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Marcus Callum

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

'Artists can be FREE!'

Marcus Callum is an Australian artist, currently based in Perth, Western Australia. He is much awarded and has studied formally in Australia and New York. Marcus’ contemporary figurative realist paintings are built on a foundation of traditional techniques however they are firmly responding to the here and now. Using multiple layers to build the final piece, the artworks possess a luminosity and an emotive quality, at times ethereal. Marcus has a fascination with the subconscious, he uses this to channel intuition into his process and to inform his themes.

Where is your current studio? What would be your dream studio?

My current studio is a room in our Perth apartment but I'm about to move into a much larger space which is almost my ideal studio. Large floor space, large windows and great coffee round the corner! Do you prefer to work in silence or does certain music inspire you?

I have to work to music. It makes all the difference. It puts me in a zone and then things flow. Without it, I can't paint at all. Studio life can lead to isolation, how do you address this/ keep a balance?

Over the past few years I've developed the daily habit of going to the gym every day without fail. I've also been doing a lot of outdoor running. It's a must not a nice to have and keeps me level.


What is your favourite/ least favourite part of the creative process?

I hate the bits in between paintings. I find it hard to start but once I have it's easy. I have to make giant notes to myself - saying stuff like "Get brush on canvas NOW!". I'm not sure why that resistance exists but I'm sure over-analysing contributes. Do you have a personal mantra or quote which serves to motivate you?

Yes - the first relates to Buddhist meditation and teachings of spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle and is something I constantly need to remind myself - non-judgement, non resistance, non-attachment. The other is simply PAINT PAINT PAINT!

'Comtesse (After Ingres)'

How has your style evolved and what contributed to the changes?

It's evolved from more traditional portraiture to include more contemporary elements. Studying at different art schools around the world influenced this but overall I think it's an inner desire to feel free as an artist - to paint whatever I want. I'm still painting realistically but also have a desire to be far more expressive and abstract in there somewhere. For the time being, I'm still in love with an almost manufactured aesthetic: The art can look like a factory product but also has the ability to elicit an emotional response with the use of what is basically coloured mud. I love that. Nature versus nurture- do you believe you have inherited abilities from creative parents, do you have creative siblings? Can you identify environmental factors or influences which led to your choices or directions?

My father was incredibly creative. We had a house full of all kinds of instruments. He had a wall full of guitars, mandolins, sitars, bouzoukis, banjo's etc. He could play everything. We used to play music together for hours most days and often that was our preferred language. He would get an idea and make it happen - for example, the car exhaust fell off one time and needed to be welded back on, so he taught himself to weld and fixed it within a few days. He worked as a successful psychiatrist but I don't think he enjoyed it at all. His outlet was art and music. Having someone like that as a role model inevitably rubs off. He was my hero and above all we were friends. - A certain amount of drawing ability was innate - I remember having to draw my hand in school when I was 11 and realising it wasn't just any hand but was specifically my hand. I think some of that may have something to do with physiology and hand-eye coordination specific to drawing but I also believe that anyone can learn to become a good realist artist. Through hard work, trial and error and a lot of study you get a bit better and then you realise there's a whole new level to this thing than you'd at first thought, and so you start at the beginning again - and repeat.

'Seven Rungs on the Ladder of Virtue'

Describe an obstacle you have faced and how did you overcome it. My father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly when he was 50. I found him and the shock triggered severe PTSD. It sent my whole life on a tangent and it feels like only decades later that I'm beginning to live some semblance of normality. The emotions created by loss fuelled my painting. I didn't overcome it, I just kept going. Meditation helped. My best friend, my 10 year old son Elvis and my hopes for him to be happy along with my concerns about the planet and his future have formed my new existence. All I want now is to be a good father and to be free as an artist. As I've aged I've accepted the impermanence of life. If you could time travel, what advice would you give the younger you, regarding pursuing your artmaking?

Get the hell on with it NOW!

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