ArtChat [Blog Interview Number 28] – John Maitland

“I always yearn for that vibration which excited my soul. I never know when it will strike or what form it will take but it is never the obvious” – John Maitland Contemporary artist John Maitland will be exhibiting in the gallery from 14 – 30 June in a major solo exhibition entitled “Fruits of the Forest”.

AC: Your painting “Tribute to Mary MacKillop” has been a huge success. Would you like to tell our readers what it was like to have your painting continually exhibited and then used for advertisement in the Catholic World Youth Day celebration in Sydney 2009 JM: When I was consulted by Australian Catholic University and Sisters of St Joseph asking to use my image to promote WYD in Sydney 2009 my initial reaction besides one of delight was a profoundly humbling experience. I have had my work published in print in many countries by leading British and Canadian publishing companies and in one case was runner up in the prestigious Belgian print of the year competition with an image I decided to revisit in this exhibition as I was interested to see how I would approach it after quite a number of years, come and see what you think. But, having my image used to mark and indeed to help people to reflect on the World Youth Day was rather different. What is it about this image that has such a profound effect on people? It was used in the last event in the old Brisbane town hall not only as the image, but the image as the inspiration for the concert itself of the Mary MacKillop 100, a concert commemorating one hundred years since her death. It was again used as the image on the official website for the canonisation and culminated in being used in St. Peter’s Square Vatican at the canonisation. It was assessed as one of the ten finest in the competition but has been used far more than any of the other images. It seems to take on a life of its own.

AC: In your work it is evident you have a soft spot for dance, where does this stem from? JM: The area of the UK in which I grew up was pretty tough, one of the toughest in the country, dance wasn’t something that even entered my head growing up. However, my interest in dance began when I met the girl I would later marry. She had come to study at University in Newcastle, one of her interests was modern dance, while she practised dance, I would be showing off my athletic prowess in the gym. Anyway, that was the start of a lifelong interest in the human form and movement, I am amazed at what the body is capable of and the strength and athleticism that is needed to achieve the grace and movement that is required. I have attended ballet in other countries; one of my favourite venues has been New York.

AC: In a few of the paintings in this exhibition the figures are wearing hats, is there a story behind this? JM: I enjoy the entertainment I get when I introduce hats into a painting. They tend to lend an air of celebration, as if the subjects are off to somewhere very special. Is very interesting when I am painting them that they do take on a life of their own and it’s not until I feel he sense of occasion or celebration that the painting is complete. I first introduced the hat element into my work about ten year ago. My wife spotted some hats in a St Vincent DePaul shop on the Gold Coast. She thought they would be a great subject for a painting and I agreed, we phoned our son to pick them up for us. When he saw what he was collecting he thought we’d gone mad. I did a painting and my kids pleaded with me not to send it to my exhibition so I didn’t. However, I had sent the image and the gallery pleased with me to send it, so thank you Louise because hats have now become a Maitland icon!

AC: And finally, what type of music do you enjoy listening to? JM: I listen to all kinds of music from classical to folk, contemporary and alternative... whatever is interesting or unusual. Rhythym and Blues classics like the Stones of Van Morrison and U2 when I travel, especially the song America.