DiaryTV interviews: Bryan Dawe
by By SANDI MILLER
8th October 2019
MONTSALVAT Gallery is host to a new exhibition from satirist and artist Bryan Dawe.
Known predominantly for his work as foil to the late John Clarke on the ABC’s 7:30 Report, Bryan is also an accomplished artist, with this the 14th exhibition of his work.
The exhibition has been assembled by curator Krista McClelland, who has managed to combine several styles of Bryans work into a cohesive gestalt that feels right at home in the rustic surrounds of the Barn Gallery.
Bryan spoke to the Diary just prior to the opening of the exhibition, Interlude in Montsalvat’s Barn Gallery about his art, his satire and his love aff air with Morocco.
Bryan develops his pieces using iPad technology.
“I picked a few of the little apps that were around that did exactly what I wanted them to do … I just play really.
“On the iPad now, there are so many painting and drawing apps that weren’t available even when I did the Tangiers exhibition and now they are, and so you keep at it, and hope you don’t trip over the furniture on the way, and end
up with some work,” he said.
The musical theme of his many pieces in this exhibition took inspiration from Montsalvat’s Barn Gallery itself, after looking at the gallery’s grand piano he produced a series of musically themed pieces.
“I walked in the door here and that inspired me … I just went ‘yup, music’.
“My stuff is pretty regular, circus, theatre, abandoned buildings, and the music is part of it… the shape of the piano is beautiful, and the shape of the violin is beautiful and so that is not hard,” he said.
Montsalvat’s Gallery Curator, Christine Johnson opened the exhibition by applauding Bryan’s innovative technique.
“Working on an iPad, he draws freehand, paints and transforms his imagery on the virtual plane and brings the images to full realisation as exquisite and vivid pigment prints.
“By his combining the hand-drawn with the digital, Bryan has more or less created a whole new idiom for himself.
“These images have their roots in Bryan’s photographic works, which were themselves also transformed beyond ordinary reality using similar technical methods,” she said.
Bryan told the Diary he gets a different sort of pleasure from art than producing his many satirical performances.
“It doesn’t clash in any way because I am not trying to be satirical in any way — if any of them become satirical then it is by accident, more than design, ironic maybe, there is a bit of that going on with some of them, … it is almost the opposite of it — and it is a release from all the politics, which bores me senseless.”
He said he feels lucky to have his art as an outlet since his work producing political satire ended abruptly when his collaborator John Clarke passed away.
“Boredom is a strange thing, as John Clarke used to say, boredom is the driving force of all art, and if you are not doing one thing you have got to look around and make sure boredom is kept at bay.
“When John passed away that was the end of our thirty-year relationship and the end of me doing political satire on television.
“There was no one else I was ever going to work with, or wanted to work with, so I was incredibly lucky I was doing this [art] at the same time,” he
When John passed away Bryan was able to escape to Morocco where he has been traveling to and from for over a decade.
“It began with a man called Sandy McHutchin who used to work at the ABC and did Australia Overnight, and he lives with his family in Fez permanently now, and they invited me when they came back to Australia to look after their house in Fez, and that started the romance with Morocco, and that was seven trips ago.
“I discovered Tangiers which I had been through two or three times but had never stopped because everyone said ‘oh don’t stay in Tangiers, it is a bit
“Then one day, an Australian woman said to me, ‘do you know what, you need to go and stay in Tangiers for a while, because I think you and Tangiers
were made for each other’.
“And I got there, spent a week, fell in love with it and then met the art gallery owner who said have the exhibition.
“So I went there last year for five months and did some of this work, but that was where it began and it has just grown from there, but I do love
Tangiers particularly, partly because it is a port town.
“I grew up in a port town and I love port towns.
“[Tangiers] is like Marseille, I went to Marseille, I said ‘oh yes this is easy, this is Tangiers with French language’.”
Bryan started creating his artwork around 12 years ago.
“I had a brief break of about fi ve years in between, because I didn’t quite know where I wanted to take it all… and I was in Tangiers, and the night before I came back [to Australia] an art gallery owner said ‘oh you are coming back next year, do you want to have an exhibition’?
“I came back to Australia and put together an exhibition of work that was nothing like anything I had ever done
and that is what kickstarted these — I had three [exhibitions] last year and this one.”
Bryan also spoke recently as part of the Montsalvat Festival, with a talk entitled A Satirists Journey.
“It is a talk about where I started, and my influences.
“I was told I couldn’t do any of the things I ended up doing, and I suppose if that is a message in the talk it is never tell a young kid they can’t do
“I was told I could never work on radio, could never be an actor, could never be a writer, didn’t even get to art — because I came from the wrong background — a working class background in Port Adelaide.”
“What happened is my father died when I was 15 and I left school because I was — boredom is not quite the word, it is way beyond there — and so I left.
“And that is when I was told I couldn’t do all these thing, so there was a farsighted genius in all this that was the career advisory offi cer and he told me
that I couldn’t do these things… and one of the great things that happened, is eventually I was asked to go back over to Adelaide to my high school and
speak at their hundredth [anniversary] celebrations.
“I said very naughtily to them, ‘good evening ladies and gentlemen, I am here despite you, not because of you’.
“The night went downhill from there — that is what the talk is about, and I talk about working with my characters Roly and Sonya Parks and my other
character Sir Murray Rivers, and of course John Clarke, so it covers a fair territory along the way.”
Bryan said that his life’s journey has been about exploring possibilities.
“Things happen and you go down that trail and see what happens and hope you get home without hurting yourself,” he said.
Interlude is at the Barn Gallery,Montsalvat until November 11.
Meet the artist: Saturday, November 9, 2–4 pm
Bryan will talk about his practice as an artist working in the digital realm.