Paintings Works on Paper Engraved Glass Installation, Public Art, Murals Hand Painted Photos Shelf Paintings Collaborations

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Making it New, MCA, Sydney, 2009

paintings, works on paper, engraved glass, hand painted photographs, shelf paintings

Making it New celebrates art in Australia today. Presenting a diverse selection of works by 18 established artists, the exhibition spans painting, installation, video, sculpture and new media. ... MCA curator Glenn Barkley has selected artists whose work is anchored in a sense of tradition and ongoing engagement with political and social worlds, these artists are also pivotal figures within their own communities—whether they be social, historical, cultural or artistic—as teachers, supporters and advocates.
Making it New: Focus on Contemporary Australian Art, exhibition flyer, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2009

Making it New, installation 1 Making it New, installation 2 Making it New, installation 3 Making it New, installation 4 Making it New, installation 5 Making it New, installation 6 Making it New, installation 7 Making it New, installation 8 Making it New, installation 9
click on thumbnails to view detailed image

Seasonal Shifts, Yooralla at 20 past 3, Yooralla at twenty past three, My Trip, Babies, Art, Hawkesbury Show, NSW, Travelogue, Family, Desert Night, Space Baby II, Infinite Pink. Pink Space

Listen to Micky's Floor Talk given September 10, 2009 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. Hosted by Glenn Barkley, 20 minutes
[MP3 File 19 MB - Ogg Vorbis File 15.2 MB]


Micky Allan explores the fantastical, complex and exceptional moments of the everyday. Allan investigates how we, as individuals and as a community, experience life within a framework that references political, social and ecological concerns. Through a diverse practice that traverses photography, installation, painting, drawing and sculpture, the artist considers both the material and conceptual elements of reality.

Allan originally trained as a painter but came to prominence in the 1970s for her hand-painted photographs. Influenced by the social and political debates of the era, in particular feminist politics, her photographic projects, including Babies (1976), and Yooralla at 20 past 3 (1978), examined domestic issues such as infancy, old age, family and proverbial routines that were not explored in traditional art forms or discussed in wider society.

Allan's preference for photography over painting during this period arose from an interest in the medium's ability to depict the direct interaction between the artist and the subject. This thesis is at the forefront of works like My Trip (1976)—in which Allan photographed strangers she met during a camping trip and invited the subjects to photograph her in return—whereby the camera literally becomes the catalyst for social interaction.

The concept of the journey is a recurring theme in Allan's work and is represented variously as physical travel, the passage of time or an intellectual or emotional maturity developed through experience. It is also a prevailing concept in the development of the artist's own practice. Allan returned to painting in the early 1980s whilst living in Europe. Her painting, drawing and installation works from the 1980s and 1990s drew on a collection of memories, imagery, cultural and personal references, and stereotypes to explore areas of knowledge ranging from the spiritual to the scientific. In these considered and intricate works Allan performs the role of both explorer and raconteur, testing the parameters between the conceptual and the real.

The artist's presence in the artwork is an essential element of Allan's practice. In the 'shelf painting' Family (2008), it is the role of the artist that is examined. The 'shelf painting' series matches found objects with paintings or drawings to create relationships based upon the form, colour, size and shape of the different components of the work. In these works the viewer is invited to consider and reflect on the formal and conceptual choices made by the artist.

Allan's recent engraved glass works embrace and develop the artist's interest in the representational and the abstract. The glass works are lush, intricate canvases that comprise a collage of mixed media on paper featuring an array of symbols and images with a glass overlay engraved on both sides. In the series Seasonal Shifts (2008-09), the oppositional forces inherent in nature—moments of both serenity and destruction—are given expression in the artist's use of antagonistic and complementary elements. The combination of diverse materials and methods creates an active and rich sensory experience that references both personal encounters and broader cultural representations of the Australian environment.

In Allan's works the chaotic nature of reality finds its voice. The coexistence of thoughts, images, gestures and memories that are evoked when travelling, learning or living are fundamental to Allan's practice. Her works are sophisticated and at the same time they are extremely seductive and reward deep engagement.

Megan Robson
Making it New: Focus on Contemporary Australian Art (exhibition catalogue), Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2009