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Spotlight on the Collection: Rob McHaffie

In this series, we explore some of the interesting items from Bayside City Council’s Art and Heritage Collection.

This week we are looking at the painting A little more foliage should block out the Empire State bastard next door by well known Australian artist Rob McHaffie in which the artist has depicted himself and his young family.

Detail of a painting of a bald man watering plants with a watering can, the background is mainly yellow


About Rob McHaffie

Rob McHaffie is a well-regarded contemporary artist whose artworks are held in major collections including the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. He spent his childhood in Bayside and recently lived in the area with his young family before moving to Castlemaine. In 2018, Bayside Gallery held McHaffie's first major solo exhibition This is living.

A keen observation of people, places and their interactions is at the heart of Rob McHaffie’s work. McHaffie observes, interprets and re-presents the small day-to-day events that make up our suburban lives with humour, insight and a great facility for uncovering the pathos of humanity. Whether it is the daily ritual of walking the dog along his local suburb, or the more intimate surroundings of his home, McHaffie brings us both the real and the imagined in a way that makes us smile quietly and in turn reflect on the mundane yet precious moments in our own lives.

Painting of a family with a father watering a pot plant while the mother nurses her baby. They are located in front of a yellow screen and in the background is a high rise building.

Rob McHaffie, A little more foliage should block out the Empire State bastard next door 2016, oil on linen, 122 x 76 cm. Bayside City Council Art and Heritage Collection. Purchased 2017 

A little more foliage should block out the Empire State bastard next door

A little more foliage should block out the Empire State bastard next door 2016 is both personal – depicting a self-portrait of the artist and his family, and social – commenting on the large number of high rise apartment blocks that are being built in suburban Melbourne. It reflects the current concern of many Australians with the changing nature of our inner city suburbs – a topic prevalent in social circles of all ages.

The work is light-hearted, colourful, humorous and engaging while delivering a subtle commentary on this topical issue. The use of patination throughout the work cleverly unites the composite image, bringing together disparate elements drawn from various sources (this composite, collage-like character is typical of McHaffie’s work). Most strikingly is the visual contrast between the background and foreground – these areas serving almost as bookends that represent the future (the dense apartment façade with its speedy ‘ready-made’ construction) and the past (the time-consuming artesian craft of parquetry flooring). 

To find out more about Rob, follow him on Instagram @robmchaffie

Interested in learning more about the Art and Heritage Collection?

Bayside City Council is the custodian of the Bayside Art and Heritage Collection, a collection of around 2,000 items that was principally formed when the former Sandringham and Brighton City Councils merged in 1994. Artworks and heritage objects are displayed at our Corporate Centre in Sandringham, Bayside Gallery in Brighton and other Council owned buildings.

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