We speak to Gillie & Marc who are contemporary artists from Australia.
Let’s start with basics, were you both heavily into arts growing up?
Gillie: Oh yes, I was always sketching as a child. I spent part of my childhood in Zambia and was fortunate enough to sketch all sorts of wildlife from sight. Hippos, lions, giraffes, zebras, elephants, I was a lucky girl to be able to draw so many amazing animals like that and it just made me want to draw more.
Tragically, one of the elephants I had sketched was shot in front of me when I was still a kid. Obviously it was very horrible and it changed the way I saw the world after that and how the visual way of thinking isn’t necessary a literal way.
Marc: Growing up I loved Andy Warhol and how he did the same things over and over again so I began sketching. My sister had leukemia when I was a kid and my parents didn’t wantthere to be any chance of outside infection so I was left to myself a lot but that meant to methere was more time to sketch so that’s what I did.
By the time I had finished my education at one the countries strictest Jewish schools I was told to choose between finance or law and I chose art. It was the thing I was best at.
You both work as husband and wife team on projects, but you have one vision, how do you find that in terms of the creative process?
Gillie: Before we started working on everything together we created separate pieces of art that we would exhibit together as part of a collection, a team showing if you will. Although we did that for quite a while it never quite felt right. In our openings one of us would always sell more than the other and while we could be happy for one another it never felt likewinning. It’s sad to say but the glass always felt half empty.
We started creating side-by-side as ‘Gillie and Marc’ in 2006 for a portrait of Olympian John Konrads and it was the first year we were accepted into the Archibald Prize. It felt right and when we signed the painting as Gillie and Marc we knew we would never look back.
Marc: Spending all of our time together, we know each other so well now that we’re alwaysaligned on our creative vision. Our business is our art and our art is our life. Even whenwe’re at home watching TV or out for a romantic dinner we’re still answering emails and coming up with ideas and we love it, we can’t get enough of it!
It’s that understanding of each other and the constant drive to grow and change that formsour creative process and particularly when you’re doing it for a cause such as our TravelEverywhere with Love public art project and our Love The Last movement to protect endangered animals that keeps us ticking along and producing art we love.
Talking of creative process, in terms of your sculptures, I am so intrigued, what that process is like from start to finish? Can you elaborate on that?
Marc: It takes a long time to even start the clay work that becomes the mould the bronze sculptures are formed from, up to two years some times. In the case of our biggest sculpture The Last Three to accurately depict the last three northern white rhinos we wanted to meet them first, study them and sketch them so that when we get to work with the clay we can form something that looks like the real deal.
Gillie: Once we have the foundations set we begin to add the detail which we love to do. Adding the small details by using clay carving utensils it gives the final bronze product so much texture and you just want to touch it and play with it. Spending time with our subjects, in this case the last three northern white rhinos Najin, Sudan and Fatu, is absolutely essential if we are going to make anything we are proud of. Seeing what thesedetails are and making sure they’re there is a big part of this.
After that, the clay is set with molten bronze and the statue is ready! Once it cools of course!
What is your favourite medium when working on a sculpture to work with? Or does that very much depend on the project/budget etc?
Gillie: Definitely bronze. The texture it creates, the way the colour changes over time and itlasts so long as well. It’s harder to produce than say a resin or a fibreglass sculpture, it takeslonger and it’s more expensive but when you consider that it will last for hundreds of yearsand doesn’t need any maintenance at all that for me far outweighs the initial investment.You can pass it down through the family which we absolutely love the thought of.
Marc: In recent years we’ve also really gotten into using coloured patina on our bronze sculptures which gives the bronze sculptures a colourful coat that looks good enough to eat. We love blending coloured patinas alongside raw bronze like in our recent sculpture seriesAn Unusual Love Story where you have bronze Rabbitwoman and Dogman with colourful clothes, fruits and animals, it just looks really eye-catching and really beautiful.
I am a massive fan of research into projects before commencing them, how much research or visiting places is involved in your projects?
