10 QUESTIONS WITH NOAH TAYLOR

For many of his years, Noah Taylor has graced us with his charm and talent on the silver screen. Unknown to some however, this talent is also mirrored in the dark, inky characters he has been painting on the side. Are these immortal individuals a reflection of the beasts in the industry? A cathartic release from the turmoils of fame?  I ask Noah a few more (this time, in depth) questions to find out what makes his fabulously garish cartoons come to life.

Noah Taylor’s haunted portraits stare back at us and we can’t help but be touched by their strange, blank beauty. -Nick Cave

Noah Taylor. 'Untitled' (2016). Ink on paper Noah Taylor. ‘Untitled’ (2016). Ink on paper

1. How did you come to be an artist? Was this a prelude to acting or something that developed later?

I think all of us start life as artists, children make sense of the world through drawing, no matter how crude or ‘childish’ their pictures are, symbols predate language and so art is most often the first way we express ourselves.

As language develops and accepted versions of reality are adhered to, most people do away with the need to create in order to understand themselves and the world, also sadly we are taught at a young age that we lack ‘talent’ or skill in this field and it something best left to professionals. Some of us however fall somewhere in the middle, lacking expertise or schooling but still retaining a need to express through art. For me, acting, painting and making music are all branches of the same tree and I’ve always had a slightly compulsive need to do these things. In the rare periods where I haven’t done something creative, this same need will manifest itself in decidedly destructive behavior, which is the negative side of the same coin.

Noah Taylor. 'Untitled' (2012). Charcoal and pastel on paper Noah Taylor. ‘Untitled’ (2012). Charcoal and pastel on paper

2. Your works are for the most part, ‘Untitled’. Do you feel this‘ clean slate’ approach lets the viewer bring their own story to your pieces?

I like people to come up with their own titles for my pictures, it acts as a kind of Rorschach test for each individual viewer, Ive found it interesting that one person will view the subject of a painting as a sad woman’s face, while someone else will view the same painting as face of a smiling man, paintings a purely visual thing and I like to keep it separate from language.

Also I get particularly annoyed at some terrible, mainly conceptual art, that solely relies on a title to make the piece work, usually a particularly pretentious title at that. The so called YBA’S are particularly guilty of this lazy smug device.

Noah Taylor. 'Untitled' (2015). Ink on paper. Noah Taylor. ‘Untitled’ (2015). Ink on paper.

3. Do you think your career and background as an actor informs the character development in your works?

I’m primarily interested in figurative stuff and faces in particular, I used to draw a lot of comics and I found to draw a particular expression, I’d have to be making the same expression on my own face whilst drawing, not to see it in a mirror, but feel it, that’s the only real correlation between acting and drawing for me, and I suppose both disciplines require you to empathize with the subject. 

Noah Taylor. Prediction Series (2017). Noah Taylor. Prediction Series (2017).

4. Do you draw on the same creative resources within yourself when painting and acting? How does the emotional process differ?

Painting for me is much more of an exercise in the subconscious, I like to start with no plan whatsoever and let my hand and brush lead my my mind as opposed to the reverse. Acting requires a lot more disciplined thought initially, and it’s someone else’s creation you are serving but I guess they both work best when you are in the so called ‘flow’ state.

5. Do you think living away from Australia informs the landscapes you paint?  Is there a strong sense of nostalgia for The Land Down Under’?

I usually have a landscape in the background of most my pictures featuring people prominently in the foreground, the area around the Canberra / NSW made a big impression on me when I worked there as a teen, as did the YooYangs in Victoria, soft rolling hills and strange rock formations. I’ve been doing a lot more purely landscape stuff of late and though not explicitly Australian, that sort of country will always be a big source of inspiration. The stuff I do is more about a parallel, imagined world, that I obsessively return to, a world about emotions rather than direct representation.

Noah Taylor. 'Landscape' (2016). Oil on canvas Noah Taylor. ‘Landscape’ (2016). Oil on canvas

6. Does your personal life inform the works you make at all?

My personal life absolutely dictates what I paint, as I’ve mellowed out a bit in my old age, so has my subject matter, my early artwork was pretty horrific and ugly, and I’ve kind of revisited that a bit of late. I still have the need to make pure rage and hate stuff from time to time.

Noah Taylor. 'Teenage Drawing' (1986). Pencil on paper. Noah Taylor. ‘Teenage Drawing’ (1986). Pencil on paper.

7. What message or emotion do you hope people take from your works?

I have no message to convey, it’s therapy for me first and foremost, occasionally I like to make a bit of a political statement but in the main it’s all from my subconscious and if people like it, great, if not, too bad. I find most message stuff a bit annoying and trite.

Noah Taylor. 'Untitled' (2015). Ink on paper. Noah Taylor. ‘Untitled’ (2015). Ink on paper.

8. The last solo show in Australia [at OLSEN Gallery] had quite a number of pieces in it. Does it take you long to produce these pieces once you get on a roll or are they something you deliberate on for a while?

I usually go at them hard for a period of two or three weeks, where I might end up with a hundred or so pictures and then do an edit. The first twenty or sowill be hopeless and too thought out but somewhere in the middle they will take on their own life.

Noah Taylor. 'Untitled' (2005). Oil on canvas. Noah Taylor. ‘Untitled’ (2005). Oil on canvas.

9. You dabble in many materials form ink on paper to charcoal on paper and oil on canvas, however I feel your ink on paper works are extremely popular, especially in Sydney. Do you have an affinity with this material or is there another medium you prefer?

One of the main appeals of ink on paper for me is the speed at which you can work, they’re done and dried in a matter of minutes…I’ve fairly recently started painting in oils, which is a lot more time consuming and demanding and the challenge is trying to keep that sense of urgency and immediacy.

10. Describe your practice in 5 words…

Inactivity, thought, preparation, go mental.

Noah Taylor. 'Untitled' (2015). Ink on paper. Noah Taylor. ‘Untitled’ (2015). Ink on paper.

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