Ant Macari has an incredibly benevolent philosophy towards his work. Neither possessive nor exalted in his artistic approach, Macari places significant emphasis on the response of his audience. The nature of Macari’s work lends itself to interpretation, with the audience and not the artist taking centre stage.
“The viewer activates the work. I don’t want them to be passive observers.” Macari is very conscious of audience response and his art reflects his attempt to create an experience in which his audience can immerse themselves. As with any art form, an obscuration of meaning, via use of symbols and codes is a component of Macari’s work, but not at the cost of accessibility. Macari is somewhat demanding of his audience and considers the viewer’s movement through the space to be of primary importance. Macari discloses that he uses “concealment as a means of forcing the viewer into a more creative role.”
The Newcastle native is currently showing his work at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art with his exhibition entitled Fresh as Tomorrow, which runs until 20 January 2008. The exhibit is based on Macari’s site-responsive drawings, which can be tracked throughout the building. Macari views museums and galleries in an untraditional format, not a space to simply exhibit but as a location, which functions as an active, not inert, element of the artistic experience. One would assume that the impermanence of his work would be a concern, but Macari prefers the temporary nature of his art. “The longer a work stays up, the less impact it creates. it doesn’t matter to me if my work stays up for a week, or a month.”
Macari names a wide range of mediums as an influence to his visual art, and cites literature as one of his primary interests. “I read a lot. I like to experiment with how image and text function together to a create a syntax; an active element in the work.” Listing Anthony Burgess and Ivor Cutler among his favourite authors, Macari remains acutely aware of the delicate dynamics of the written word with other art forms. He explores the convention of modern Western society to read from left to right. By subverting the viewer’s expectations Macari helps us to question the customs of our society and ponder the reasons why they exist in the first place.
Although Macari exhibits in various mediums, the basis for the majority of his creative output is invariably drawing, which has always been central to his process. Macari has developed six distinct modes of drawing, which he considers to be “semi-automatic.” These different approaches succeed in developing his art as a mode of exploration, and consequently he is never able to pinpoint the end result of his works until they are almost completed. As Macari’s work involves writing directly onto the buildings, although he conceives a basic idea of the intention for the installation it is only a one-dimensional perspective.
It is comforting to see that the BALTIC are continuing to support local and emerging artists of this calibre. It is refreshing to note that Ant Macari’s work is consistently challenging. He succeeds in generating a creative dialogue regarding our traditional perceptions and unlike his works those impressions are lasting.