Marc Renshaw’s art is inspired by nature and process. Working as an educator, he shares his passion for creativity with students. Focus spoke with the artist about his work and upcoming projects.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
I moved to Thora Valley near Bellingen in 2008 after hearing that it was a creative area. Although I knew no one here, it wasn’t long before I met some great people and fell in love with the beautiful surrounds. I’m originally from Perth, which is fairly flat, dry and hot, so this seems like paradise! Also, my son was born here, so now it’s his home too.
Where does the inspiration for your art practice come from?
Inspiration for me can come from almost anything. I love to visit the city to experience a different way of living. I also love to be in nature, in solitude, so a variety of experiences is important. Nature often ends up in my work. Nature is perfect and imperfect; it’s a great teacher.
I find the work of other artists very inspiring; it pushes me to want to work more and try new things. Process is very important to me, putting objects together or pulling them apart, exploring and trying to master techniques through play and experiment.
When and why did you start making art?
I have always been creative, since I was a kid. I remember making and painting objects like boats from the stuff my dad brought home from work. He was a builder, so we had this great shed full of tools and materials. In my early teens some of my friends and I started doing street art or spray can art. We attempted to imitate all the images we could find from New York. No internet meant waiting two months for the next magazine or book to arrive. I have loved all forms of street art since then. I studied printmaking and painting at university and combine elements of both these traditions in my work.
How would you describe your style?
My style is fairly broad due to the variety of mediums and materials I like to use. I’m certainly influenced by graphics and pictorial imagery, which I use a lot. Process and assembling or combining objects also forms part of my usual style. I like my work to keep the mistakes, recording my workings and a sense of expression. My work clearly shows that someone made it, showing both flaws and successes. I have a process driven practice; I like to assemble, collage and collate imagery. I like texture and layering. And then my street art is always about ecological issues or beauty in the everyday, usually as paste ups or stencils.
What artists do you admire or draw influence from?
Robert Rauschenberg and Jean-Michel Basquait were big early influences. I love the whole street art movement since the seventies, and before that pop culture of the fifties and sixties. I like the gig posters of this era also. Other influences would include John Olsen, Fred Williams, Barbara Kruger, Joseph Cornell and endless printmakers. Nowadays I really like NY duo Faile and the succession of work on the streets. I admire anyone who creates. It’s certainly not an easy pursuit.
You work as an educator of art; can you tell us a bit about that?
Early after leaving uni, I began working on public art projects with local councils in Perth. This required me to host workshops at schools and interact with a wide array of community groups. I enjoyed the enthusiasm of the kids. I have done some relief teaching at TAFE also.
Since moving to Bellingen, I have been involved with E.Y.E. and Jetty Bunker (JBYS) and festivals such as Saltwater Freshwater. I will normally teach workshops on printmaking or street art techniques with a big group of kids. Then we complete the learning with real life opportunities such as a mural for a business or festival decor. The kids love to learn, but I find they need a project to own too.
Now I am co-ordinator of Big Fig Arts and we have a big workshop programme. We have a series of life drawing classes coming up. We are calling them dynamic life drawing, as they involve drawing an artisan practicing their craft, like dancers and singers etc. The first one was the drawing of musician Katie Crane as she performed at The Bellingen Brewery & Co. This was a great mix of creative drawing, music and socialising. We have a school holiday programme coming up too. We are really excited about working with the kids; they are always very enthusiastic and fun students.
If you could live anywhere in the world to experience a specific period of art, which would you choose and why?
I would say to be in Monmarte, Paris, for the 1880s Post Impressionism. I would like to be Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s studio assistant, if he had one! I’m not too keen on his paintings, but I love all his posters and drawings. I think it would have been a very interesting time.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering taking up art either as a profession or a hobby?
I would say work hard at what you love. I think everyone should do something creative, even as a one off. I think creativity is a natural thing to want to do. I definitely encourage everyone to try something and express themselves. As far as a profession, it seems to choose you! Following your creative passion is more a lifestyle than a traditional career, so that has its positives and negatives. Practice, practice, practice! Follow your passion!
What are your plans for the future?
The most exciting thing for me at the moment is a project I have recently undertaken with a few other local artists. Big Fig Arts is an artist run initiative organising projects and workshops in Bellingen. We host exhibitions and events at The Bellingen Brewery & Co., a venue that has a boutique bar, brewery and our gallery wall. We operate as a not for profit association and promote accessible and inclusive arts. Our aim is to become known as a dynamic little arts organisation, encouraging a thriving and creative arts culture in this area. We have lots of different and exciting projects planned. I really enjoy working with other artists and the community.
I generally have one solo show a year and am involved in up to six group shows a year, so they are always part of my plans. At the moment I am working towards an exhibition involving four artists that will show at The Bellingen Brewery & Co. over summer. The show is called Honey, and its theme is birds and bees, looking at nature, biology and lifecycles. All the works created for this show must be made from re-claimed materials, or found and recycled objects. This will be the next big opening night for Big Fig Arts on Thursday, December 3rd.