Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Artist Gillie Schattner: Dog Art from Down Under

About a week ago I saw a comment on Twitter by artist Gillie Schattner that made me want to check out her profile. As it turns out Gillie is the other half of the Gillie and Marc painting team that has produced a lot of those famous dog paintings some of us have seen. I asked for an interview and she consented, but instead of talking (she is half a globe away) we tried an experiment and used Twitter. I'm not sure I recommend Twitter as a vehicle for extensive interviews, but once we had the ball rolling, we stuck with it.
Marc and Gillie Schattner have had over 30 solo exhibitions with works that have been hung in galleries all over the world. They've also published some gift books and seem to be having the time of their lives.

Ennyman: First question, to get us started: What are your earliest memories of your interest in art.
Gillie: From around the age of 8 I 'd sit in my room for hours on end painting with watercolours. I copied flowers and photographs that I had taken.

Enny: When did you begin to find that you were interested in getting serious about art as vocation? What were the trigger events?
Gillie: I knew art was to be a part of my life in some way from the age of 12. I wasn't sure at that point exactly which direction it would be in, however, I painted every day and exhibited from the age of 15. I don't even know what triggered the passion, it was just there right from the start and still is. I am a registered nurse (qualified in 1985) but self taught in the arts. Marc studied Graphic Design at Swinburne, Melbourne.

Enny: How did you meet Marc?
Gillie: I met Marc in HongKong when I was travelling around Asia. I was 23, we married a week later in Nepal and have painted together ever since.

Enny: How much of your work is collaborative, and in what ways do you each contribute?
Gillie: We do everything together, brainstorm, then sketch ideas, paint on the same canvas, sometimes we do dyptichs.

Enny: How long have you been married? And how long have you been painting the dogs?
Gillie: Married for 19 years, and painting dogs for about 5 years. For our 20th years we would like to get remarried in Italy, it's a dream!

Enny: I assume you know it is unusual to marry someone so quickly after you meet them. How did that happen?
Gillie: Sounds corny maybe, but love at first site! Nothing has changed since the day we met, Marc is my soul mate!

Enny: Why did you leave New York and move to Sydney?
Gillie: Marc is Australian, so we finally moved home I suppose. It's wonderful here, and our children are Aussies!

Enny: So the dogs have been only the last five years. They seem pretty famous... that is, I have seen them around. Did that surprise you?
Gillie: Yes, our doggies have been extremely popular, I suppose everyone just loves dogs!! So now it looks like we may be painting them for a while!

Enny: What were you painting the first fifteen years you were married? Who does what in the collaborations?
Gillie: We had joint shows but painted separately. I have my own graphic design company and Marc his own advertising company as well.

Enny: Whose idea was the theme of your new show, yours or Marc? The opening image is provocative.
Marc: It is called 'Returning to the Animal Within' and is all about appreciating the simple things in life and not being so materialistic.

Enny: What media are the dog/human sculptures made of? That in itself looks like a bit of skill involved.
Gillie: They are made out of Fibreglass and then finished with a 2Pak car spray, we design them and then a technician makes them for us.

Enny: Last Q, maybe: Who are your favorite artists? What other artists have inspired you personally?
Gillie: Contemporary artists such as Banksy, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Patricia Piccinini, to name a few

Thanks, Gillie, for your time.

Is modern art going to the dogs? You can see more of Marc and Gillie's work a Their current show, Returning to the Animal Within opens October 7 at the Nexus Modern Art at 123 Cecil Street in South Melbourne and will be on display through the 21st.

Contact for more information.

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