NAS Retake: Guy Maestri
Guy Maestri graduated from the National Art School with a BFA, Hons (painting) in 2003. In 2016, he made his first painted bronze works in a series called xerox and the sculptures Maestri donated to NAS, Innocent X and Gould (2017), are from this series. The artist has said that he wanted the works to mirror the material values of the 21st century. It looks like the sculptures are made from an impermanent and malleable plasticine however in fact they are cast in bronze, a material which naturally aligns itself with the traditional medium of the portrait bust.
Inspired by Bernini’s bust of Pope Innocent X and a portrait of ornithologist John Gould, Maestri has removed their facial features, in an expressive gouging of clay, and spray painted them in soft colours of powder blue and cadmium yellow. He has retained the formal shape of the shoulders, hair and hat, and shown concern with ideas surrounding time and permanency. The artist questions whether there is a place for the classical bust in contemporary art and society, or whether its tradition, practice and materiality is waning. He also asks whether it is still suitable for artists to make everlasting effigies.
The painting After Hopper was donated to NAS in 2018. It is the artist’s first oil painting and was produced at the National Art School whilst the artist was in John Bloomfield’s painting class in 2001. The painting draws on a work entitled The Lighthouse at Two Lights by Edward Hopper (1929), held in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Like Hopper, Maestri has isolated the lighthouse against the blue sky from a viewpoint that is below the building.
Now a member of the National Art School’s Board of Directors, Guy Maestri recalls his first day on campus as a student. ‘When I walked through the gates of the re-purposed gaol that is the National Art School, on my first day back in early 2000, I knew I had truly found my place. I found people of my ilk condensed within its now protective walls; all of us energised and encouraged to think, explore and make. I found a productive, enlivened place that had long ago redressed its former purpose’ (Maestri, 2018)
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Images: Guy Maestri, Innocent X, 2017, painted bronze, 66 x 46 x 26 cm, National Art School Collection, donated by the artist through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2018 © the artist; Guy Maestri, Gould, 2017, painted bronze, 67 x 40 x 22 cm, National Art School Collection, donated by the artist through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2018 © the artist; Guy Maestri, After Hopper, 2001, oil on cardboard, 35 x 22 cm, National Art School Collection, donated by the artist through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2018 © the artist