The Devil Is in the Detail of Artist Teo Treloar's Drawings

Teo Treloar

Working exclusively with graphite pencils, the devil is in the details for this Sydney-born artist.

Teo Treloar’s illustrations are so intricate that they can at first appear to be etchings or computer-generated designs. He creates them by making thousands of tiny dot points with a graphite pencil that he sharpens obsessively with a blade. “It can’t have a dull point. It needs to look like the tip of a hypodermic needle,’’ says Treloar of his pencils, which are either Staedtler or Palomino.

A single piece can take the artist months at his home studio in Dharawal Country, south of Sydney. He works best in the evenings, to a background loop of episodes of The Office, for reasons he can’t quite explain. Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer’s esoteric master engravings are a strong influence.

Treloar’s surreal The Black Captain collection, which was exhibited at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, portrayed a series of repeated faceless men, shadows and polyhedron shapes. It’s a cryptic commentary on masculinity, hinting at its rigidity and privilege, and inspired by visuals from 1950s clothing catalogues. The works also give a sense of dislocation and despair, a reference to the artist’s own experiences with depression.

Teo Treloar working on The Black Captain #1

Treloar struggled with dyslexia and left school at the age of 16 but he was always a compulsive drawer. “They took away my pens in class so I used the protractor to scratch the table.”

The Willing Embrace of Ignorance 5 (2022)

His most recent exhibition, And Now, The Plague, was produced during the isolation of the pandemic. Treloar drew the covers of second-hand copies of The Plague, the 1947 novel by his literary hero Albert Camus, sourced from around the world. “It was this strange connecting metaphor.” For his next show, he’ll use AI-generated drawings as references and painstakingly illustrate them. It’s a process of reverse efficiency: taking an image spat out by a computer then rendering it with a simple 2B pencil and the human hand.

The Plague (Penguin Classics Edition) (2022)

The act of drawing ultimately comes back to making a mark for Treloar. “It’s about being present but it’s also about confirming your presence in the world.”

This is Impermanence (2019)

Award: Winner, 2023 Kedumba Drawing Award
What the critics say: “Treloar uses his drawing practice to reflect on personal experiences of mental health and to throw a spanner at the cliché of the tortured (male) genius artist.” – Erin McFadyen, Artist Profile
Studied at: Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney

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Image credit: Paul Jones


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