Andrew McIlroy is working hard on his first big piece of art for the region

IN PROGRESS: Daylesford painter Andrew McIlroy's four canvases for The Great Australian Landscape are coming along well. Photo: Dylan Burns
IN PROGRESS: Daylesford painter Andrew McIlroy's four canvases for The Great Australian Landscape are coming along well. Photo: Dylan Burns

Daylesford artist Andrew McIlroy is working hard in his studio at Sacred Heart Convent in Ballarat in preparation for the Biennale of Australian Art.

McIlroy is one of eight artists who was awarded a grant after being chosen to paint the landscape of a particular Australian state or territory.

McIlroy, who is known for his vibrant seascapes, was chosen to depict New South Wales.

He is currently in the process of painting four canvases, which will equal eight metres, to depict the state. 

Working to complete such huge paintings in the months ahead is a challenge, but as the paintings and stories unfold it’s proving a rewarding experience

Andrew McIlroy

“The Biennale of Australian Art is an extraordinarily ambitious project, bringing together some of the best of Australian art, music and video.

“There’s a real buzz about it. Working to complete such huge paintings in the months ahead is a challenge, but as the paintings and stories unfold it’s proving a rewarding experience,” he said. 

He describes his traditional renaissance style of painting with oil paint on linen as a “series of accidents and tricks” with which he employs abstraction to portray movement.

Thus far, he has completed one of the four thematically consistent canvas works.

He describes the piece as a depiction of being submerged in water.

“It’s that feeling of jumping off the jetty into the water and realising it’s actually quite deep. It portrays the sense of panic that kicks in,” he said.

“I didn’t want [the four canvases] to look like a tourism catalogue but Sydney is about the beaches, harbours and lakes so I’m trying to feel my way through it.”

McIlroy said his works are “paintings within paintings” and he aims to evoke emotion in his viewers. 

“I work to engage emotions rather than depicting a particular landscape.

“This work depicts my emotions but also the viewer’s, who can relate to the experience. My work is always about that engagement with the audience, otherwise you’re just an artist painting pictures,” he said.

The Great Australian Landscape will be part of the Biennale of Australian Art, to be on display at St Andrew’s Church in Ballarat from September 21 until November 6.