During the COVID lockdown, Australian performer Tim Draxl says that his creativity “completely shut down”. But clearly not for long. Instead of taking to the stage or screen, he picked up a paintbrush and began painting.

As a result, Draxl starts 2021 with a bang. This month, not only is he performing in Liam Neeson’s latest Hollywood action blockbuster, which is currently shooting in Melbourne, but his first major solo art exhibition, entitled IN BETWEEN: The Act of Painting, opens at Rex-Livingston Art + Objects in Katoomba.

Tim Draxl in his studio. Photograph © Sean Sinclair/Forespoke

The transition from acting to painting felt quite natural, says Draxl. In an artist statement written to accompany his new exhibition, he says: “Painting is a performance. It’s like getting into character. As an actor, you’re not just acting, you are being. You call upon real emotions to create a character. For a painter, the process is much the same. My paint clothes are my costume, my studio is the performance space, and in the act of painting, I am a painter creating emotion through the very real use of colour.”

Initially, Draxl hadn’t planned to exhibit his paintings publicly, and some of them will probably never leave his studio. “Not all the works I create are intended to be viewed by anyone else but me, and many will never hang on anybody else’s walls but mine,” he says. But the paintings that he will display in his forthcoming exhibition occupy what he calls “the in-between spaces”.

Explaining the title of his exhibition in his artist statement he says that the “in-between space” is somewhere he has often found himself in as an actor between jobs.

“It’s a space between who I project to be in public and who I am in private – a conscious space in which I make the decision to present as one way or the other,” he says. “It’s a space between dark and light as we emerge from the COVID lockdown, during which my creativity completely shut down. And in the emerging layers of paint, there is a space between something I previously destroyed and the fragments I can’t get rid of – happy accidents caused by a brushstroke or scratch on the canvas revealing what lies underneath. This act of creating is similar to finding the right interpretation of a character through experimentation and improvisation in the rehearsal room. You never really know where you’re headed with a role until you get there. The act of painting is much the same.”

Tim Draxl in his studio. Photograph © Sean Sinclair/Forespoke

A renowned actor, musical theatre performer and cabaret artist, Draxl gathered a large fan base when he played Dr Henry Fox in the hit television series A Place to Call Home. His many other credits include TV shows Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and The Shark Net, and the films A Few Best Men and Swimming Upstream. On stage, he has performed in the musicals Only Heaven Knows and Evie May at the Hayes Theatre, Torch Song Trilogy for Darlinghurst Theatre Company, and his cabaret show Freeway – The Chet Baker Story.

In March 2020, he had just begun playing the director Zac in Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s production of the musical A Chorus Line when the show was forced to close on opening night because of the COVID-19 lockdown. It was heartbreaking for the cast, crew and theatre company as the show was a big, ambitious undertaking for the company, and audiences had been buzzing during the previews. However, Draxl will return to the role when the production is revived at Sydney’s Eternity Playhouse in August. During 2021, he will also shoot a new series for the ABC called The Newsreader. In February, during the Sydney Mardi Gras, he will perform in cabaret at Claire’s Kitchen, exploring the repertoire of Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand.

Now that acting work is opening up again, Draxl says that he can see a new lightness emerging in his paintings. “For a while, there was a period of frustration which was quite dark. There was no light at the end of the tunnel, or any sense of when we would come out of this. Then somewhere in this story there was a moment of light and hope returned, which is where many of the works in this exhibition were born.”

IN BETWEEN: The Act of Painting runs at Rex-Livingston Art + Objects, Katoomba until 15 February 

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