Marc: A lot. All the cities that Dogman and Rabbitwoman visit in our paintings are not justplaces we’ve been but places we love and maybe even places we’ve lived before such asSydney, New York, Paris and Singapore. While it is a matter of recreating the landmarks,we’re also putting our artistic interpretation into the piece through the lenses of our own experience and what the destination means to us.
Travel is not just a big passion of ours but a way to get inspired and fuel creativity.
Gillie: Another example we could give would be our journeys to visit the amazing peoplewho work in conservation, protecting some of the world’s most endangered animals. In2017, we visited the last three northern white rhinos at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. We wanted to spend as much time with the rhinos as possible so we could create a piece that would raise awareness for them, ultimately becoming The Last Three which was unveiled in New York City in March 2018, just a few days before Sudan, the last male northern white rhino passed away.
What we love about conducting our own field research is the other things we discover along the way. While we were in Africa we also spent hundreds of hours in small planes traveling from place to place and we were just amazed by the aerial view of Africa from above which lead us to create Above and Beyond which is our first ever abstract series. So, while we werethere to be inspired by the rhinos we ended up finding inspiration where we weren’t looking and that’s the wonderful thing about going out there and doing your own research!
The Last Three is one of my favourite sculptures ever I would say, how does it feel when you have worked on something like that to be then be standing next to it inNew York City given that it’s 17ft high & 8 tonnes?
Marc: Wow, thank you! It feels amazing, especially with The Last Three that had a much tighter timeline than of our other monumental sculpture projects because we were determined to finish it before Sudan died and he was deteriorating more and more every day. Being able to finish it while he was still with us was something I’ll never forget.
"Unveiling it in New York, a city we love and in such a good spot, to a crowd of people who knew about the northern white rhino or wanted to learn more it was just amazing."
Unveiling it in New York, a city we love and in such a good spot, to a crowd of people who knew about the northern white rhino or wanted to learn more it was just amazing.
Gillie: The reaction that you get from people is the best part. It took us three years to be there in New York unveiling The Last Three and you feel like just having a big sleep after that but you end up feeling even more excited because there are so many people there tellingyou they love what you’ve done and that they had no idea it was that bad for the rhinos and now they want to help you do something about it!
That’s why we really try to bring the environmental element into our art now. We areanimal lovers and now we get to use our platform and our art for the good of these endangered species and that increases the satisfaction more than anything.
What are you working on right now?
Marc: Not saying. Only joking! We will be making our fourth appearance at Sydney’s Sculptures by the Sea this year and this will feature some endangered animals we’ve never sculpted life-sized before and there is going to be four of them and they will be made ofbronze. We don’t want to give too much away but they will be interactive and have a strong environmental message we think kids and adults are going to love!
Gillie: It’s part of our Love The Last social movement where we want to raise awareness for nine of the world’s most endangered species, some of which we’ve been lucky enough to spend time with and others that we are yet to meet! We want to make more art featuring these animals so we can raise money and awareness for them, so that people can see them and fall in love with them which is the first step towards caring for these animals and if enough of us care then these endangered animals have a fighting chance!
Marc: We want to make these animals famous because if they’re famous people will want to save them. We managed to spread the message of The Last Three to a lot of people andwhile it felt amazing we’d like our next project to be less of a memorial and more beacon ofchange for endangered animals that there are less than 100 of left in the wild.
What inspires you?
Gillie: Oh, thanks Marc, you inspire me too. And definitely spending times with endangered animals is inspiring also. Particularly in their home in whichever corner of the world that is because as we said travel is very inspiring for us as well.
Marc: I think the idea of making a difference and driving change is quite inspiring. It’s whatthe best artists do. We want our art to be noticed, to be loved and be important to people but above all we want it to change something. Whether someone sees it and smiles and it changes their day or something bigger like improving the lives of humans and animals around the world which we try to do.
Check out Gillie & Marc on social and their website below:
@gillieandmarcart on instagram
@gillieandmarc on facebook