Sagra is one of the new joints in town wanting to show off its Melbourne art cred, and whose work better to put on display than Stephen McCarthy, a Melbourne artist who has been at it for many years. Having lived and worked in Amsterdam for two decades, as well as having his worked shown throughout the world, Milk Bar got the chance to speak to Stephen on his latest exhibition at Sagra Gallery.
You’re the nephew of Australian artist Ken Whisson and great-nephew of Stella Dilger. Did this influence you to become an artist yourself?
No, not really. I have plenty of relatives that did not go into art. My siblings didn’t.
Who are you favourite artists?
Kazimir Malevich for the simplicity of his work and his feel for paint. Piet Mondriaan, and El Lissitzky and his goal to create a new world with every new work of his.
What was it like to work in Amsterdam for two decades? What’s their art scene like?
Amsterdam is a very art friendly society. It has the biggest Malevich at the Museum of Modern Art. When I was living in Amsterdam, I didn’t have to learn too much Dutch, and what I did learn was from listening to what people were saying on TV and reading the English subtitles. I find that the Dutch love to show off the fact they can speak English, so it was very easy to get around.
What made you come back to Melbourne?
I back to visit and I just ended up staying. People visited me in Melbourne from Amsterdam, so that made the decision a lot easier for me.
What do you feel your exhibition is about?
Five elements. Symbols since the ’70s. There’s a lot of suffering in the world. While it continues, I have to do something about it. So I would create minimalist and abstract works. My work is produced by problems and suffering, but not in your face.
What do you want to express with your art?
How people can double cross each other and all the destruction we can cause, such as with nuclear bombs, and how we’ve survived. It’s life affirming.
Why did you choose to display your exhibition at Sagra Gallery?
I’ve known Gerri [Williams, co-CEO and curator of Sagra gallery] for years and she is good to work with.
Originally published here at milkbarmag.com on Friday 20 March 2015