VICTORIAN-BORN ARTIST Geoff Todd’s father, a dairy farmer, would spend his morning tea break completing crosswords in the daily newspaper, sketching in the margins as a way to resist young Geoff’s chatter. It was from here that Geoff’s own artistic flare took flight.
His first solo exhibition was held in 1969 in Melbourne, when the artist was just 18 years of age. In 1984, he and his partner (artist, Janette Lucas) moved to Maningrida in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. They loved the land so much that they purchased a studio there, alongside one in Ararat, Victoria. “We work between the two cities,” he tells Art Edit of his current practice.
To this day, Geoff says he continues to find inspiration from the land, entering a meditative state while on the 4,000-kilometre drive between studios, which he prefers to do alone and in silence. He works in the same way. “When struggling with aesthetic decisions, emotions, conceptual reasoning and a host of other possible issues, the very last thing I need when working is noise or company.”
Many of the artist’s drawings, paintings and sculptures are inspired by literature. “I have always been fascinated with the idea [of]: ‘Is the image in my mind’s eye the same as [in the imagination of] another reader?’” he says.
Geoff works in a figurative style with mixed media (acrylic and charcoal, oil on canvas, and pastel) mostly from life and live models. “The model in the beginning is a stranger watching me work, which just adds to my anxiety,” he says. While Todd’s art reflects real life, he makes clear that the viewer is not to expect photo realism. “I am very conscious that worshipping objects is not enough if we are making art,” he explains.
Most recently, Geoff has been working on two series. The darker of the two series, Marathon Runners, is the product of working closely with two young women who have come through adversity with a strong and optimistic outlook on the world.
The lighter series is a study in black and white. “It began with a portrait I made of an Indonesian fashion designer, Nonita Respati, who came to stay with us,” Geoff says. From this the Black Dress series was born, comprising paintings of black and white dresses that will be printed on fabric and used by Nonita in her 2019 winter collection.
Geoff’s work has travelled far, to exhibitions in Indonesia, Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Austria and the United States. This far-flung success has given rise to a book about the artist entitled Looking North. The Art of Geoff Todd: Outsider, Maverick & Humanist.