lounge room wall? I hope not.

I remember seeing Maria Kozic’s work when
I was very young and being totally enamoured
by it. She provided my first glimpse into how
powerful contemporary art can be. I was
drawn to her hard-hitting, formidable and
humorous approach to self-portraiture that was
simultaneously political, funny and poignant.

When I was at university, I tore a reproduction of Self-portrait out of a magazine and Blu Tacked it to my wall. I always wanted to have the image as a skateboard graphic… I was totally obsessed. Looking at the work now, I realise how much her overall practice informed my own approach. I think I need to find her and thank her in person someday… thanks, Maria.

It wasn’t until I saw an exhibition of
her work at Petzel Gallery in New York
that I fully understood how abrupt, fanciful and
spontaneous Dana Schutz paintings are. Her
technique, application and use of composition
feels like a friendly cyclone hitting you in the
stomach. Her work is totally nuts, and that’s
what I love about it – there are no inhibitions,
just pure, unadulterated, of-the-now painting.
Her work shifts between the cerebral and
visceral and the funny and haunting. It’s these
polar tensions between truth and fiction that
set her apart from her contemporaries. I think
her approach can be jarring at times, but if
you’re willing to spend some time with the
work, you can quite literally, to quote The
Mighty Boosh
, ‘…be taken on a journey through time and space’. Being new to fatherhood myself, this painting resonates with me. Not only does it have the same vivacity as a late Picasso, but it perfectly describes the whirlwind experience of parenthood.

Is, was, always will be one of Australia’s most
prolific artists. I feel like I learn more and more
about Whiteley and his practice the older I get.
His work seems to talk to me in different ways
every time I see it. I’ve always felt a certain
kinship with his work, particularly those from
the period he spent living between Australia
and Indonesia. Having also worked and lived
between the two countries, I always find myself
reflecting on his practice and relationship with
South East Asia. It blows me away that (Free
standing ultramarine) Palm trees
was made
in 1974. Like most of his work, it at once feels
contemporary, relevant, comical and effortless.
I would love to see them alongside his burly
paintings. I wish I had thought of making them
first, but, unfortunately, I wasn’t born. You win
again, Brett.