While completing an artist’s residency at the Glasshouse Regional Gallery in October last year, Sydney based artist Todd Fuller discovered the story of the late Harry Thompson, Port Macquarie’s well-known “Mayor” of Shelly Beach.
Todd will be back visiting Port Macquarie in February, showcasing works inspired by his residency in the exhibition From somewhere.
Hi Todd. Where are you currently based … and how much does this location contrast with Port Macquarie?
I work in Bondi and live in Glebe, two very different parts of Sydney. I arrived in Port Macquarie during a particularly rainy and bleak few weeks in October, so this offered me a muted palette and a saturated tonal range (sadly, it didn’t offer me much swimming!) These conditions showed me a landscape beyond the iconic postcard that this region is known for, so it was a delight to explore the area in such an unexpected way. The Hastings region has a very different vibe to metropolitan Sydney – the pace of life, the sheer landscape and that big open sky. It was contemplative, meditative and regenerative.
You completed an artist’s residency at the Glasshouse Regional Gallery in October 2018. What were some key things you enjoyed most about this experience?
I am smitten with the Glasshouse Regional Gallery after spending time there. It was a remarkable and elite gallery and one which I was privileged to be able to work with. I really enjoyed being able to work with such an exceptional team …
The longer I stayed in the region, the more incredible local stories presented themselves. I could easily have created work about the history of the glorious Laurieton theatre, or any number of the artefacts enclosed in the Port Macquarie Museum. There is such a rich tapestry of content available from the area.
During your residency, you found out more about local legend Harry Thompson, whose name lives on today in the landmark known as “Harry’s Lookout”. What most struck you about Harry’s story?
No matter where we travel, we are constantly met by streets, lookouts, trails and places which are named after those that came before us. Generally, these people achieved something remarkable and worthy of our enduring memory.
Harry is no exception to this. His story is simultaneously everyday and extraordinary. This was a man who won the lottery – a rare and random fluke which most of us can only dream about. He then buys a caravan, which becomes bogged on Shelley Beach. As a result, Harry and his family end up living on that same beloved beach for nearly 40 years, in that same caravan, as if the bogging was some sign that he was meant to stay. But, once here he tended to the beach, no different to any resident tending their yard. However, the normally domestic task of looking after a backyard extended out across the entire beach in what some would describe as a great community service. The idea of home is usually one of intimacy and warmth, and here it was applied to an entire coastline.
Your upcoming exhibition, From somewhere, features drawings you used to create the wonderful hand painted animation, To see the ocean for the first time. Tell us a bit about this process …
I call these animations hand drawn films, and to make them I essentially draw and paint a series of sequences one frame at a time. Through erasing, re-drawing and re-painting (as well as documenting on a camera), I am able to simulate movement in a manner not dissimilar to early cinematic traditions. In terms of time, pieces like this can take anywhere from 18 months to a couple of weeks. I must admit that I worked pretty fiercely while in residence at the Glasshouse; putting on my hermit hat meant that I managed to create the bulk of this animation across the two week residence, with some finishing touches and sound composition in the months afterwards.
You’ll be back visiting Port Macquarie in February, presenting an artist talk and a drawing masterclass. What are you hoping to share with attendees at these sessions?
This body of work is intended to be a catalyst for storytelling and memories. My animation and drawings are just the ignition for those conversations. So beyond what I wish to share, I really hope the exhibition creates a space for visitors to share their own stories about Shelley Beach and the “Mayor” who manned it.
Beyond that, I always love a masterclass; it is a great opportunity to shake up and reconsider the act of drawing. For me, drawing is a real act of the body, so when I teach I often feel like a fierce ballet teacher as we seek understanding about how each mark is a product of the body in motion and the performance of mark making. I am looking forward to refining some basics and also offering some new ways of approaching a drawing practice.
You’ve received much acknowledgement for your work, including being awarded the JADA (Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award) last year. What’s your artistic dream?
I have a project commencing not long after this exhibition called Hardenvale. Presented in collaboration with Kellie O’Dempsey (Brisbane) and Catherine O’Donnell (Sydney), the touring project is a life size house which through travelling from venue to venue accumulates stories from places that could considered on the cultural fringes.
Beyond this, I would love to start lining up some more international projects; it is always an honour to be able to present Australian stories (particularly from the regions) on an international stage.
Where can we find out more about you?
I am quietly addicted to Instagram, so you can usually catch me almost live from the studio at @fuller_todd as well as through representing gallery MAY SPACE, Sydney and my website www.toddfuller.com.au
Thanks Todd. Interview: Jo Robinson.
View From somewhere at the Glasshouse Regional Gallery from 16th Feb – 22nd April.
Meet the Artist – 16th Feb, 11am (free event).
Drawing Masterclass, 17th Feb, 10am – 3:30pm. $95 (members $90). Bookings essential.