Classical art meets Gold Coast glitz
Artist Michael Zavros mixes the contemporary and the classical to create modern works of mythic proportions
Michael Zavros is rather busy these days. Not only is he finishing work for an upcoming exhibition at Melbourne's Sophie Gannon Gallery, but he's overseeing renovations to his home and studio based just outside of Brisbane. And as if that wasn't enough, he and wife, Alison, have recently become parents again, for the third time.
The new addition to the family is Leonidas, a three month old son. They also have two daughters, Phoebe and Olympia. Let me add, that I don't think Zavros is complaining. At 37, this son of Greek Cypriot parents is doing very well in a career that is highly competitive and difficult to succeed in.
Zavros has been awarded many prestigious drawing prizes, including the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2010, the world's richest prize for portraiture. His work is held in numerous private and public collections, including The National Gallery of Australia, Queensland Art Gallery, University of Queensland Art Museum and The National Portrait Gallery. He has also been the recipient of numerous International residencies, predominantly in Europe. Zavros' paintings and charcoal drawings are in fact very European, very precise, very decorative and polished.
He says, "Making these European images is such a strange and romantic gesture." There are definitely romantic and mythic charges in Michael Zavros' art. Take his centaur paintings: the figures are quite different from the bare chested men in Harry Potter or Narnia movies. Zavros' centaurs are beautifully dressed male model types. From the waist up these centaurs would be right at home on a catwalk, and below the waist they are thoroughbreds. The detail Zavros puts in both the horse and the human anatomy is exquisite. Every thread (up top) and horse hair (down below) is accounted for. I comment on the photographic realist style he has and he admits that it's "a strange thing to be drawing or painting realism now, following the advent of photography".
Zavros' work is very contemporary and highly classical at the same time. His beautiful and hyper realist pictures conjure up our modern times, referencing designer labels, lush interiors, catwalk models and thoroughbred horses as if holding up a mirror to our society's focus on surface glamour. But the work also speaks to us of classical Greece. One of my favourite pictures of his is V12 Narcissus. It shows a man (possibly the artist himself) looking at his reflection in the shiny hood of a car. It references the Greek myth of Narcissus, who perished because he couldn't drag himself away from gazing at his own beauty.
Zavros says, "I am interested in notions of beauty and youth." These themes are central to his work, as they were to classical Greek artists who sought beauty in the perfection of the human form. This interest in beauty also reflects life on the Gold Coast, which is where Zavros grew up. He says, "The Gold Coast is a place obsessed with beauty and youth and perfection," and that, "I'm very much a product of this place where I grew up." V12 Narcissus seems to sum up a lot of Greek males, I say, it reflects the twin obsessions they have, with their own appearance and their cars. I'm relieved when he laughs.
And what direction is Zavros taking with new work for his upcoming show? He tells me that he's painting some very large canvases of interiors, which reference other artists: pictures within pictures. I have a feeling that whichever direction Michael Zavros takes his art, he will continue to not only do well, but make beautiful pictures full of meaning.
Visit michaelzavros.com to see more of Michael Zavros' work.
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