Alexander McKenzie

The first major survey exhibition of Alexander McKenzie showcases forty-two major works tracing a luminous career in painting. Staged at Hazelhurst Arts Centre, ‘The Adventurous Gardener’ canvasses McKenzie’s enduring engagement with imagined environments as metaphorical conduits to exploring personal and historical narratives. Hazelhurst Arts Centre Director Belinda Hanrahan commented on the significance of this show given the Cronulla-based artist’s long personal history with the region as well as his instrumental role in the development of Hazelhurst back in the mid 1990s.

Created solely from imagination and memory, McKenzie’s uninhabited landscapes have a close affinity with those of Europe and Asia: the islands, lochs, and emerald-coloured hills of his ancestral homeland of Scotland; the ornate and formal Renaissance grounds of France and Italy, and the Edo period gardens of Japan that are loaded with symbolism. They recall the themes of Western symbolist painting and the techniques of the 15th Century Dutch Old Masters, evoking implied narrative whilst retaining the artist’s preoccupation with the effects of light and atmosphere. Sharply observed detail set against dreamy sfumato erects formal links between the visible and the invisible, guiding us into elusive worlds of the familiar and strange. For the artist, the maze of symbols conjures a visual journey reflecting the decisions that all of us must make as we navigate the dense, complex terrain of our lives – from serene moments of quiet solitude to tumultuous times of rapid, firey change.

Centered around the recurring motif of the tree, these otherworldly scenes nurture paradoxical dialogues between transience and eternity, vitality and mortality, spirituality and corporeality. The tree is often a trope for self, and as such the painted arboretums can be read as symbolic self-portraits. ‘I like the idea of looking after a tree as it grows, changing it, clipping it, curating it, bending it, as an overriding symbol of the way I believe we need to do that to ourselves – tended trees become a reference to one’s own soul’, reflects McKenzie.

Alexander McKenzie | The Adventurous Gardener
25 August – 21 October 2018
Hazelhurst Arts Centre, NSW


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