As has been well publicised in recent weeks, Brisbane-based photorealist painter Michael Zavros was named the recipient of the inaugural Bulgari Art Award. The award, in association with the Art Gallery of New South Wales, comprises a $50,000 acquisition of a new artwork for the gallery's permanent Australian art collection and a $30,000 residency in Italy. "For me this happened many years ago," explained Mr Zavros of his long-held dream of having work collected by the gallery in his acceptance speech at a black tie dinner in Sydney. "I can't explain how thrilled I am to be making this work for the gallery's collection. To have a major work of mind selected for acquisition is such a wonderful professional endorsement."
It may so, but it's certainly a deserving one, for Mr Zavros is undoubtedly one of the country's - if not the world's - greatest mid-career painters, and one of unparalleled technical proficiency. "I often feel like I'm working against the grain of contemporary practice," explained the artist. Amidst a landscape of mixed media work, Mr Zavros spends his days in a studio with charcoal, pencil and paint on canvas. "But," he says, "I really love it. It's something I've loved since I was a little kid. I love getting lost in drawing and painting, and also getting it right, getting it perfect." In a way, working with traditional media is in itself a statement today. "You don't expect to see charcoal drawings or a bronze sculpture in a contemporary gallery, and I like that. I've embraced traditional media and it has become an important part of my practice."
Following his 2011 residency in Barcelona, funded through the Australian Council of the Arts, Mr Zavros will this week unveil a new solo show ahead of the presentation of the commissioned work for the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The solo show, The Glass, opens at Tweed River Art Gallery Friday 29 June, running until 12 August, 2012. The 6-week show also includes a live conversation with the artist and a still-life drawing session. For details, visit Tweed River Art Gallery.
PHOTOGRAPHY JORDAN GRAHAM | STORY MITCHELL OAKLEY SMITH