Ian (Bill) McKenzie has been plying his art for 30 years, and in 1988 he decided to turn pro.
Beginning his journey with Graphic and Fine Art TAFE courses he became enamoured with watercolours, questing to find ‘the’ way he considered would talk to his viewers about the value of preserving part of the social landscape.
Australia rode to economic independence on the sheep’s back and Bill reckoned that without the iconic woolshed, this part of Australian history might not have been realised.
Over 500 woolsheds later Bill is still at it, preserving the past, capturing ‘portraits’ of woolsheds with a passion for detail. Pitting the decaying elements of the sheds wrapped in mildly abstracted environments of sky and the earth that will ultimately reclaim them to become part of the socio-geological record.
It’s a task he does well, and probably no-one does it better, achieving his goals as people readily identify with the scenes and culture of the woolshed and the land of which they are an integral part.
Bill’s dogmatic approach to preserving the sheds is not the only way he sees the role of his art. From time to time deviations invade his peripheral artistic vision.
A past series depicted found objects from the beautiful beaches of the NSW South Coast where he made his home in 1988 at Tomakin. Nature’s patterns and the fascinating structures of small things like nuts, seed pods and the myriad of objects found on the sand before his feet, produced thirty detailed works.
The woolsheds placed him squarely in the landscape and his eye caught small enclaves of visual beauty within the landscape. Lagoons, river banks, areas of vegetation, wider seascape vistas, high viewpoints, the drama in awe inspiring storm clouds and the rhythmic swaying of rural fields in gentle breezes, all became subjects of his brush.
He finds himself deriving more and more pleasure from the pure land and seascapes encountered on his wanderings.
And what of the thought process, the engine room of the brain? In this exhibition there are Bill’s ROTMS (Reflections of the Mind). Fifty-five works were taken purely from the subconscious stream.
Defining this process is beyond him and perhaps for others to analyse. These whimsical, uncalculated and free flowing pieces are adorned with fine detail and colourful washes.
By experimentation he developed a technique for using pens with traditional ink nibs loaded with watercolour paint, allowing for fine and strong lines producing compositional elements over single and multiple layered washes.
There was calculation in developing 3D effects to highlight elements, composition, depth and movement. The works have no names, just numbers, and meaning will come from the viewer’s exposure to them.
This creative mind’s-eye foray into the subconscious, together with the sheds and a growing admiration for scenarios of the purely natural landscape, are exceptional examples of the power of creativity, when the eye and the brain are connected to the brush and pen of a passionate watercolourist.
Here’s an exhibition of historical portraits and fantasies of the mind, mixed with idyllic, serene and powerful visions of nature – enjoy!
Stan d’Argeavel MA (VA)