October 15th, 2023Artists of the Central Highlands
With Eve Lamb
Long established artist and observing Jew, Daylesford’s Bill Meyer (pictured above) can name a multitude of diverse career highlights. They range from a painting commission for the Werdiger family, and their patronage over many years to having works included in the Hirsh collection and incorporated in multiple public collections. Further highlights include a touring exhibition of prints and drawings called Gapscape which, in the eighties, was showing in 26 state, regional and national galleries nation-wide. Today, while now in his 80s, this gifted local remains busy with digital arts and music.
Eve: How would you describe your style Bill? Does it fit a particular genre?
Bill: Art writers have described my work variously as related to German Expressionism, to lyrical abstract expressionism, to heavy metal girders rather than petit-point… I prefer to think of my visual work as landscape-in-metaphor.
Eve: How did you come to Art?
Bill: There was never any real alternative…I attended night classes in life drawing for several years until graduating from university when I was accepted as a full-time day student at the National Gallery Art School, which, by the time I graduated with a fine arts degree in painting and printmaking, had transformed into the VCA and nowadays is part of Melbourne University. Graduate studies in London followed and I spent the next decade in the Northern Hemisphere. Exhibitions lead to further development and encouragement from visiting artists to The Royal College and also curators and directors of the Institute of Contemporary Art where I exhibited, brashly, several times.
Eve: Where do you do most of your work? Where is your home?
Bill: I have lived and worked in Melbourne…also in London during the seventies. There have been multiple stays as a guest artist in Israel at the studios in Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Jerusalem, several years in America, again Australia as artist-in-residence at several university-attached art colleges and regional city galleries; rural accommodations for artist-in-schools projects, and now, for the past four decades mostly living and creating from my studio on the family property in the beautiful bushland of Hepburn Shire.
Eve: Which artists have influenced you?
Bill: The artist most valued by me would be Rembrandt for his philo-semitic intensity, his draftsmanship and composition, his use of light and shade, dramatically, aesthetically, and his tenaciousness towards creativity even under the worst of adverse times. My list of admired and influencing artists include the New York Greenbergian artists of the fifties through the seventies, including Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler, Rothko, Barnet Newman … also artists such as Modigliani, although I am not a figurative artist, I admire the poetry of his figuration, same for Klimt and the Viennese secessionists. Landscape influences include Turner, Caspar Friedrich David, and Hobbema.
In Australian influences I include Arthur Boyd, Fred Williams and my mentor with whom I learned so much about the philosophy and beauty of being an artist; Roger Kemp. The friendship extended to the entire Kemp family household. Victor Majzner, an artist friend to this day, has been part of both that world involving galleries, professional practice and education, and also the more spiritually focussed aspects of the Jewish art world. There are others…
Eve: Are there particular factors which have influenced your creative work?
Bill: Money was always an issue but somehow I have survived with the help of democratic governments, friends, family and patrons albeit that they complained often and frequently at length.. Networking and working on projects with other artists has been personally and creatively a great thing… In the past several decades, being located in the Central Highlands has given me a sense of much needed personal, spiritual and working space.The forests around Daylesford have contributed content and metaphor to my work.
Eve: What is your media of choice? Why so?
Bill: Printmaking as in fine art editions, initially as a conventionally analogue printmaker and more recently using digital technology. I also paint on canvas with either acrylic or oil, I draw, and have constructed multi-media installations with sound, light paper and natural organic materials. Recently, over the past decade, I have returned to musical composition, recording the finished works in digital formats.
Eve: What work, goals or projects do you have in mind for the future?
Bill: A large project on Trees in History, legend and Metaphor. Images, text and my dreadful poems. I’m also working on musical compositions which I had deferred for years whilst establishing as a professional visual artist. The music is very important to me.
Eve: What would you rate as the biggest challenge in being a professional artist today?
Bill: In some ways the challenges to professional artists today are similar to challenges to artists since the rise of mercantile civilisation from the Renaissance onwards. Money, creative head space and time, quiet creative time… The speed of life today however is destroying the creative head- space required for the truly competent and caring professional. We may ironically have to search out the scorned amateurs as in the C19th for a truly spiritual experience to be gleaned from the Fine Arts.
Eve: And for you, the greatest rewards?
Bill: The greatest rewards are that well- known ‘frisson,’ that delicious shivering when, in your soul, you know that something good has happened; a creation which has meaning…This is so rare but it is an affirmation that I am in the correct type of service and in the right place…