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Artist Interview: Scott Gardiner

By Niall Roeder.

Scott Gardiner is a New Zealand born artist that you may or may not have heard of. He has a master’s degree in Fine Arts and has travelled, lived and created in various countries around the world, with the majority of time being spent in Sri Lanka and Australia. With a little help from a major collector and gallery in NZ, Gardiner was able to paint whilst abroad, something that undoubtedly helped shape him as a person and artist. He’s been living and creating on the east coast of NZ since 2008, but will be moving to Maroubra in February and we’re pretty damn happy about it to be honest.

We caught up with him the other day to have a quick chat about his art… and other things like Beastman and Vladimir Putin.

You’re a kiwi, first of all (as painful as this is to say), congrats on the World Cup win. How does Auckland’s art scene differ from Sydney’s?

The most obvious difference between the Sydney and Auckland art scene would be size. In Sydney there are not just more galleries but a lot more collectors and money at all levels of the market. For Auckland/New Zealand’s size there seems to be a disproportionate number of artists and galleries, the same cannot be said however, for the number of collectors and patrons.

How would you describe your art?

I would say it is probably rather eclectic. I am not the type of artist that has found a signature style and stuck with it, I tend to experiment a lot with materials and processes, as I enjoy the excitement of seeing where new approaches may take my work. There are unifying elements that are fairly consistent throughout my practice but I am certainly not inclined to just go through the motions. It is very important that I feel excited when I enter the studio in the morning.

Are your works always someway connected to the ocean or nature?

This is not a deliberate choice that I have made, but if I was to review my practice over the last ten years there is a consistent environmental theme. I have always had a very close relationship with the ocean in particular so it makes sense that it has been a central theme in my work, rather than pushing a strict environmental message however, the underlying concepts I have been dealing with tend to be more concerned with issues around mortality and the search for meaning.

Tell us about the Three Oceans Project.

The Three Oceans Project developed on the back of two exhibitions that explored humanity’s often strained relationship with the natural world. Rather than a call to arms or a vehement political statement, these exhibitions attempted to instigate an inquiry on mortality, a subtle musing on the meaning of life and death. My primary focus being less about raising awareness of an issue and more concerned with investigating what I perceive as a change in ‘meaning’ around death in the face of potential climatic upheaval.
The three locations of the project, Hikkaduwa (Sri Lanka), Sydney and Gisborne (New Zealand) all represent significant points in my life and development, places I have forged meaningful relationships with the environment and its people, centred around and reliant upon the ocean. In these instances the ocean became a powerful familiar environment, allowing me to connect on a deep level to a new and unfamiliar locale. During the project I wish to examine this complex relationship through my own personal experiences, understanding these are universal issues that relate to all human beings and our sense of place and belonging, an awareness of our mortality and a connection to something beyond ourselves.



Which historically famous artists have influenced you?

I remember discovering abstraction as a teenager and it opening my eyes to a new way of seeing. I came across a book on Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park Series when I was fifteen and that was quite a revelation. I then discovered Abstract Expressionism and was very taken with the work of Rothko and Motherwell.

And which current/local artists do you dig?

I am very fond of the new work by New Zealand painter Andre Hemer right now, it’s very difficult, there are so many, Tomislav Nikolic, Brent Harris, William Mackinnon, Peter Adsett, Coen Young, Peter Alwast. I could go on…

Have you heard of Beastman? There are some similarities in your styles; you’re both clearly like working with pattern and shapes.

I had not heard of Beastman until I read this question and have since looked him up. I can see there are some crossovers with his work and mine although I would say his aesthetic is certainly more ‘street’. It is only recently that I have been working with repeated motifs and it is something I am still getting used to. I began painting repeated geometries as a way of using straight lines to mimic the movement of light across the surface of the ocean, incorporating mathematics and geometry to act as a metaphor for the way we as a society attempt to use science and logic to understand the world and act as a safety net when faced with unanswerable questions around mortality and meaning.

I describe Beastman’s style as “modern abstract with DMT”. How would you describe your style?

It is often a combination of painterly and hard-edged, representational and abstract… fairly eclectic I guess?

Besides surfing later today, what’s next for Mr Gardiner?

Well, as I mentioned my wife and I are re-locating to Maroubra in February so there is a bit to organise with regards to that. Art-wise, my next major project is a show at the Auckland Art Fair in May 2016 with PAULNACHE gallery, followed by a solo exhibition in Sydney with Palmer Art Projects.

Do you have a favourite art gallery in Sydney or Bondi?

Well my new gallery in Sydney has just opened, Palmer Art Projects in Woollahra, so I will be in trouble if I do not say this is my favourite! I also love visiting the AGNSW, always a great cross-section of art from Australia and the rest of the world.

Would you be open to doing a mural on Bondi’s every-changing graffiti wall on the promenade? If so, what would you paint?

Of course! It would certainly be a challenge as I have never undertaken a project like that but I would love to give it ia go. Given that my current body of work is about the ocean and we are talking about Bondi, it would have to reference the sea in some way.

If you could play beer pong with any three people in the world, who would you choose and why?

The first person I would choose is my grandfather. He was a rather complex individual who died when I was too young for me to get to know him as a man rather then a granddad. As an adult I have read the books he wrote and would love to have the opportunity to talk to him about his experiences and ask him the questions I could never ask as a child.

I have just finished reading the mammoth two-part biography on David Hockney which I thoroughly enjoyed and I would love to have the chance to talk with him… He also loves a drink or two.

The third would be Vladimir Putin, as there would surely be no more interesting person with whom to get drunk and talk global politics!

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