By Catherine McLean



As a child, John Mandich was no good at sport. Instead, he spent his days working on painting, sculpting and drawing. Forty-five years later, the predominantly self-taught artist, who has been selected five times for the prestigious Hidden Faces of the Archibald, is still evolving.


On the exterior, John’s studio looks little more than a rundown house, reminiscent of a previous life before 7/11s, housing developments and car washes gobbled up the space around it.  John doesn’t seem to mind though. “You can get a souvlaki across the road at night when you’re drunk, so it’s nice,” he jokes.


Inside, I find a living and breathing world of art. There are charcoal drawings tacked onto the ceiling, female figures on canvas hanging from the walls and dozens of ceramic pieces sitting in corners. John himself adds to the scene: picture a Claude Monet on a motorbike.


“Art is always evolving. It starts from being realistic, to abstract, to minimalist and then on until you find your own little place…I’m not there yet…”


John Mandich Pottery-2 resized

In a way, the studio is a brilliant metaphor for John’s work: it is what is on the inside that counts. This is at the heart of John’s artistic


“It’s quite easy to duplicate someone’s face, but you’ve got to actually get that personality out onto the portrait,” explains John. “It’s pointless doing a portrait of someone you don’t know.”


“Every one of these is a real living person,” he tells me as he shows me the art around his studio. “I don’t like painting imaginary people.” He points to an oil painting hanging behind him, which features a series of evocative female figures. “This one is a portrait of my friend who died of breast cancer. It was very sad…but you can see her going through the stages of the cancer.” He later mentioned that this deeply personal piece was his favourite.


His inspiration for his art is clearly found in the people and experiences around him, as well as the emotions that these evoke. “Art sort of reflects from you and into you, from inside to the outside. It’s a two-way traffic with art. It’s either got to come to you or you’ve got to go to it.”


He also mentions past greats such as Matisse, Picasso and Dali as having influenced his work. As I look around the studio, I can see hints of this inspiration coming out of John’s own distinctive style.


14667606648_08a1e10178_o (1)resized

Apart from John’s talent, what makes his artwork truly unique is his transformation of the content of his paintings into incredible erotic pottery. A few weeks ago, I attended an erotic art exhibition held at The Slowclub Gallery in High Street, Northcote, where John had a few of his stunning pottery pieces. One vase in particular caught my eye. At its base were carved, beautiful female figures. It took me a moment (and someone else to point it out to me) to realise that the lip of the vase was utterly phallic. Yep, it was a penis vase…and it was brilliant.


“Pottery is a hard thing to work with because I try to get a shape that reminds me of the person I’m going to draw or carve onto the pottery. You’ve got to get the feel of what that person would look like if they were a pot,” John laughs at the absurdity of his own statement.


I ask him if he plans to continue with art indefinitely. He adamantly says yes. “Art is always evolving. It starts from being realistic, to abstract, to minimalist and then on until you find your own little place…I’m not there yet,” John says. “I think I’m just about there, but it’s still going to evolve anyway,” he explains.


John has his next exhibition planned for some time in October. Its title is yet to be announced. It will feature a series of oil paintings, charcoal sketches and ceramic pieces all centred on a particular theme featuring a series of models. A few of the pottery pieces for this exhibition can be viewed at the Evelyn Hotel.




Catherine McLean is completing the Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne and writes local and music news for the Northsider. She is also a writer and editor at AM-Unity Magazine. She enjoys playing banjo, writing short fiction and carrying on like a pork chop. Twitter: @splitpantics Blog:

Something to say..? Leave your comments here.

Stay up to date via TwitterStay up to date via TwitterStay up to date via TwitterStay up to date via Twitter