Jaccob McKay is a multidisciplinary artist who works in sculpture, installation, photography and sound art. He is currently completing his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Contemporary Music at the Victorian College of the Arts. His work deals primarily in themes around nature with a particular view to abstracting the beauty he finds occurring naturally in order to create something new. McKay works with the natural environment, taking from it his materials, inspiration and symbols.
Having grown up in Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges, McKay identifies this unique landscape as having given him the opportunity to explore Australia’s particular natural environments but also notes he was never so isolated that he didn’t experience the metropolitan city. “Having this comparison allowed me to appreciate the wonders of both,” he says. “But I formed a special connection with the forests and mountains of where I grew up.”
McKay identifies his ability to work across several mediums as allowing him to explore ideas from different angles, to process them in different ways and in doing so uncover novel ways of interpreting his original concept. But the life of an artist is never a continuous and unbounded outpouring of creative expression; there are bills to be paid. McKay notes that the best advice he received as an artist was to have multiple sources of income. In addition to studying and making work for exhibition, McKay also creates jewellery to sell on his website. He also works as a commercial photographer and sells his artwork at exhibitions. This isn’t easy, as McKay notes balancing full-time study with such intensive work can make it hard to get the work/life balance right. I asked him whether he believed the government should play a greater role in the support of artists and he agreed, saying “The government needs to realise that art and culture are huge industries which create jobs and boost the economy. Investing more in that is a no-brainer.”
So how does an artist work between the commercial and high art world in a postmodern age when money is frowned upon as dirtying the art world? “I’ve often thought that ‘real’ art had to be something with some sort of meaning, something which exists for a reason,” he says. “However, many of the great historic works of art were created for commercial purposes, love of the craft or to document the artist’s life and these are all valid reasons.” He concludes ultimately that if the artist says it’s art, then it is art. McKay’s long-term plan is to see himself firmly established in the Melbourne scene or perhaps abroad; he is keen to define his direction as an artist but never forego exploring and trying new things.
So what superpower would McKay have, if he could choose? “My superpower would be flight. I’m… not entirely comfortable with heights but hopefully I’d get used to it! Having that perspective and freedom would be exhilarating and I can already imagine the art I would create with such a power.” Spoken like a true artist.