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Chris McKenzie

Chris McKenzie

THE ARTIST

I was born in the dust and heat of the harsh Australian outback. I grew up under a relentless blazing sun and a lone glowing moon; a restless, energetic and curious child. Nature fascinated and enthralled me from an early age. I loved sprawling colourful sunsets, cool winding creeks, crackling flickering campfires, squawking birds, spirited animals, curling tree limbs, rusting metal and the vast sparkling blue sky. I collected sticks and stones and animals. I created artworks and I carved things with a pocket-knife from the age of 5 onwards, trying to ‘capture’ the essence and beauty of nature with line and colour and form. I continued to do this all my life. I drew, I painted and I made sculptures of nature, landscape, animals and people.

I have been a sawmill worker, bouncer, sand-dredger, dish-pig, roustabout, wool presser, teacher, tutor, cleaner, boxing coach, factory worker, scaffolder, lawn mower, labourer, as I lived a meandering wanderlust life. All the while, I was an artist. No matter where I lived, or what I did, I continued to create artworks. I discovered that whenever one combines the head, the heart and the hands to create something… the byproduct is joy. The act of creation centres my mind, stills my emotion and grounds my body.

"I have always loved wood. Its grain, texture, odour, feel and colour are warm and evocative to my senses."

How and why did you get into working with wood?
I have always loved wood. Its grain, texture, odour, feel and colour are warm and evocative to my senses. I started making things with wood from the age of 5 years old, when my beloved grandfather gave me a miniature pearl-handled pocket-knife. I started carving from then onwards. First, I made spears, boomerangs and bows and arrows to hunt animals. Later, realising that folly, I started to carve animals, birds and the human figure with chisel, axe, chainsaw and Arbortech tools. With natural materials such as wood, I have an intention to create something original, beautiful and authentic.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
The act of creation is often arduous, requiring hours of determined physical, emotional and mental effort. Hours spent cutting away wood or sanding and polishing large surfaces can lead to aching muscles, throbbing limbs, stinging sweat, and callused hands. This is especially so with large projects, which I often do. However, this challenging creative journey is simultaneously, and paradoxically, joyful. Receiving compliments on my artwork is great, money for my creations is terrific, winning competitions is bolstering, publicity is encouraging too, however, the joy of the act of creation is sweetest of all.
 
What inspires your creations?
The joy of creation, a drive to be authentic, the hunt to create something beautiful. Nature is always my inspiration.

Chris McKenzie Gallery Image 1

Macca uses an array of tools such as chainsaws, axes, chisels and Arbortech tools (of course) to create larger than life sculptures.

Chris McKenzie Gallery Image 2

Man vs. Sculpture.

Chris McKenzie Gallery Image 3

‘Neptune’ in Australian Bluegum, a sculpture from the early 90s.

Chris McKenzie Gallery Image 4

Hailing from Australia’s Sunshine Coast, Macca is inspired by his surroundings and the desire to create authentic & beautiful pieces.

Chris McKenzie Gallery Image 5

Never smile at a crocodile. Can you guess what Arbortech tools were used here?

What would you tell your younger self starting out on your artistic journey?
You can do it. Do not let fear stop you. Do not compare yourself to others, that leads to ruin and disappointment. Do not listen to critics, even if they have no skill, no experience and nothing to offer you apart from criticism – truly awesome people will encourage you – they are rare – listen to them. Find your own way, discover your own style, empower yourself, be you. Trust in your own abilities and be guided by what you consider worthy and beautiful.Focus on doing rather than concepts, ideas, contemplations – that way you bring concepts into reality, rather than just talking or dreaming or hoping. Play and explore with everything – tools, materials, compositions, systems of creation, ways of doing things. Lastly, there are no rules, there is no right or wrong, there just is what ‘is’ and you have the power within you to create within this ‘isness’, if you muster the courage to do so.

What is your favourite Arbortech tool and why?
I have been carving with Arbortech tools since the 1980s, first using the Pro-4 Woodcarving disc. Since then, I have used the Industrial Wood Carver on many large sculpture projects. My favourites are the TURBOPlane and the Ball Gouge. The TURBOPlane is awesome for removing and shaping wood. It is smooth to use and blows the wood away effortlessly. It is great for shaping and forming wood, especially curved areas. The Ball Gouge is fantastic for getting into ‘hard to get at’ concave areas to remove wood, like inside a toothy crocodile’s mouth.

What is your favourite wood carving and why?
Hard to pick a favourite, but a series of female torsos titled ‘Mother Daughter, Sister, Wife’ was particularly enjoyable and successful.. The theme was love of female form. This series was the realisation and culmination of a long-time concept, utilising skills I had honed, shapes I prefer, with a material I love. 9 life-sized female torsos were created from repurposed Australian Ironbark railway bridge pylons. The wood was extremely old, hard and heavy – extremely difficult to carve.

" Utilising skills I had honed, shapes I prefer, with a material I love."

MACCA’S 5 CREATIVE ACTS

5 ways to exponentiate your creative potential
(UDAPESA)

1. Be You
2. Doing and action
3. Play and explore
4. Selection and arrangement
5. No Rules

To learn more about Macca and his craft, follow the links below.

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