Michael Zavros, Contemporary Australian artist, 'Michael Zavros: The Favourite', QAGOMA

Concepts circulate until they find the right vehicle.

For more than 25 years, Michael Zavros has captivated audiences with his hyper-realistic drawings and paintings and surreal juxtapositions. Using his paintbrush as a wand, Michael’s mesmerising body of work offers an insight into his life from his Queensland College of Art graduation in 1996 to the current retrospective of his catalogue,  Michael Zavros: The Favourite, now showing at Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). Showcasing more than 90 works, which span paintings, sculpture, video and photography, this spectacular showcase is the largest state gallery exhibition of Michael’s work to date, and is a must-see for all art enthusiasts. We chatted to Michael about The Favourite, his artistic influences and creative process.

To start, we’d love to go back to the beginning of your artistic practice. Can you remember when art became a dominant creative outlet for you?
It just always was. From very early, like age three or four, I could replicate what was in front of me. My mum was a primary school teacher, and she spent a lot of time with me filling up giant sketch books. She said I did unusual things, like if she’d glue in a picture of a tree I’d add something like monkeys to it or if I ran out of room drawing something I’d turn the page over and finish on the back.

What were some early artistic influences that helped inform, or perhaps still inform, your work?
I used to go to oil painting lessons at Mr Scott’s on a Saturday morning when I was nine. He was this incredible kiwi painter who’d studied at the Elam School in Auckland. I did this for ten years, and I’m so grateful my parents saw his ad in the Gold Coast Bulletin.

Your career has seen you work across numerous mediums, from hyper-realistic painting and sculpture to photography and videography. What has this versatility afforded you in terms of bringing ideas to life?
I think of media as another tool in a toolbox. Concepts circulate until they find the right vehicle. Most things in this show I’d have considered in another way and sometimes would’ve tried this, but then arrived where they needed to be.

You are a common subject in your practice. What are you exploring through your self-portraiture?
I play with ideas around narcissism, in terms of my Greek heritage and mythology, contemporary society and attitudes, and also my approach to image making, it’s a narcissistic gesture.

Can you share some insight into your creative process? Where does a piece of work start for you and how do you build it up from idea to completion?
Ideas come from anywhere at any time. Mostly I write them down or list them, then I try to photograph them or draw them. If I like them, they enter the studio.

GOMA’s new exhibition The Favourite explores 25 years of your artistic career, the first state gallery survey of your work to date. What would you say have been some of your biggest challenges and highlights over your career so far?
Looking at the exhibition, I’m reminded how challenging and rewarding it’s been to share my life and my work with my children. Everything changed when they came along.

Speaking of favourites … are there any particular works in the exhibition that you would list as personal favourites or must-see pieces?
The whole show is full of favourites. I guess ‘Drowned Mercedes’ is a must-see. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I think I’ve never seen anything like this before either. I was in the gallery early today with a photographer and I found myself just staring into this sports car full of water, and suddenly it was opening time and there were all these people trying to look into it too. It’s what I wanted to happen.

Finally, when you’re not in your studio creating, how do you most like to spend your time?
Well I don’t like leaving my property much. I have a horse and a big garden, so that keeps me busy.

You can catch Michael Zavros: The Favourite at Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art until October 2.  Snag a ticket or two via the QAGOMA website. While you’re there be sure to wander over to Beautiful Wickedness to explore two irresistible exhibitions for one – a single ticket provides entry to both!


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