Award-winning Newport artist and this month’s Blake Prize winner Robert Hague talks to Goya Dmytryshchak.
What’s your connection to Hobsons Bay?
We moved to Newport from Sydney in 2009 to be near family and friends, to have space for our children, my studio and a garden.
Can you tell me about your road to becoming a successful artist and some of your proudest accomplishments?
I made the decision to be an artist early on, and never let failures or poverty stand in the way. It is not necessary to follow the group, attain academic awards or even have the respect of your peers to make great art. It is far more important that you make the work for yourself and follow your ideas, no matter how crazy they may seem. Proudest accomplishment? A major state gallery and the National Gallery of Australia are acquiring my work for their permanent collections, neither of which I am allowed to announce yet.
What do you like about Newport?
Newport to me is family. It is the parks, the schools, the bike rides and the bay.
What would you change?
I would make the Melbourne Road and Mason Street junction more pedestrian and retail friendly. It is currently a sad and under-developed gateway to Newport and Williamstown. Just look at the ugly path beside Newport station and the never improving Masonic Hall.
What’s your favourite cafe and/or eatery, and why?
I love Sammy’s. I meet there with other artists at least once a week. It is unpretentious and Jason often gives us a free custard bagel. As a family, we love Newport Sea Catch, where the whole Elhouli family are lovely, especially Fatima and Betty. Our local corner shop (Newport Supermarket) is also the best – Kittie, Vince and Kim are considered part of our family, and often send the kids home with homemade Vietnamese deserts.
You do some unusual artwork. Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from? For example, how did you come up with the idea to crush your artwork after it was completed for the Crush exhibition?
I just stumble from one artwork to the next. Each informs the last. To make art, you must learn to let it go. I had a series of works that had evolved over five years and, in an effort to move on, I decided the final work must be the most demanding. So I spent three months learning to slipcast, decorate and fire porcelain. These final pieces were then smashed and with the help of another Newport Lakes Primary School dad, Mike Hirchfield, filmed at high speed. The resulting video has recently been acquired by the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and will be shown at Melbourne Central this month in a public art project.