A South Coast couple share music and art with an international pedigree.
Alison Mackay and Richard Morecroft were invited into their creative haven.
Story and photographs by Richard Morecroft and Alison Mackay.
“Sometimes, at the end of the day, I’ll get Elhi to come into the studio, put some headphones on and listen to what I’ve been recording,” says Syd Green.
“He asks me, ‘What do you hear?’” says Elhi.
Although their individual creative directions are quite different – Elhi (Elena) Green is an artist and Syd a musician – they constantly use each other as sounding boards.
Elhi’s current art works are powerful drawings, often of faces or bodies, produced with intricate and exacting detail in charcoal pencil and white pastel. She is a rarity in the Australian art world, showing and selling regularly through a New York gallery.
Syd is a musician – a drummer, record producer and all-round musical creator who spent much of his early career touring in the US with the hugely successful Australian band Mantissa, supporting acts like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
“I was in my 20’s and it was full on! But I came out of it all fairly unscathed…” he says, with a wry smile.
Syd and Elhi live in Sanctuary Point, near the shores of St Georges Basin, where they have separate ‘creative caves’ from which they work. Syd’s is a moodily lit, heavily insulated (for sound!) space hung with guitars, and fitted out with multi-knobbed mixing boards, amps, computers and a gold-flecked hand-made drum kit he brought back from New York. Elhi’s studio, in a separate shed in the backyard, is light-filled, ordered and neatly stacked with art paraphernalia – brushes, pencils, plaster casts, books… and a couple of stuffed chooks.
‘I can’t hold a note and Syd can only draw stick figures, but we still cross over in our creative lives,’ says Elhi. ‘There are some parallels between music and art – we both do exercises, scales and practice to increase our skill levels for when we are actually making our work. Syd’s a bit more spontaneous than I am – my work is highly disciplined and sometimes takes hundreds of hours to complete. It’s a bit obsessive.’
It’s clear that both have deep respect for and enjoyment of each other’s talents and there has been much give and take over the years to allow their own pathways and skills to be followed and developed. Syd continues to tour – he’s recently been to Queensland with his current band 1920 – and has just finished working on a musical collaboration with indigenous performers, which tells stories about aboriginal artefacts from the Australian Museum. It was featured recently at the prestigious Carriageworks performance space in Sydney.
Whilst Elhi’s work is shown mainly through her New York gallery, she also travels to study at art academies in distant parts of the world, from Thailand to Anguilla, often for months at a time.
And somehow this exotic-sounding lifestyle is woven around their home base, here on the south coast – a place into which they have recently welcomed River, their first child.
‘We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,’ says Elhi. ‘We just love it down here. We were looking at a place further south and on the way back to Sydney we just turned off the highway and eventually found ourselves in Sanctuary Point. We’ve been here 8 years now!’
It’s a delightful surprise to find such global achievers nestled in the quiet streets surrounding St Georges Basin – but Elhi and Syd have found it the perfect place from which to practice their individual crafts and manage their different creative careers.
‘We have space and time here to do what we need to do,’ says Elhi. ‘There aren’t as many distractions as there are in Sydney!’
And with such a diversity of musical and visual projects underway, keeping focused is always the challenge – especially with a young toddler in the mix as well! But Elhi and Syd keep each other on track – their hard work and mutual support are at the core of their creative stability. And their South Coast home gives them the individualised working spaces they need, to mix it with the world’s best.