Writing for pleasure to showcase the best Australia has on offer.
Published March 2nd 2020
Artistic Prowness at David Mackay Harrison Gallery
After talking to the lovely staff at the Ballina Visitor Information Centre, I obtained some brochures on the galleries in the area. Having been to Ballina previously and visited all the tourist icons, I wanted to see something different that Ballina had to offer.
Photo courtesy of Mackay Harrison Gallery, Facebook
As sculpture is a favourite of mine, I decided to visit Mackay Harrison Gallery. Currently celebrating forty years in Ballina at the Angels Beach location, Mackay Harrison Gallery's owner David Mackay Harrison, is not only an accomplished bronze sculptor, but also an artist of renown expertise in watercolours, pencil and oils.
David Mackay Harrison Gallery, Ballina (Author's Photo)
Born in Lismore, David's young years were spent on farms, which his father owned. After his father sold the last farm, his father took up a job with the Department of Agriculture. David had a dislike for school with the only subjects he enjoyed and excelled at were technical drawing and woodwork. Relentlessly wanting to leave, his father agreed that he could attend the Hawkesbury Agriculture College to give him a solid grounding for life and further his experience on the land. Graduating after three years with a Diploma of Agriculture, David secured his first job with Chamberlain selling tractors throughout Western NSW.Coming from the land, he had a vast knowledge of what farmers required and became the youngest ever District Manager.
Awards & Accolades for David's Work (Author's Photo taken from Newspaper Clipping)
It was in one of those outback towns that David injured his knee and developed an ulcer on the bone. While being confined to bed for four months in a Sydney hospital, David discovered his true calling; that was to be an artist. During his hospital confinement, he did a series of approximately twenty paintings. Just out of hospital David met Dennis Colesley, owner of Artarmon Galleries, who became his mentor, helping him develop his techniques and encouraging a deeper understanding of paint, form, colour and the use of different brushes. Dennis remains a good friend and mentor.
In Younger Years,the Van was the Studio (Author's photo, taken from Newspaper clipping)
Although enjoying his new-found hobby of painting, he was still working for Chamberlain's, but due to the severe drought in 1964 was transferred to Swan Hill in South Australia. Selling tractors in South Australia was not a viable possibility at that time, so David at the age of twenty-eight decided to take the plunge with his wife and small child leaving Chamberlains to travel around Australia and kick off his career as an artist. With nine hundred dollars in his pocket and working from the back of a small van, the young family ended up in Mt Gambier nine weeks later totally broke. Looking for work to stay a while so they could get back on their feet, David bumped into a window cleaner at Mac's Hotel. Unbeknown to David, he had met not only the hotel's owner, but also the President of the Arts Council, Arthur McDonald. Arthur allowed David to exhibit his paintings on the walls of his hotel and before long he was getting commissions from local farmers to paint their homesteads and properties.
After Mt Gambier, David and the family moved to Cairns, where he decided his nomadic lifestyle needed to come to an end and with the lure of beautiful beaches back in Ballina, he purchased a block of land at Angels Beach and proceeded to build his three-storey home with the gallery on the ground level.
Sculpture in the Gallery (Author's Photo)
Sculpturing came into being after a two-week summer school in Toowoomba where David was to study painting; however, sculpturing took his interest and an avid passion in bronze statues became foremost on his mind. Today the Gallery contains a piece of everything that David has ever created – bronze statues and paintings, along with various paintings from other local artists. On entrance two large bronze boar statues greeted me at the door with the Gallery winding around in different directions to showcase more beautiful bronze statues of human forms, all created from life models. The sculptures in human form were for me, emotionally captivating and truly an authentic representation of his models. The interest in bronze sculptures took over his life for many years even causing him to become the owner of a foundry, Bronze Worx Foundry and Showroom, where the art was created.
On selling this foundry a few years ago, David's passion has returned to painting where he hopes to express himself once again on canvas. The pouring of sculptures is now outsourced to other foundries.
Work in the Attic is Ongoing (Author's Photo)
Being fortunate to catch up with David on the day I visited, I was enthralled as I sat down with him to hear his interesting life story and look through his scrapbooks, which are filled with stories and media releases of his achievements from the day he set out in a small caravan searching for his true self.
Mackay Harrison Gallery is situated at 79 Bayview Drive, Ballina right across from sand dunes and inviting ocean of Angels Beach. The Gallery is open from Wednesday to Saturday from 11.00am to 5.00pm or by appointment, but is closed for the full month of February, when the family travels abroad to visit David's other Galleries in the United States, Monaco, London, Singapore, Normandy and France. Entry to the Gallery is free.
Garden Bronze Statues on Display (Author's Photo)
Although David's work does not have a label displaying its cost, all prices are available on application. If you would like to have a sculpture of yourself or in the memory of a special person or a painting of your home, David is available for commissions.
If you are out and about in Ballina, David Mackay Harrison Gallery is definitely a place to visit, if not to purchase, just for the experience of walking around the gallery and soaking up the exquisite work of such a talented artist.
For more information on David, his work and galleries, please call 0412 664 284.