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Dale Cox

Studio

Jesse Marlow

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Studio

A neighbour’s rumpus room with wooded aspects provided the physical and mental head space required by ‘eclectic’ artist, Dale Cox. Though if truth be told, it’s in the process of making that he enters a state of meditative concentration.

Interview by Toby Fehily. Photography by Jesse Marlow.

Dale: I was pretty lucky to end up here. For four or five years I was working from home here in Eltham, painting in my pyjamas. It was fine for a time but it got out of hand with two kids around. The tipping point came when my little girl painted over one of my paintings.

So I thought I’d put the word out locally and post a flyer around my street saying I was on the lookout for a studio. Within a week, someone got in touch with a room for me to rent. It just so happens it belongs to a neighbour two doors down from my house. I’ve been working from here for three years now, with what must be the world’s shortest commute.

The room used to be either a rumpus room or a sun room. When I arrived, I bought this big square of carpet in order to preserve the existing carpet and I built a set of shelves. Luckily, this big old 1970s lounge suite was already here. Ultimately it was just a case of the owners giving me the keys and saying, “Make it your own!”

It’s wonderfully peaceful here. The people who own the house have two little kids but I’m used to that anyway. If anything, I worry about me making too much noise – you know, leaving the radio on while they’re trying to settle the kids. But in any case I just bung on the headphones and we’re good to go.

I usually get here at around 9am if I have a deadline or a show looming. Having said that, I’ve got 24-hour access here, so it depends. Having children and being in the family way means there’s a period between about 5pm and 8pm when I’m just on duty: the witching hour. But once I’ve got the kids bathed and into bed, read a story, et cetera, I can wander back here at 8.30, 9pm and then work away until the wee hours, which I sometimes do.

I haven’t quite come down here in my pyjamas – let’s get that on the record. But sometimes, in the middle of the night, I’ll rush back here to whack on a coat of varnish or something. Most of the time, though, it’s because I think I’ve left the air conditioner on.

While the walk from home to studio isn’t that long, it’s long enough to remove me from my domestic space enough to feel like I’m in work mode. But when it comes to art, I find that I get myself into such a state of mindfulness that it never really feels like I need to be locked into work mode per se. I just get into almost a meditative state where time and space is inconsequential. In that way I think I could probably make art just about anywhere. I mean, space and light and storage and so on is important, but I’ve produced art on the kitchen table, I’ve produced art while bushwalking. I don’t clock on and off in that sense.

My work is very eclectic in the sense that I build as much as I paint. I often make sculpture, but I’m in a painting phase at the moment. Either way, half the time my studio is more of a workshop than a studio, and I’ll be doing a lot of cutting and hacking and drilling and sawing and painting. I often joke that I get most of my materials from Bunnings rather than an art shop.

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At the moment I’m creating works for a solo exhibition at Australian Galleries in Melbourne. It started with some paintings of sheep literally consuming the landscape, because, in a sense, that’s what they do. That got me thinking about how we irrevocably shape the landscape, the environment, to suit our needs. Then I just had this mental leap where I realised that sheep, more or less, call the shots here. The agricultural space that we’ve created has usurped the natural environment to the degree where you could almost say that the livestock has become the landscape. So I’ve also been making these paintings of sheep as landscapes.

One of my sculptures is a finalist entry in the 64th Blake Prize, which runs until late April. It’s a re-creation of the Lunar Lander, about the size of a washing machine, with a regal revamp and hints of catacombs. It’s also a reliquary, a vessel to hold holy relics, in this instance a moon rock, playing on the idea of science as a means of transcending our earthly bonds and ascending into Heaven. Apart from that, I’m just pottering around in my laboratory and thinking about the next move. But that’s all top secret for now, I’m afraid.

– March 2016

Jesse Marlow

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