Artist texts: Clare Thackway

There are lots of things that I love about working at the MCA, but chief amongst them is the fact that so many of my friends and colleagues are also practicing artists with formidable skills and deeply thoughtful ways of seeing the world. So I was pretty ecstatic to have the opportunity to write a new biography for painter Clare Thackway recently. These kinds of texts are always a collaborative effort so thank you Clare for trusting me to write this!

You can also see Clare’s work as part of the 2018 Portia Geach Memorial Award at S.H. Ervin Gallery until 2 December 2018.

Clare Thackway, Same, 2016, oil and acrylic on aluminium composite panel, 26 x 36.5 cm. Image: Brett East

Clare Thackway is interested in the ways we perform and move our bodies through spaces both literal and emotional. In her finely wrought portraits and figurative paintings, the body becomes a language through which she contemplates moments of universal human experience, from the emotional to the societal.

Thackway brings a fascination with psychological theories to her figures, considering the ways in which the psyche and memory affect the ways in which we hold ourselves. Her current body of work investigates ideas of performance and the role of costume and drapery in mediating movement.

Thackway’s practice has been informed by her experience as a scenic painter and her interest in human relationships, and the ways in which we affect each other, has also been shaped by her work as an artist educator.

Clare Thackway, Under the Sea, 2017, oil on aluminium composite panel, 122 x 110 cm. Image: Jessica Maurer

As a scenic painter, Thackway worked for Opera Australia from 2008 to 2010, and for film and events in both Sydney and Berlin. As an artist educator, she has worked on contemporary art education and public programs with a specific focus on working with people with dementia and their families; people with lived experience of mental health; and all ages with disability and access requirements. She has undertaken program development, co-ordination and facilitation for organisations including Wollongong Art Gallery, Casula Powerhouse, Australian National University and Alzheimer’s Australia National. Since 2016 she has been an Artist Educator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and in 2017 worked as the MCA’s Art and Dementia Program Coordinator.

Winner of the 2009 Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship, Thackway is also a five-times finalist in the prestigious Portia Geach Memorial Award, most recently in 2018 and Highly Commended in 2017. She has also been a finalist in the Helen Lempriere Travelling Scholarship, the Blake Prize for Religious Art and, in 2018, both the Sir John Sulman Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize.

Thackway holds a Bachelor of Arts – Visual Painting from the Australian National University and in 2006 she graduated from the National Art School Sydney with Honours in Fine Art Painting. She has held solo exhibitions and group exhibitions at galleries including Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Wollongong Art Gallery, Wellington Street Projects, Firstdraft, Canberra Contemporary Art Space, New England Regional Art Museum and ANU School of Art, Canberra, amongst others.