Rod McRae was born in Norwich, England, in 1950 and practised as a doctor in London before completing a Bachelor of Arts at St Martins School of Art, London, and an Advanced Diploma in Painting at the Slade School, London. Subsequently, he has furthered his education in New Zealand and Australia with post graduate qualifications and a Master of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales in 2011.
McRae’s artistic output has been diverse. In the early 1980’s he studied taxidermy and its effects on people and worked as a children’s book illustrator/author, producing over 50 books. He went on to be a graphic designer and illustrator, a lecturer in graphic design and also experimented with and exhibited his photography.
In 1982 McRae moved to Australia and lived in Sydney and Nimbin before moving to Melbourne in 1984. He joined Bruce Pollard’s Pinacotheca Gallery in Richmond which represented some of the most interesting and important artists of that time and has gone on to exhibit throughout Australia and in Italy, France, Spain and Japan.
McRae’s first exhibition at Pinacotheca was of paintings of mythological figures set in a fantastic landscape which were likened to the painting of James Gleeson. From 1989 his work became more abstract with organic and surrealist imagery that has been compared with the work of Georgia O’Keeffe. He has been a finalist twice in the Blake Prize for Religious Art (2005 and 2006) and a finalist in the Wynne Prize for Australian landscape/figurative sculpture in 2007 and 2010.
In the recent past McRae has explored sculpture and installation art with a focus on conservation and human animal themes and mounted his first major exhibition of sculpture The Heart of the Matter in 2010. He has been the Head Teacher of Events, Design and Illustration at the Design Centre Enmore since 1993 where he is respected as a dedicated artist and educator.
Wunderkammer, McRae’s current touring exhibition of taxidermied animals in odd poses and unusual groupings, is producing a strong reaction and he has said that … “by giving people the real thing they have a real emotion towards it. Maybe they hate it, maybe they love it, but they’re very seldom ambivalent.” This supports his great interest in how art can influence and reinforce the effect of climate change on the environment. He works to challenge human perceptions of the natural world and the animal species that inhabit it. He believes that art can make a difference.
He is a highly regarded artist whose work is underpinned by a strong intellectual discipline. He is represented in the State Library of New South Wales, the National Library of Australia, the National Archive New Zealand, Art Bank, the Lou Rees Collection and many private collections.