Australian artist Guido Maestri is known predominantly as a painter of landscapes and still life subjects. Recently, he has taken his painterly technique of applying thick layers of paint into the realm of self portraiture and sculpture. Inspired by a residency in regional Victoria, Maestri says that in making these self-portrait sculptures, ‘the raw material can be pushed, kneaded, frozen, split, melted and carved. The perfect medium to explore oneself. They’re more about deconstruction, exploration, and understanding. Unearthing.’

Maestri’s vibrantly coloured, cast bronze bust performs a perverse reversal whereby the seemingly non-permanent marks of the artist’s hand and a playground palette of bright colour are permanently cast into bronze. Larger than life this work quotes from, and parodies, the history of monumental and public sculpture, specifically the tradition of sculptural busts that represents significant white, middle-class men (even prominent in North Terrace in Adelaide). Maestri’s The tourist engages in a conversation with the history of colonisation with Maestri employing the word ‘tourist’ as a euphemism for ‘colonist’.

Think back to the bronze sculptures you passed along North Terrace prior to arriving at the Gallery. Who did they depict and what is their role in public space? Compare these public monuments to The tourist by Maestri, which is also made from bronze. Other than colour, how else do they differ in appearance and artist’s intention?

Look carefully at the figurative works of art in the Gallery. Make a list of all the materials artists have used to create their sculptures. Brainstorm a list of other materials you could use to make a sculpture.

Contemporary artists like Maestri still utilise classic materials such as marble and bronze when creating works of art. Research another contemporary artist who uses traditional materials. Refer to The tourist and the other works uncovered in your research and discuss the following statement: ‘Art materials transcend time’. How have these artists used traditional materials or processes to respond to contemporary issues?

Some other artists to consider:

  • Alex Seton
  • Louise Bourgeois
  • Marc Quinn
  • Ricky Swallow
  • Sarah Lucas

Facing a partner, select a facial feature and replicate it using clay or plasticine. Place each feature onto an armature by overlapping and joining all pieces to create a three-dimensional portrait. Look closely and consider the proportions of your partner’s face.

A reproduction of a self portrait by Lucian Freud hangs in Maestri’s studio and he has described the British painter as his greatest inspiration. Who is your greatest inspiration? Make a portrait of them in any material and display it in a prominent space.

With everyone in the class blindfolded, place a selection of items on the table. Draw an object based purely on observation made through touch and memory. Share your experience with the class. What did this activity reveal?