w+DC Q&A: The Spirit & Drama of Fiona Maclean


We are proud to present our June cover artist, Fiona Maclean, whose brilliance and aesthetics embody the fleetingness of youth, beauty and sexuality.

The visual artist, originally from New Zealand but currently living in Australia, explores the philosophical and ontological intrigue embedded in her subjects. Using photographs as reference, Maclean draws a narrative 'drama' to illustrate a "person’s spirit, soul or essence."


Your work often revolves around youth, beauty and sexuality. What is it about these themes that fascinates you? 
FMI think my theme around youth perhaps stems partly from the fact that my boyfriend/partner of many years died at a young age forcing me to grown up and deal with some big responsibilities. To me youth is so fleeting, it’s gone before you know it and it’s a time where you can afford to be carefree, bold, fearless and less responsible. Maybe I identify with the naivety, the bravado, the ambition of youth, particularly in the early twenties and a part of me wanting to delve back into that time. And with beauty it is something that I try to see in everything, and I particularly like unconventional beauty, beauty that is not perfection, beauty that is flawed but making someone more beautiful. Sexuality is something that is within all of us and is particularly present in fashion, music, film, and art all of which I draw inspiration from. I guess for me it’s an exploration of parts of my self.

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"...I ALLOW MY PAINTINGS TO EVOLVE FROM AN IDEA RATHER THAN A DEFINITE PLAN AND THEN I SEE WHERE IT TAKES ME ALLOWING MORE FREEDOM."

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You mention working with photographs as a point of reference. Detail for us your creation process. How do you know when you’ve found a photograph that connects with you?  

FMMy creative process involves finding a photograph from the Internet, magazines or sometimes taking a photograph of the sitter. Mostly though I use images from magazines and Internet. I need to be excited by the photo, to really love the image before I can have a rapport and get involved in creating something from nothing, bringing it to life on canvas or paper. It’s kind of my love affair with the image. The photos or images have to have a certain look I’m after, whether it is the eyes, an angle or stance, vulnerability, they all have strength about them. In most of the images that I connect with there is sexuality to the image, which for me is important. I guess in a way, like I said previously, I have to be somehow attracted to the image and fall in love with the image. 

As you try to capture “the essence of the person”, is there a moment while painting when you know that you’ve found that essence on canvas? What is that moment like?

FMYes for portraits, it’s all about the eyes. If I am painting a portrait once I have the eyes right then I feel like I’ve found a part of that person’s spirit, soul or essence. And sometimes it’s just the stance of the person, the energy of the person, the way they hold their place/space in the world, their presence.

 

There is a clear influence of fashion and fashion photography in your work. Are there other influences from outside mediums? Film? Music? Etc.?

FMI draw from my environment and yes this definitely includes fashion, photography, other art and artists. Also cities and places, for e.g. the energy of Barcelona was something I drew from for influences and inspiration for a series of recent paintings. Music, film and popular culture are always are important to me, so if I get too far removed from those the inspiration dries up. Music is and has always been a big part of my daily life and definitely in my working environment when creating art.  

Do you have a plan when you approach your works before hand, or does it all come together at once on canvas? 

FM: In the past I had a ‘plan’ but I found that my work was a bit too controlled. I found with knowing what I was going to do next or how it was going to turn out sometimes it was a little less interesting, less intense and less freedom. So now I allow my paintings to evolve from an idea rather than a definite plan and then I see where it takes me and allowing more freedom. Sometimes when I make a mistake or two that makes, for me, a better painting and can lead in a different direction, a more interesting direction and make more discoveries.

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"THE ENERGY THAT COMES FROM WITHIN ME IS IN THE PAINTING. WHILE I'M PAINTING I FORGET WHO I AM, FORGET PROBLEMS, AND LET THE IMAGE COME FORTH."

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Do you have any artistic role models? Both in history and/or present time.

FMAs a child and growing up I loved Henri Toulouse Lautrec, Paul Cezanne, Egon Schiele Antonio Lopez (the most amazing Fashion Illustrator) and more currently, I love the work of Marlene Dumas, Cecily Brown, Jenny Saville.

 Do you have any new ideas or aspirations that you’d like to work on in the future?

FMYes, want to get back into a palette of colour again. Lately I have been working mainly with a limited palette of just black and white and feel like doing something that exudes a different energy. I would like to get back to working more with large canvases again and possibly some installation work. Possibly more exploratory portraits, some collaborations with other Artists, and/or with Music industry, and fashion world. And maybe a book showing some of the many faces that I’ve painted over the years.

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"IF I AM PAINTING A PORTRAIT ONCE I HAVE THE EYES RIGHT THEN I FEEL LIKE I'VE FOUND A PART OF THAT PERSON'S SPIRIT, SOUL OR ESSENCE."

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There is a stunning and unquestioned energy in your aesthetic. Can you tell us about how your art feels when you create it?  Is it therapeutic, fun, energizing, draining? 

FMTo me it’s a form of meditation for me, where I go into another world, it is therapeutic, it calms me, grounds me and is energizing. It is my own private world that I can step into. An ‘otherworldliness’ where the figures or portraits come to life for me. There needs to be a connection between the image I am creating and me, so part of myself is in the canvas or on the paper. The energy that comes from within me is in the painting. While I’m painting I forget who I am, forget problems, and let the image come forth.

Describe for us your ideal day. How does is start and end? Where does your artwork fit in?

FMIdeal day – wake up, go for morning jog, meditation and write a little in my journal. Breakfast! Then its time to start the day. Check emails and answer any enquires etc. Social media, try to ensure that I am daily on this in some form, whether that be Facebook Artist page, Instagram, Pintrest etc. Update my website if need be. Recently I just started doing a small drawing or quick painting daily. Because being an Artist is mostly a solitary thing, I ensure I get out and go to a cafe or arrange to meet with a friend so I have social interaction at least once a day.  Normally I try to keep it to morning or late afternoon to ensure I get a large block of time working on artwork, creation time. I spend a half an hour or so contacting magazines and/or blogs, making contacts with people in the art world. Some daily daydreaming is always a requirement and researching, looking through magazines, Internet, blogs etc. Always looking for inspiration through images. Afternoon is generally spent working on art, so I have a large chunk of uninterrupted time. Its hard if you are always stopping and starting work as I find it ruins the flow. Late afternoon possibly yoga class or go for another jog, swim in ocean etc. Or a visit to a local gallery, theatre, or a film. Again meditation. If I’m really involved with my artwork, more time spent on that in evening or else possibly meet up with friends for dinner. So your question, “where does my artwork fit in”? Its part of my life, it’s integral and overlaps and merges with all the other parts of my life.

What is in store for you currently? Any key shows or projects for the next months? Anything you want to share? 

FM: I’m working towards my first exhibition in a while, so busy with working on series of paintings for that. I have some commissioned work to complete. And I’m off to NY shortly for a few weeks of painting/creating and looking at the possibility of collaborating with another Artist there, so very exciting times ahead.

 

For more visit:

fifi-maclean.myshopify.com

 www.facebook.com/FionaMaclean

www.saatchiart.com/MissFifiMaclean


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