Artist from behind the Horizon



Jack Macrae with his creations for the Horizon Festival. Image by Kyle Dobie

Cut-up coloured paper enlivens the studio floor. Purple, pink, orange, yellow and blue are created into sunrises and sunsets, illustrating the Sunshine Coast’s most beautiful horizons. The artworks have shaped this year’s Horizon Art Festival, and they are all made by the same man.

“If you asked me what I would do with my life four years ago, I would never answer being an artist,” says 30-year-old Jack Macrae.

He grew up in Brisbane, spending all summers on the Sunshine Coast. For most of his 20s, Macrae lived in Fingal Head, studying architecture. He was not raised in a family of artists, so becoming one was not clearly in his cards.

Working with an assignment during his Master of Architecture, he started creating collages of landscapes. The result was surprisingly good and a friend noticed and invited him to participate in an art show in Brisbane.

“Suddenly, they were all sold. That was a crazy feeling,” Macrae says.

Four years later, Macrae got a request to do the art and brand for The Horizon Art Festival – one of Australia’s most significant regional art festivals held from August 26 to September 4 on the Sunshine Coast. After an involuntary break, they wanted to brighten things up.

“I’m so grateful for one of the biggest opportunities in my career. It’s amazing that my art gets shown to so many people,” he says.

A man standing in a room
Artist Jack Macrae. Image by Kyle Dobie

The light colours from Macrae’s collages are everywhere. A golden light hit hundreds of people sitting on the grass on Cotton Tree. Music fills the air, while First Nations dancers have all the attention at the opening ceremony. Everyone is there to celebrate the region’s natural landscape, honour its First People, and let local artists inspire and show their work.

Macrae took the festival name and let his artistic mind loose. The result was colourful pieces of the Maroochy River, Old Woman Island, Mount Coolum and the Glass House Mountains.

Macrae struggles to describe his art. “Call it a colour field, heartache style. It’s very minimalistic and quite simple in terms of graphics. Very representative of landscapes,” he says.

Macrae is inspired by nature. “I love going out camping, exploring all these amazing spots. Also, surfing inspires me. I don’t know where I would be without it. Life is too short not to surf.”

After doing architecture all day, Macrae goes home, accessing another world. When other people are out partying, he hides in his studio. Surrounded by bright colours, he can finally relax. “I’ll paint all night. It’s like yoga for the mind to me,” he says.

But something that really sparks creativity in him is a good rave. Macrae is at his happiest, surrounded by music, art and people. “And cartoons, they are my favourite,” he adds.

The artist brings architectural skills into his artworks, and sometimes stops designing buildings, only focusing on painting.

“I can do that for six months. But suddenly, my car will break at the same time as my laptop or something happens, and then I would have to return to another job. But I do like to combine them both,” he says.

After his first successful exhibition, Macrae quit his job, packed his bags, and travelled to the vibrant city of Amsterdam. “There was always something happening in that city. It’s such an amazing community,” he says. Not long after arriving, he turned his friend’s apartment into a studio. “It was crazy. There were paintings, paper and canvas everywhere,” he says.

After spending months in the capital, he needed a break from city life. Below freezing temperatures and the beauty of Iceland were his new surroundings for six weeks. With the sun rising at 11am and going down by 3pm, it was as if he were on another planet. Macrae worked on his art in Skagastrond, a tiny village of 400 people.

“I found it hard to replicate snow mountains and the winter effects. But it was such a beautiful landscape, which was super inspiring.”

As Covid-19 spread, he had no choice but to return to the Sunshine Coast.

While others stress about their future, Macrae is excited by the unknown. His dream is to combine architecture and art and, most importantly, to be free. He sees himself back in Europe, maybe at an art school or having exhibitions in different cities.

“I’m a ‘yes man’! I seize the opportunities I get,” he says. “I would love to make my art as big as possible. Being part of a festival like Burning Man would be amazing, and maybe making sculptures too – to progress this beyond paintings and collages.”