Museum of Brisbane

Behind the scenes with Euan Macleod

EM painting

Euan Macleod mostly deals with landscapes and the human presence within it. It is unlikely that you will find a Macleod artwork that doesn’t feature a lone, anonymous figure, embodying the universal experience of emptiness, worthlessness and impotence.

So, what happens when you send him to a beautiful Queensland island, full of colour, activity and people? Will his usual dark tones and moodiness come through, or will be adapt to the landscape and it’s features. We don’t have to wonder, as this is exactly what happened in preparation for Macleod’s recent solo show at the Museum. We spoke with Museum of Brisbane Director Peter Denham to find out “why Euan” and what happened behind-the-scenes.

Museum of Brisbane: How did the Euan Macleod: Moreton Island exhibition come about?

Peter Denham: I have admired Euan’s work for many years. An opportunity arose to meet Euan at an exhibition of his of new paintings of Brisbane and we started discussing a project. Following this meeting, a number of the works from that exhibition were subsequently included in The River exhibition. There was a great response to his work, which encouraged me to continue the idea of an exhibition sole around his work. Euan travels widely to different locations that inspire him. We got talking about ideas of what he could do for an exhibition, and kept coming back to another exhibition in the Museum, The many lives of Moreton Bay. The conservation turned to Moreton Island, one of my favourite places, and an opportunity for him to respond to the island.

MoB: What was Euan’s reaction to Moreton Island? And did this alter his painting style?

PD: Euan had never been to Moreton Island and did not know what to expect. What he found was a place that far exceeded his initial expectations – a beautiful and remote place so close to the city. The figure in the landscape best defines the heart of Euan’s practice. He was surprised at how many people where there exploring and enjoying the island and he was struck by people continuously moving along the beaches, which he tried to capture in the series of work he produced for the exhibition.

MoB: What do you find significant about Moreton Island?

PD: Moreton Island – a suburb of Brisbane – is such a significant feature of the Bay but one that only a small percentage of people in Brisbane have ever visited. This was another reason for the Museum to do the exhibition to encourage others to explore the island for themselves. The island is only an hour away and it retains all of the charm of many beautiful remote places and is so uplifting to know that such a place is close by and not affected so much by the change that goes on around us.

 MoB: It looked like you got a lot of 1-on-1 time with Euan on Moreton Island, did you learn anything interesting about the artist on your trip?

PD: The small group that visited the island had an insightful time looking for locations for Euan. It was a real privilege to see such an experienced artist at work. To paint a large oil painting in the open conditions at the edge of the beach is something to behold! As an artists he works very quickly, full of energy, working and reworking the canvas continuously moving paint around to capture his experience and responses to the island.