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Mudgee, NSW, Australia
Guy Maestri was born in Mudgee, New South Wales, in 1974. He completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) in painting at the National Art School (NAS), Sydney, in 2002 and in the same year was Highly Commended in the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship exhibition. He received the commendation again in 2003, a year that also saw him win the NAS Paris Studio Award residency and the William Fletcher Fellowshi As a landscape painter, Maestri is gestural, abstract and experimental. Although upon occasion he makes sculptures, such as the resin cane toads which feature in his work Unnatural Selection (2008), he finds painting a more satisfying medium as it is more immediate than the time consuming process of moulding and casting sculpture. Maestri regards his portrayal of the natural world as more instinctive than deliberate. Having grown up in the Australian countryside, he enjoys capturing observations of wildlife, noting at the same time humanity’s impact on the natural environment. Painting from his studio in the Sydney suburb of Chippendale, Maestri works from his memories and experiences of regional Australia. His Field Studies (2008) series explores the gradual elimination of certain features from the natural world. Not only does Maestri often paint endangered species but, within the one work, he can repeat a species form over and over until the “confident tracing of a shape appears lost through repetition” (Chow 2008). In Gang Gang (2007), he chooses not to depict a bird literally, but to capture a sense of the creature by allowing the image to emerge and disappear through layering. Maestri’s 'Natural Selection’ exhibition of 2008 was a series of paintings that resulted from his visit to a friend’s farm in Victoria. Affected by the degraded and dry land, he painted abstract landscapes and made use of found objects he brought back to his studio. The Darwinian title to the exhibition is intrinsically linked to related ideas in Maestri’s work: he is interested in the way native and introduced species interact, the theory of natural selection, extinction, ecosystems, erosion, sedimentation, forgetfulness and memory.Once a year Maestri steers himself away from the natural environment to paint a portrait for the Archibald Prize. Having being rejected eight times, then winning the People’s Choice Award at the 2001 Salon des Refuses, in 2009 Maestri won the Archibald Prize. His winning entry was a portrait of blind Indigenous singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, which Maestri painted after being moved by Yunupingu’s performance at the Peats Ridge Festival in 2008. Maestri took the opportunity to meet Yunupingu at the airport, where he drew sketches and took a photograph. From this experience Maestri “got a sense of his presence and this determined the nature of the portrait: quiet and strong” (Art Gallery of New South Wales 2009).For Maestri the Archibald Prize, “kick started a whole new way of approaching painting,” (Maestri in Droll 2009). His focus shifted from local environment to global, from abstract to figurative, and from a colourful to a monochromatic palette. Referencing images taken from the web, his 2009 show at Tim Olsen Gallery, 'Google Earth’, included observations of humanity’s struggles with mortality and interrelated concerns about the effects of global warming on nature. Maestri has had numerous solo exhibitions in Australia and has also exhibited internationally in the United Kingdom and the United States and Hong Kong. He was a finalist in the 2007 and 2008 Dobell Drawing Prize. Writers: Grisedale, AlexandraDe Lorenzo, Catherine Date written: 2009 Last updated: 2011
b. 1974
Sydney-based painter Guy Maestri won the 2009 Archibald prize for his portrait of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu.
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