Brisbane-based artist Alasdair Macintyre is known for his meticulous dioramas: small figurines inhabiting painstakingly created miniature worlds. Though playful in form, his work is earnest in commenting on life, the art world and the human condition. Macintyre’s latest show at Sullivan & Strumpf brings together 12 of Australia’s great artists, dead and alive.
Alasdair, tell us about ‘Splatsville’.
Splatsville is Sesame Street meets The Shock of the New. It’s the art world – but in a kind of simplified, stylised form. It’s an aesthetic state of mind. I run my ideas through my Splatsville filter and what comes out are these Noddy-like figures.
Representing the likes of Olsen, Fairweather, Smart, Olley and Whiteley seems like a sidetrack from your usual dioramas on social-justice themes.
I got fed up with being depressed doing a show again centred around a social-justice theme. I didn’t really want to go into that tunnel again.
I was revisiting my vault of art documentaries, which I’ve been collecting since the 80s. When I looked at these videos and saw these guys I thought I would really like to make some figures of these artists that I really like and respect – so I took a left turn.
I guess it harps back to being born and raised a Catholic and seeing holy statues when you go to church. To me, art is almost like a second religion. These artists are almost like the saints of my second religion.
You’ve said before that you’re interested in “the ‘everyman’ artist figure... and the weighty canon that bears down heavily on his shoulders”. How does that idea play into this exhibition?
The figures themselves represent a kind of stereotypical version of that particular artist. Most of them are taken from photographs of the artists in their studio usually mid to late career. I’ve tried to put a little bit in there that is personal to each artist. [Rosalie] Gascoigne is holding a piece of cut-off road sign; Tom Bass stands with hammer and chisel. Richard Bell, the youngest artist, links the work with the contemporary art world – after I heard the Sulman Prize story [Bell has said that he judged the 2011 AGNSW Sulman Prize with a toss of a coin] I got a play money coin and put it is in his hands, ready to go.