Donor profile | Paul Guest OAM QC

We love our donors! Former Family Court Judge and Olympic rower, the Honourable Paul M Guest OAM QC is a fascinating man of many passions, talents and interests, and he’s also one of our much loved ACF donors. We took some time with Paul to find out what inspires him to support artists.

Paul Guest pictured in front of Sam Golding's portrait

The Honourable Paul M Guest OAM QC pictured in front of Sam Golding’s 2010 Archibald entry A Languid Guest

What initially got you interested in art? Tell us about the first moment or work that really connected with you.

In the late 1960s, I met Andrew Sibley and he introduced me to a number of artists including Jan Senbergs, George Baldessin and Paul Partos. With the progress of time my association with the artists widened exponentially and we forged life-long friendships. They included (amongst the many) Les Kossatz, Robert Jacks, Gareth Sansom, Guy Stuart, George Johnson, Denise Green, Gordon Bennett, Justin Andrews and Jeremy Kibel. It would be fair to say that my journey with artists ran parallel to the decades of the development of my professional career. The first substantial work I acquired was one of the extraordinary Mirror series by Sibley (late 1960s) and which, despite the passage of time, remains a significant work in my collection.

Who is your favourite artist at the moment? What is it about their work that makes them stand out?

To name one ‘favourite artist’ would enact a disservice to many whom I greatly admire. In terms of history, my favourite artists were [Kazimir] Malevich and Francis Bacon. I have a deep attraction to geometric, figurative, expressionist and gestural abstraction, all underpinning the pursuit of conceptual form and leitmotif. The artists I know all fall, one way or another, under the umbrella of such themes

You’ve mobilised your many talents to support a number of different causes and pursuits. As an art lover you’ve actively engaged with artists by supporting their work as a viewer, donor and founder of your own non-acquisitive art prize. Tell us some of your highlights.

My principal motive, or concern, has been to personally meet and to know the artist, to converse with him/her and thereby gain greater insight into the important forces and personality traits that underpin the essential fabric of their work. Through this process, the rewards are great as you are part of the vanguard in the development of their professional career with a myriad of further and collateral opportunities being opened in the process. With this in mind, the highlight for me was to see the retrospective surveys of Jacks and Senbergs at the NGV. I await with great anticipation the retrospective of Sansom in 2017.

Heather B Swann's wearable piece Banksia Man

Banksia Man by ACF artist and 2014 Paul Guest Prize winner, Heather B Swann.

The Paul Guest Prize encourages artists from across Australia to engage with drawing and create new and challenging works. What inspired you to establish the prize and what in your wildest dreams would be the impact of this prize?

Drawing is, in my view, fundamental to the essential armoury of the successful artist. It is central to the creative process. It invites the elemental, indeed cardinal, requirement to present visual perspective and to engage with the subconscious – it is a way of investigating the world around us and to chart a pathway to explore that mercurial zone. It brings to life such qualities as mastery of form, perception, interpretation and innate talent gathered under the broad imperative of ‘drawing’. I would hope that in some small way the drawing prize may assist an artist to achieve his or her professional goal.

What are the three most important aspects that you are looking for before you get involved in supporting any project? Often artists are afraid to ask for support – as an art lover what motivates you to support an artist?

Putting aside the obvious requirement for financial assistance, important attributes include aptitude (capacity), self-discipline and the power of motivation. The process of development of any professional career is difficult enough, but the journey for the artist, and for the most obvious of reasons, is one of the toughest. The talented artists, as in any walk of life, should be nurtured to achieve their true potential.

If a prospective artist was to approach you about their project, what three things do you want to know about them and their project?

There are many, but if limited again to three, it would include firstly, the perceptible sophistication of longevity inherent in the works for the project; secondly, a clear discipline in presentation and thirdly, a definition of process to underpin each work as a seamless contributor to the overall project – a living synergy. This is not an easy task.

Passion and enthusiasm are common to both sport and the arts. As a celebrated rower and art collector, what draws you to these pursuits and how do you see them alongside one another?

Rowing at an elite level demands an unrelenting commitment, sustained discipline and unyielding confidence. It has been said that ‘doubt, fear and uncertainty have killed more dreams than failure’. The artist’s lot is not an easy one. It is a pathway steeped in trial and commitment. It is a long journey to the top lived out in a tough and highly competitive environment. I have witnessed this first-hand and see direct parallels between the life ‘forces’ of an artist and that of an elite athlete. They are well-wed companions in that regard.

If you had one piece of advice to art lovers who were looking to become involved in supporting artists – what would it be?

Be bold, look for the unusual and back your judgment. The rewards are great in that you are an invitee to a very special environment with decades of satisfaction.