As A Young Snail, A Middle Aged Snail, and an Old Snail, I Was Not A Fast Worker, is a curious title, and makes for an equally fascinating exhibition. Though Alasdair McLuckie’s latest works appear visually dissimilar, and are essentially three series of different media combined in one show, it all starts to make more sense when he outlines the rich themes underpinning this body of work.
Two of the series include beaded tapestries, with each of the artworks involving around 30,000 glass beads, and taking up to two weeks to hand stitch. The first series, The Youth, features a grouped study of young faces. It is Alasdair’s most naturally figurative works to date, and also evocative of the free drawing he did in school.
Meanwhile, the Twenty Four Seven collection is entirely abstract and features spirals prominently. This age-old, recurring motif can be seen as a circular meditation on the hours of the day, as each panel features 24 spirals. In the gallery, seven artworks are displayed sculpturally on plinths, symbolic of a week. Unlike past pieces created on the loom, Alasdair has this time employed a ‘rigid’ technique known as brick stitch: whereby rows of four beads are threaded at once, then anchored by stitch to a canvas base.
The Snail Logic, the exhibition’s third series, comprises four collage artworks. The backgrounds of each are formed from image reproductions, taken from an old 1960s textbook on artist Henri Matisse, collaged over with images found in other historical books and magazines. The result is a departure from Alasdair’s past works, which were layered on gridded planes. ‘Matisse himself represents for me a powerful mythology around making, genius, and creative output,’ muses the artist. ‘He is a giant figure of modernism with enormous influence on current visual culture.’
Alasdair is most enthralled with Matisse’s later, ‘cut-out’ period, and how it grew into a narrative on the strength of the human desire to make. ‘Despite being extremely ill and debilitated, Matisse’s drive to create meant he overcame much of his physical limitation to reinvent his practice and continue creating powerful work,’ Alasdair adds. ‘This neatly leads into the ritual element of my practice, which is the most basic and fundamental element that connects every work. No matter what material or technique I choose it is always considered, undertaken and completed with meticulous and meditative action.’
The artist has enjoyed developing this exhibition over the past year-and-a-half – ‘perhaps the longest lead-time I’ve had for a show since I left art school a decade ago,’ jokes the VCA graduate. ‘I feel this has made the project stronger and created room within my practice to expand and evolve, which I hope to continue in the future.’ Moving on from Matisse, Alasdair also has his sights set on incorporating a book of Oskar Kokoschka printed works, learning new making techniques, and enjoying the cooler, craft-friendly weather ahead!
As a Young Snail, A Middle Aged Snail, and an Old Snail, I Was Not A Fast Worker by Alasdair McLuckie
On until June 23rd
Murray White Room
Sargood Lane, Melbourne, Victoria
You can also see Alasdair McLuckie’s works in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart; and in the Ten Cubed Collection, Melbourne.